South Australian state election, 1997

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South Australian state election, 1997
South Australia
← 1993 11 October 1997 (1997-10-11) 2002 →

All 47 seats in the South Australian House of Assembly
24 seats were needed for a majority
11 (of the 22) seats in the South Australian Legislative Council
  First party Second party
  John Olsen (1).jpg Mike Rann (smiling).jpg
Leader John Olsen Mike Rann
Party Liberal Labor
Leader since 28 November 1996 5 November 1994
Leader's seat Kavel Ramsay
Last election 37 seats 10 seats
Seats won 23 seats 21 seats
Seat change Decrease14 Increase11
Percentage 51.5% 48.5%
Swing Decrease9.5% Increase9.5%

Premier before election

John Olsen

Resulting Premier

John Olsen

State elections were held in South Australia on 11 October 1997. All 47 seats in the South Australian House of Assembly were up for election. The incumbent Liberal Party of Australia led by Premier of South Australia John Olsen defeated the Australian Labor Party led by Leader of the Opposition Mike Rann, forming a minority government with the SA Nationals and independent MPs.

House of Assembly (IRV) — Turnout 91.75% (CV) — Informal 4.04%
Party Votes  % Swing Seats Change
  Liberal Party of Australia 359,509 40.40 -12.41 23 -14
  Australian Labor Party 312,929 35.16 +4.79 21 +11
  Australian Democrats 146,347 16.45 +7.35 0 0
  Nationals SA 15,488 1.74 +0.63 1 +1
  Independent Liberal 6,970 0.78 * 1 +1
  Independents 27,870 3.13 +0.01 1 +1
  Other 20,801 2.34 0 0
  Total 889,914     47
  Liberal Party of Australia WIN 51.50 -9.50 26 -11
  Australian Labor Party 48.50 +9.50 21 +11

Independents: Rory McEwen, Mitch Williams


Following the 1993 landslide to the Liberals, ending 11 years of Labor government, Labor now led by Mike Rann held just 11 seats in the House of Assembly. The Liberals held 36 seats and there were no independent or minor party members in the House of Assembly. They had held a record 37, but lost one at the 1994 Torrens by-election. However the Liberals were suffering from heightened internal tensions. Premier Dean Brown had been toppled by Industry Minister and factional rival John Olsen in a 1996 party-room coup. Olsen had been in office for around 12 months on election day. Even with the leadership change, Labor needed a 13-seat swing to make Rann premier, a deficit thought insurmountable when the writs were dropped.

To the surprise of most observers, Olsen lost the massive majority he'd inherited from Brown. Labor polled exceptionally well, regaining much of what it had lost in its severe defeat of four years earlier. Indeed, on election night many Liberal observers feared that Labor had managed the swing it needed to regain government. Ultimately, Labor picked up 10 seats, three seats short of victory. The Liberals lost a massive 14 seats; 11 to Labor (including one at a 1994 by-election), one to the Nationals, and two to conservative independents. Labor received a record two-party swing of 9.5 percent, as opposed to the previous record of 9.1 percent to the Liberals at the last election. Olsen were forced to seek the support of the Nationals and the independents to stay in office at the helm of a minority government.

The election was also notable for the Australian Democrats' strongest lower house performance in South Australia, falling short by two percent to one of the party's predecessors, the Liberal Movement (LM), who contested the 1975 state election. Though the Democrats did not win a lower house seat compared to the LM who won two, the Democrats finished second after preferences in seven seats compared to the LM in three seats. In the South Australian Legislative Council, the Democrats retained the balance of power, which they had held uninterrupted since their inception in the mid-1970s. As it turned out, however, the Democrats' influence in South Australia crested at this election. During this parliamentary term, the Democrats would lose the sole balance of power for the first time, sharing the balance of power with Nick Xenophon and two ex-Labor independent members. They would slowly lose numbers and influence, losing their remaining parliamentary representation as of the 2010 election.

Post-election Pendulum[edit]

Gordon Rory McEwen IND 0.1% v LIB
Hartley Joe Scalzi LIB 0.7%
Stuart Graham Gunn LIB 1.5%
Heysen David Wotton LIB 1.9% v AD
Chaffey Karlene Maywald NAT 2.6% v LIB
Frome Rob Kerin LIB 2.9%
Colton Steve Condous LIB 4.0%
Davenport Iain Evans LIB 4.3% v AD
Unley Mark Brindal LIB 4.5%
Mawson Robert Brokenshire LIB 4.7%
Adelaide Michael Armitage LIB 5.4%
Waite Martin Hamilton-Smith LIB 5.9% v AD
Fairly safe
Bright Wayne Matthew LIB 6.2%
Light Malcolm Buckby LIB 6.3%
Kavel John Olsen LIB 6.3% v AD
Finniss Dean Brown LIB 7.3% v AD
Coles Joan Hall LIB 7.8%
MacKillop Mitch Williams IND 7.9% v LIB
Newland Dorothy Kotz LIB 8.0%
Schubert Ivan Venning LIB 8.7% v AD
Fisher Bob Such LIB 9.8%
Flinders Liz Penfold LIB 10.0% v NAT
Morphett John Oswald LIB 13.0%
Hammond Peter Lewis LIB 14.7%
Goyder John Meier LIB 17.2%
Bragg Graham Ingerson LIB 18.8%
Norwood Vini Ciccarello ALP 0.8%
Mitchell Kris Hanna ALP 0.9%
Florey Frances Bedford ALP 1.3%
Elder Pat Conlon ALP 2.6%
Wright Jennifer Rankine ALP 3.1%
Reynell Gay Thompson ALP 3.7%
Hanson Steph Key ALP 5.6%
Kaurna John Hill ALP 5.8%
Fairly safe
Peake Tom Koutsantonis ALP 7.0%
Lee Michael Wright ALP 7.1%
Napier Annette Hurley ALP 9.5% v AD
Torrens Robyn Geraghty ALP 10.1%
Giles Lyn Breuer ALP 11.4%
Playford Jack Snelling ALP 12.9%
Elizabeth Lea Stevens ALP 14.3%
Ross Smith Ralph Clarke ALP 14.8%
Ramsay Mike Rann ALP 18.2%
Taylor Trish White ALP 22.2%
Hart Kevin Foley ALP 22.7%
Spence Michael Atkinson ALP 23.3%
Price Murray De-Laine ALP 24.4%
Metro SA: ALP in red, Liberal in blue. These boundaries are based on the 2006 electoral redistribution.
Rural SA: ALP in red, Liberal in blue, Independents in white, Nationals in green. These boundaries are based on the 2006 electoral redistribution.

Legislative Council Results[edit]

1997 Legislative Council Result (STV GV)
Party Seats
  Liberal Party of Australia 37.8% 4
  Australian Labor Party 30.6% 4
  Australian Democrats 16.7% 2
  No Pokies 2.9% 1
  HEMP Legalise Marijuana 1.7%
  SA Greens 1.7%
  Grey Power 1.6%
  United Australia Party 1.3%
  Nationals SA 1.0%
1997-2002 Legislative Council
Party Seats
  Liberal Party of Australia 10
  Australian Labor Party 8
  Australian Democrats 3
  No Pokies 1

In the Legislative Council, the Australian Democrats won two seats for the first time. Elected were 4 Liberal, 4 Labor, 2 Australian Democrats, and No Pokies candidate Nick Xenophon. Carrying over from the 1993 election were 6 Liberal, 4 Labor, 1 Democrat; leaving the numbers at: 10 Liberal, 8 Labor, 3 Democrats, 1 No Pokies.

Both on 1.72%, the HEMP Legalise Marijuana party received 15432 votes and the SA Greens received 15377 votes.

Labor upper house members Terry Cameron and Trevor Crothers would resign from the party in 1998 and 1999 respectively, resulting in the permanent end of two decades of the Democrats holding the sole balance of power.


The 1997 result put Labor within striking distance of winning government at the next election in 2002. John Olsen was left with internal disquiet over the leadership challenge and poor election result while his opponent, Mike Rann, was seen to have 'won' the campaign despite losing the election.

On 6 February 2007, Mike Rann told parliament that some in the Liberal party had leaked information to him before and during the election campaign. The following quote by Rann is from Hansard on 6/2/2007 [1]:

"You asked me a question and I will give you a 55-minute answer, because you will remember one day when I came into this place and I had, I think, 880 pages of cabinet and other documents... I remember being telephoned and told to go to a certain cafe, not in a white car but in a taxi, and then to walk in a zigzag fashion through the streets of a suburb, where I was to be handed cabinet documents. So much for their cabinet solidarity and cabinet confidentiality! There was a queue on the telephone telling us what had happened the day before. It was the same during the 1997 election campaign. People thought, `How does this guy (the leader of the opposition at the time) know intuitively exactly what John Olsen is doing the next day?' It was because I was being phoned and told! So, do not talk to me about cabinet solidarity lest I come in here and start naming names, which will set off another generation of disputation on the other side of the house. Anyway, cabinet approved, among other things, on 20 December 2006 minister Lomax-Smith's proposed statement and approved her to announce publicly that she opposed the proposal in cabinet. She did so because we agreed that she should be able to do so. Somehow I do not think that John Olsen agreed to what happened when I was getting the phone call at 6 o'clock in the morning and at midnight, and walking in a zigzag pattern through suburbs to be handed a cabinet bag and cabinet documents. We have a different approach. We agreed to it. It was a cabinet decision to agree to it. So, please, ask me some more questions, because there were two different camps involved in this leaking to the then poor unpopular leader of the opposition, and I am more than happy to name names."

See also[edit]


Political Parties