Xenophon’s flop should still be a warning for the major parties


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March 21, 2018 17:14:39

The results for Nick Xenophon’s SA Best party have been described as a monumental flop, which seems fair considering they do not appear to have picked up any Lower House seats in South Australia’s parliament.

But the results should still send a shiver up the spines of the major parties, as the high third-party vote has given the Liberals and Labor some of their worst results in decades.

“If you look at the pattern over three decades, the South Australian election was another example of the vote for minor parties increasing, as it has been doing for the last 25 years or so,” said ABC election analyst Antony Green.

Looking at the House of Assembly alone, the Liberal party received its third lowest share of the first preference vote in history at 37.5 per cent at the time of publication.

Labor suffered its second lowest first preference vote at 33.8 per cent, only getting a worse result in the wake of the State Bank collapse in 1993.

House of Assembly
Year Liberal Party % First Preference Labor Party % First Preference
1970 43.8 51.6
1973 39.8 51.5
1975 31.5 46.3
1977 41.2 51.6
1979 47.9 40.9
1982 42.7 46.3
1985 42.2 48.2
1989 44.2 40.1
1993 52.8 30.4
1997 40.4 35.2
2002 40.0 36.3
2006 34.0 45.2
2010 41.7 37.5
2014 44.8 35.8
2018 37.5 33.8

At this election, SA Best picked up 13.7 per cent of the first preference vote, at the time of publication.

Combine that with the other minor parties, and a record number of South Australians were not prepared to park their first preference votes with the major parties.

The previous highest result was in 1997.

House of Assembly
Year Major Parties % First Preference Minor Parties % First Preference
1979 88.8 11.2
1982 89.0 11.0
1985 90.4 9.6
1989 84.3 15.7
1993 83.2 16.8
1997 75.6 24.4
2002 76.3 23.7
2006 79.2 20.8
2010 89.2 20.8
2014 80.6 19.4
2018 71.3 28.7

“Support for the non-major parties is yet to coalesce around a new political force,” Mr Green said.

“It still tends to be for independents, for minor parties based around individuals, and it tends to be spread very thinly.

“It’s having more impact in upper houses, where proportional representation electoral systems result in the major parties failing to dominate the Upper Houses in the same way they dominate Lower Houses.”

A national trend

At last year’s Queensland election, the vote for the minor parties hit a record high at 30.9 per cent buoyed by a resurgence from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the Greens.

But those parties only picked up one seat each, while Katter’s Australia Party got three.

Federal politics has also been hit by the rise of the third party.

At the 2016 election, the third party vote in the House of Representatives was at a record 23.2 per cent, and 35 per cent in the Senate.

Five of the 150 lower house seats are held by minor parties or independents.

“We’ve seen with One Nation and the Greens that they do have a more concentrated support base — they can win individual seats, though not too many of them,” Mr Green said.

“Nick Xenophon’s party always had the problem that its base was much more evenly spread, and it was also at this election competing in Liberal-held electorates, and as we saw at the election the Liberals actually got elected to office.”

While the results have not translated into seats in South Australia’s parliament, it is a wake up call to the major parties that voters are shunning them in record numbers.

Topics:

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elections,

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