South Australian state election, 1970

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South Australian state election, 1970
South Australia
1968 ←
30 May 1970 (1970-05-30) → 1973

All 47 seats in the South Australian House of Assembly
24 seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party
Leader Don Dunstan Steele Hall
Party Labor Liberal and Country League
Leader since 1 June 1967 1966
Leader's seat Norwood Gouger
Last election 19 seats 20 seats
Seats won 27 seats 20 seats
Seat change Increase8 Steady0
Percentage 53.3% 46.7%
Swing Increase0.1 Decrease0.1

Premier before election

Steele Hall
Liberal and Country League

Elected Premier

Don Dunstan

State elections were held in Australia on 30 May 1970. All 47 seats in the South Australian House of Assembly were up for election. The incumbent Liberal and Country League led by Premier of South Australia Steele Hall was defeated by the Australian Labor Party led by Leader of the Opposition Don Dunstan.

House of Assembly (IRV) — Turnout 95.03% (CV) — Informal 2.06%
  Party Votes % Swing Seats Change
  Australian Labor Party 305,478 51.64 -0.33 27 +8
  Liberal and Country League 258,856 43.76 -0.06 20 +1
  Nationals SA 11,227 1.90 * 0 0
  Independent 8,615 1.46 +0.43 0 -1
  Other 7,355 1.24 0 0
  Total 591,531     47 +8
  Australian Labor Party WIN 53.30 +0.10 27 +8
  Liberal and Country League 46.70 -0.10 20 +0


The LCL had formed the government of South Australia for 35 of the previous 38 years due to a malapportionment favouring country areas over the Adelaide area. Deliberately inequitable electoral boundaries resulted in a country vote being worth twice a vote in Adelaide, even though Adelaide accounted for two-thirds of the state's population. This system was popularly known as the "Playmander," since it allowed Thomas Playford to remain Premier of South Australia for 26 years. In the latter part of Playford's tenure, the LCL could only hope to win a few seats in Adelaide. However, the LCL's grip on the country areas was such that it was able to retain power when it lost by substantial margins in terms of raw votes.

Labor finally overcame the Playmander in 1965 under Frank Walsh, but the malapportionment was strong enough that Labor only won 21 seats—just enough for a majority—despite taking 54.3 percent of the two-party vote. In 1968, Labor, now led by Don Dunstan won 53.2 percent of the two-party vote. However, Labor lost two seats to the LCL under Playford's successor, Hall. With the LCL one seat short of a majority, the balance of power rested with long-serving independent Tom Stott, a good friend of former Premier Playford and no friend of Labor. As expected, Stott announced his support for the LCL, thus making Hall the new Premier.

Hall was embarrassed that his party was in a position to win power despite finishing seven points behind Labor on the two-party vote. Concerned by the level of publicity and public protest about the issue, Hall was committed to the principle of a fairer electoral system. He enacted a system that expanded the House of Assembly to 47 seats—28 of which were located in Adelaide. The reforms fell short of "one vote one value," as Labor had demanded, since country areas were still slightly overrepresented. Nonetheless, conventional wisdom was that Hall was effectively handing the premiership to Dunstan at the next election.

In early 1970, Hall and Stott fell out over the location of a dam. Stott wanted the dam built in his electorate while Hall thought it more use to locate it elsewhere. Constituent anger forced Stott to vote against the Hall government, leading to an early election and the expected loss to Labor.

Hall remained Leader of the Opposition for two years before resigning from the LCL, claiming that the Party had 'lost its idealism [and] forgotten...its purpose for existence'. He founded the Liberal Movement, a progressive Liberal party that included about 200 former LCL members. Hall won a Federal Senate seat for the Liberal Movement in 1974 (and was re-elected in 1975), serving in the Senate for three years before resigning his position. His replacement as the Liberal Movement Senator for South Australia was Janine Haines, who would subsequently become the initial Australian Democrats Senator.

A 1971 Adelaide by-election was triggered as a result of the death of the incumbent MP. Labor easily retained the seat.

Legislative Council Results[edit]

There was no upper house vote at this election, so the numbers in the Council remained as before.

1968-1973 Legislative Council
Party Seats
  Liberal and Country League 16
  Australian Labor Party 4

See also[edit]