South Australian state election, 1938

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South Australian state election, 1938
South Australia
← 1933 19 March 1938 (1938-03-19) 1941 →

All 39 seats in the South Australian House of Assembly
20 seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party
  Richard Layton Butler.jpg Andrew Lacey MP.JPG
Leader Richard L. Butler Andrew Lacey
Party Liberal and Country League Labor
Leader since 1925 1933
Leader's seat Wooroora Port Pirie
Last election 29 seats 6 seats
Seats won 15 seats 9 seats
Seat change Decrease14 Increase3
Percentage 33.44% 26.16%
Swing Decrease1.18 Decrease1.61

Premier before election

Richard L. Butler
Liberal and Country League

Elected Premier

Richard L. Butler
Liberal and Country League

State elections were held in South Australia on 19 March 1938. All 39 seats in the South Australian House of Assembly were up for election. The incumbent Liberal and Country League government led by Premier of South Australia Richard L. Butler defeated the opposition Australian Labor Party led by Leader of the Opposition Andrew Lacey.

House of Assembly (IRV) — Turnout 63.31% (Non-CV) — Informal 2.16%
  Party Votes % Swing Seats Change
  Liberal and Country League 72,998 33.44 -1.18 15 -14
  Australian Labor Party 57,124 26.16 -1.61 9 +3
  Single Tax League 1,451 0.66 -2.46 1 0
  Independent 74,412 34.08 +20.67 12 +9
  Independent Labor 12,340 5.65 * 2 *
  Total 218,325     39 -7
  Liberal and Country League WIN 15 -14
  Australian Labor Party 9 +3


This election saw the start of the Playmander. It consisted of rural districts enjoying a 2-to-1 advantage in the state parliament, even though they contained less than half of the population, as well as a change from multi-member to single-member electorates, and the number of MPs in the lower house was reduced from 46 to 39. Labor remained out of power until the 1965 election.

Tom Stott was one of 14 of 39 lower house MPs to be elected as an independent, which as a grouping won 40 percent of the primary vote, more than either of the major parties. Stott was the de facto leader of the independent caucus within parliament. The incumbent Butler LCL minority government only won 15 of 39 seats, which led to uncertainty over which party, if any, could form government. This confusion led Stott, as the most experienced and well known of the independent MPs, to believe that he could become Premier of South Australia. He failed to gain the support of sufficient independents and LCL members to achieve this but, as the de facto leader of the independent caucus within parliament, the LCL government were often forced to rely on his support.

See also[edit]