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Essential 2022 South Australian Election Guide

Published on
March 16, 2022
William Wright
for GovConnex Research
Before GovConnex Research is published here, it's sent exclusively to GovConnex Platform subscribers.
What you need to know now

The election will be held on Saturday March 19 - due to a record number of early postal votes and a number of close marginal seats, the result may not be known for days afterwards.

  • Peter Malinauskas’ Labor is the favourite - 41 year old Malinuaksas (Labor right) has served in the South Australian House of Assembly since 2018, following a senior union career as South Australian Secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association (SDA). 
  • Should Labor win, it would be a return to the contemporary norm, Labor held government from 2002-18.
  • Nick Xenphon’s SA-BEST won 14% of the primary vote in 2018, failing to pick up any seats. SA-BEST is not contesting this election, with many of their votes expected to flow to Labor.
  • Premier Steven Marshall becomes only the second Liberal leader in South Australia to serve a full term since 1970.
  • Three Liberal MPs defected to the cross-bench during this term, leaving the Liberal party in minority, all three MPs will be contesting their seats as independents.
  • According to the polls, there is a 37% chance of a hung parliament, which would leave the fate of the government in the hands of the independents.
  • The main campaign issues have been: Health, Education, Infrastructure and the Adelaide 500.

Why it Matters to Non-South Australians, Industry and Stakeholders
  • This could be the start of a trend towards Labor governments at both a federal and state level (Upcoming elections include: Federal 2022, Victoria 2022, NSW 2023, Queensland 2024). Businesses may need to adjust their government relations strategy accordingly.
  • Should Labor win, it will show that “Covid Leaders” are not infallible and despite the re-election of Anastasia Palaszczuk and Mark McGowan post-Covid, strong pandemic leadership does not necessarily guarantee re-election.
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison may lose another ally in the national cabinet, potentially weakening his position going into the federal election.
  • However, should Marshall prove the polling wrong and gain re-election, this will bode well for the Prime Minister's chances.

The Leaders

Premier Steven Marshall (Liberal)

54 year old Marshall has been in parliament since 2010, becoming leader of the opposition in 2013 and Premier in 2018. Before entering parliament Marshall was managing director of his family's furniture company Marshall Furniture. Marshall is the member for Dunstan, an affluent inner Adelaide seat that he holds by 7.5%. Marshall is divorced with two kids and supports the Port Adelaide Power.

Marshall’s term has been characterised by his Covid response and the establishment of FIXE, an initiative aimed at making South Australia a tech startup hub. It is unclear whether this has gained political traction with the electorate.

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas (Labor)

41 year old Malinuaksas has served in the South Australian House of Assembly since 2018, following three years in the Legislative Council and a senior union career as South Australian Secretary of the SDA. Malinuaksas belongs to the Labor right faction and describes himself as “socially conservative” when asked about progressive politics in 2011 he stated:

"I didn't get involved in the Australian labour movement because of any of these issues. I believe in the fair go but I get frustrated with left-wing ideology that focuses more on imposing equality than providing for equality of opportunity”.

Malinuaksas is married with three kids and supports the Adelaide Crows (at 41, he still plays Australian rules for the Adelaide University Football Club). Malinauskas’ working class seat of Croydon is the safest seat in the state with a margin of 23.3%.


In 2018, Premier Steven Marshall led the Liberal party to their first victory in 21 years. The Liberals held a 25 to 19 seat majority (24 seats gives a majority in the 47 seat Lower House). However, following the defection of three Liberal MPs; Dan Cregan, Fraser Ellis and Sam Duluk to the cross-bench, they are now in minority government 22-19 seats. A redistribution following the last election makes it tougher for Premier Marshall, with the starting point going into this election being 23-20 seats.

Nick Xenophon’s SA Best ran a large campaign in 2018 and despite not picking up any lower house seats, received 14% of the vote. With Xeneophon and the Centre Alliance not running at this election, many of these votes are expected to flow to Labor.

If the allegiance of current independents remains the same, Labor would need 22 seats to form a minority government and the Liberals 20. However, speaker Dan Cregan is the ‘great unknown’, despite being a former Liberal MP, his strained relationship with Steven Marshall has Labor fancying their chances of his support, should there be a hung parliament.

The Big Issues


Arguably the biggest issue of the election. Despite minimal lockdowns and robust pandemic leadership, Labor has effectively campaigned against the Liberal party's handling of the hospital system. As a result, Labor has pledged $120m to a new ambulance headquarters. Steven Marshall responded by pledginging an additional $500m to the health system, but was forced to admit that most of this has already been included in the December Mid-Year Budget Review.

Who’s ahead? Labor


The Liberals have proposed $39m to bring new modular buildings to 20 schools. While Labor has promised universal preschool for three year olds by 2026, They have also committed to establishing a royal commission into the state's early learning system as well as $175m to build five technical colleges.

Who’s ahead? Labor

Adelaide 500

In what has become (perhaps surprisingly) one of the deciding issues of this election, the Liberal parties axing of iconic Supercars race the “Adelaide 500” has proven unpopular with the South Australian public. Labor has pounced on this, promising to bring the race back this December, if elected.

South Australia has a long history of motorsport, hosting the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix from 1985-1995.

Who’s ahead? Labor


One of the Liberal party's main promises going into this election is to build the $662 million “Riverbank Arena”, a 15,000 capacity stadium. Touting 4,500 jobs, 825,000 extra visitors to the State and a $1bn boost to the economy. Labor is against the stadium, promising to redirect that money to the health system.

Redeveloping the Adelaide Aquatic centre is the second major infrastructure debate, with Labor pledging $80m and the Liberals $25m.

Who’s ahead? Liberal

Marginal Seats to Watch on the Night

Newland (0.1% LIB) - Labor-supporting independent Francis Bedford is moving from her seat of Florey to contest Newland, following a redistribution that saw much of her Florey voter base move to Newland. This will be a close contest, but the popular Bedford is expected to pick up the seat.

Prediction: IND win (ALP supporting)

King (0.6% LIB) - A new seat at the 2018 election, won by Liberal Paula Luethen, she is up against Rhiannon Pearce. The margin is incredibly close and any wider swing to Labor should see King flip.

Prediction: ALP win

Adelaide (1.0% LIB)  - This central Adelaide seat will be hotly contested, held by Liberal Rachel Sanderson since 2010, Peter Manauskas’ former policy director Lucy Hood is looking to flip the seat.

Prediction: ALP win

Elder (1.9% LIB)  - Incumbent Liberal Carolyn Power is up against Labor’s Nadia Clancy for this inner Adelaide seat, this will likely be the closest seat of the election and may prove instrumental in deciding whether Labor can form a majority government.

Prediction: LIB retain

Mawson (0.7% ALP) - Running from McLaren Vale to Kangaroo island, Mawson is the most marginal of Labor’s seats, acting as a bellwether seat for 13 of the last 15 elections. Incumbent Leon Bignell won the seat by just 115 votes in 2018 and will face a challenge from dairy farmer Amy Williams.

Prediction: ALP win

Badcoe (1.0% ALP) - Located in south west Adelaide, Labor won Badcoe by 4.8% in 2018, however a boundary redistribution has cut this to just 1%.

Prediction: ALP retain

Dunstan (7.5% LIB) - Premier Steven Marshall’s seat, despite the large margin, early polling indicates a heavy swing against Marshall, leaving the potential for the premier to lose his seat.

Prediction: LIB retain

The polls predict a close election, with Marshall facing the uphill battle. If the seats of Colton and Hartley fall early to Labor on election night, Labor will be likely to form a majority government.

Retiring MPs

Jon Gee, ALP, Taylor

Peter Treloar, LIB, Flinders

Stephan Knoll, LIB, Schubert

The (likely) Independents

Dan Cregan (Most likely Liberal supporting)

Francis Bedford (Labor supporting)

Troy Bell (Liberal supporting)

Fraser Ellis (Liberal supporting)

Geoff Brock (Labor supporting)

Sam Duluk (Liberal supporting)

What is the Media Saying?
  • Paul Murray (Sky News Australia) is referring to Steven Marshall as “Oh so woke Marshmello”
  • The Australian “(Malinauskas is) SA’s non woke Labor bloke”
  • The Adelaide Advertiser is predicting a hung parliament
  • Australian Associated Press “There’s a lot of South Australians who respect some of these independents even if they don’t completely agree with them”

What is the GovConnex Platform Saying?

The Polls

The most recent Newspoll was released on February 26th:

  • Two party preferred: Labor leads the Liberals 53-47
  • Primary vote: ALP: 39 LIB: 37 Greens: 10
  • Preferred Premier: Malinauskas leads Marshall 46-39 (this is unusual for a state opposition leader)

The Odds

As of March 16

To form Government:Liberal - $3.25

Labor - $1.30

Hung Parliament:

Yes - $2.65

No - $1.45

Follow GovConnex on election night for all important updates, including an update on everything you need to know at 11:30 pm AEDT.

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