South Australian state election, 1968

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South Australian state election, 1968
South Australia
1965 ←
2 March 1968 (1968-03-02) → 1970

All 39 seats in the South Australian House of Assembly
20 seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party
Leader Steele Hall Don Dunstan
Party Liberal and Country League Labor
Leader since 1966 1 June 1967
Leader's seat Gouger Norwood
Last election 18 seats 21 seats
Seats won 20 seats 19 seats
Seat change Increase2 Decrease2
Percentage 46.8% 53.2%
Swing Increase1.1 Decrease1.1

Premier before election

Don Dunstan

Elected Premier

Steele Hall
Liberal and Country League

State elections were held in Australia on 2 March 1968. All 39 seats in the South Australian House of Assembly were up for election. The incumbent Australian Labor Party led by Premier of South Australia Don Dunstan was defeated by the Liberal and Country League led by Leader of the Opposition Steele Hall.

House of Assembly (IRV) — Turnout 94.48% (CV) — Informal 2.31%
  Party Votes % Swing Seats Change
  Australian Labor Party 292,445 51.98 -3.06 19 -2
  Liberal and Country League 246,560 43.82 +7.89 19 +2
  Democratic Labor Party 9,223 1.64 -2.71 0 0
  Independent 5,781 1.03 -0.85 1 0
  Other 8,649 1.54 0 0
  Total 562,658     39
  Liberal and Country League WIN 46.80 +1.10 20 +2
  Australian Labor Party 53.20 -1.10 19 -2

Independent: Tom Stott

  • Both major parties contested all seats for the first and only time during the Playmander. Previous primary votes were counted on seats contested, while the two-party vote was estimated for all seats.


The election saw the Liberal and Country League opposition form a minority government, winning the same number of seats in the House of Assembly as the incumbent Australian Labor Party government, despite the fact that Labor won 53.2 percent of the two-party vote and the LCL only 46.8, with the assistance of the Playmander − an electoral malapportionment that also saw a clear majority of the statewide two-party vote won by Labor while failing to form government in 1944, 1953 and 1962.

Labor lost the seats of Murray and Chaffey to the LCL who formed minority government in the hung parliament with confidence and supply from the long-serving crossbench independent MP Tom Stott who held the balance of power. Stott, a good friend of former Premier Playford, and with no liking for Labor, agreed to support the LCL and became Speaker of the South Australian House of Assembly. If just 21 LCL votes were Labor votes in the seat of Murray, Labor would have formed majority government.

Hall had served as Leader of the Opposition for two years before becoming Premier. Young and handsome, he was also the first Australian state premier to sport sideburns. Indeed, the 1968 election, fought between Hall and his opponent Don Dunstan, was described by the Democratic Labor Party as the battle of "the matinée idols".

Hall found himself in a politically unacceptable position as a result of the obvious unfairness of the election result, and decided to institute electoral reforms to weaken the malapportionment of the Playmander. At the 1968 election there were only 13 metropolitan electoral districts containing 0.7 million people, whereas there were 26 rural districts containing 0.4 million people. The LCL won only three metropolitan seats – Burnside, Mitcham and Torrens. The most populous metropolitan seats (13) had as much as 5-10 times the number of voters than the least populous rural seats (26), despite two thirds of the population located in the metropolitan area − at this election the rural seat of Frome had 4,500 formal votes, while the metropolitan seat of Enfield had 42,000 formal votes. The reforms included increasing the number of lower house seats from 39 to 47, with 28 metropolitan seats and 19 rural seats, an increase of 15 metropolitan seats, more than double. It fell short of "one vote one value," as Labor had demanded, since country areas were still somewhat over-represented, with the most populous metropolitan seats still containing double the number of voters than the least populous rural seats. However, while there was still rural overweighting, Adelaide now elected a majority of the legislature, making it a near-certainty that Labor would win the next election. Further reforms to put an end to the Playmander included implementing one vote one value after the 1975 election in which Labor retained government despite a two-party vote of 49.2 percent. However, this would further lock Liberal votes in to ultra-safe rural seats.

A further reform was added following the 1989 election where Labor retained government despite a two-party vote of 48.1 percent. South Australian is the only state to deliberately draw electoral boundaries based on the two-party vote. It was legislated after 1989 that the Electoral Commission of South Australia should redraw boundaries after each election with the objective that the party which receives over 50 percent of the statewide two-party vote at the forthcoming election should win the two-party vote in a majority of seats. One element of the Playmander remains to this day − the change from multi-member to single-member seats.

Eventually Hall and Stott fell out over the proposed Chowilla Dam. Stott wanted the dam built in his electorate while Hall thought its construction was not justified. Constituent anger forced Stott to vote against the Hall government, leading to an early election - the 1970 South Australian state election, which would be fought on much fairer electoral boundaries.

For the first time, since 1910 to 1912, there were no by-elections necessary during the previous parliament.

A 1968 Millicent by-election was triggered by the Court of Disputed Returns where Labor had won the seat by a single vote at the 1968 election. Labor increased their margin. Notably, turnout increased at the by-election.

Post-election pendulum[edit]

Murray Ivon Wardle LCL 0.2%
Alexandra David Brookman LCL 3.9%
Eyre Ernie Edwards LCL 4.9%
Ridley Tom Stott IND 5.6% v LCL
Fairly Safe
Chaffey Peter Arnold LCL 6.0%
Torrens John Coumbe LCL 6.5%
Burnside Joyce Steele LCL 9.4%
Gouger Steele Hall LCL 11.3%
Flinders Glen Pearson LCL 13.2%
Mitcham Robin Millhouse LCL 14.8%
Burra Ernest Allen LCL 16.2%
Onkaparinga Stan Evans LCL 16.9%
Gumeracha Bryant Giles LCL 17.9%
Angas Berthold Teusner LCL 18.0%
Victoria Allan Rodda LCL 18.1%
Light John Freebairn LCL 18.9%
Rocky River Howard Venning LCL 20.1%
Stirling William McAnaney LCL 22.0%
Yorke Peninsula James Ferguson LCL 24.9%
Albert Bill Nankivell LCL 26.7%
Millicent Des Corcoran ALP 0.0%
Unley Gil Langley ALP 1.5%
Wallaroo Lloyd Hughes ALP 2.2%
Barossa Molly Byrne ALP 3.1%
Glenelg Hugh Hudson ALP 3.9%
Fairly safe
West Torrens Glen Broomhill ALP 6.2%
Norwood Don Dunstan ALP 6.6%
Edwardstown Geoff Virgo ALP 8.4%
Mount Gambier Allan Burdon ALP 8.6%
Frome Tom Casey ALP 8.8%
Gawler John Clark ALP 17.1%
Enfield Joe Jennings ALP 18.1%
Adelaide Sam Lawn ALP 19.4%
Semaphore Reg Hurst ALP 21.3%
Hindmarsh Cyril Hutchens ALP 22.2%
Port Adelaide John Ryan ALP 23.1%
Port Pirie Dave McKee ALP 23.5%
Stuart Lindsay Riches ALP 23.9%
Whyalla Ron Loveday ALP 25.1%

Legislative Council Results[edit]

1968 Legislative Council Result
Party Seats
  Australian Labor Party 52.8% 2
  Liberal and Country League 41.9% 8
  Democratic Labor Party 5.3%
1968-1973 Legislative Council
Party Seats
  Liberal and Country League 16
  Australian Labor Party 4

See also[edit]