Grey – Australia 2019

LIB 1.9% vs NXT

Incumbent MP
Rowan Ramsey, since 2007.

Grey covers the vast majority of the geographical expanse of South Australia. Grey covers South Australia’s borders with Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales. It covers most of the coast of South Australia, including everything west of the Yorke Peninsula. Main towns include Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Port Lincoln, Whyalla, Coober Pedy and Roxby Downs.

Grey expanded to take in the northern rural end of Wakefield, including Auburn, Balaklava, Clare, Dublin, Hamley Bridge, Owen, Pinery, Riverton and Saddleworth.

Grey is an original electorate, having been created in 1903. The seat was first won by the ALP’s Alexander Poynton, who had been elected as a Free Trade MP in 1901, when South Australia elected its parliamentary delegation at large.

Poynton strongly supported conscription and followed Billy Hughes into the Nationalist Party in 1916.

Poynton was defeated by Andrew Lacey in 1922. Lacey held the seat until his defeat by Philip McBride (UAP) in 1931. Lacey went on to win a seat in the South Australian House of Assembly in 1933 and became Leader of the Opposition until 1938.

McBride held Grey for the UAP from 1931 until 1937, when he made a swap with Country Party senator Albert Badman, with Badman winning Grey and McBride taking Badman’s seat in the Senate. McBride held the Senate seat until his defeat in 1943, and then served as Member for Wakefield from 1946 to 1958, serving as a minister in the Menzies government.

Badman held the seat of Grey until 1943, effectively serving as a member of the UAP for his final years after the collapse of the Country Party in South Australia.

In 1943, Badman was defeated by Edgar Russell (ALP). Russell began a 50-year period of the ALP holding Grey except for a single election, and he served as a backbencher until his death in 1963. Jack Mortimer won the seat for the ALP in 1963, but was defeated by Liberal Don Jessop in 1966. Jessop only held the seat for one term, losing to Laurie Wallis in 1969. Jessop then won a seat in the Senate in 1970 and served there until 1987.

Wallis held Grey from 1969 to 1983, when he retired. He was succeeded by Lloyd O’Neil, who held the seat for the ALP from 1983 until his retirement in 1993.

The redistribution before the 1993 had expanded Grey to include rural areas to the west of Port Pirie and Port Augusta, after the seat had been limited to the immediate coastal strip for decades. This improved the position of the Liberal Party, and Barry Wakelin won the seat off the ALP at the 1993 election.

Wakelin held the seat until 2007, when he retired and was succeeded by Rowan Ramsey. Ramsey was re-elected in 2010, 2013 and 2016.


The Nick Xenophon Team performed very strongly in this seat in 2016. It’s not clear if Centre Alliance (the new name for NXT) will be running a big campaign in this seat, or how they would perform without Xenophon’s leadership. So it’s possible this seat could be a close race, or that it will revert to being a Liberal safe seat.

2016 result

Rowan Ramsey Liberal 38,40942.7-12.942.2
Andrea BroadfootNick Xenophon Team24,93627.7+27.726.7
Scott Martin Labor 19,37321.6-5.722.6
Cheryl KaminskiFamily First3,7104.1-1.44.3
Jillian Kay Marsh Greens 2,3042.6-1.22.7
Phillip GourlayIndependent1,1441.3+1.31.1

2016 two-candidate-preferred result

Rowan Ramsey Liberal 46,69252.051.9
Andrea BroadfootNick Xenophon Team43,18448.048.1

2016 two-party-preferred result

Rowan Ramsey Liberal 52,69658.6-4.957.8
Scott Martin Labor 37,18041.4+4.942.2

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided into eight areas. There are four major towns in the electorate: Whyalla, Port Lincoln, Port Pirie and Port Augusta. Polling places in these towns have been grouped together.

The remainder of the electorate has been split between:

  • Central – Barunga West, Copper Coast, Mallala, Wakefield and Yorke Peninsula council areas.
  • East – Clare and Gilbert Valleys, Flinders Ranges, Goyder, Light, Mount Remarkable, Northern Areas, Orroroo Carrieton, Peterborough council areas, and those parts of Port Pirie council area outside of the Port Pirie urban area.
  • Outback – Polling places in northern parts of the seat, including Coober Pedy, Roxby Downs and Woomera.
  • West – Those polling places in the south of the electorate to the west of Whyalla.

The Liberal Party won a majority of the two-candidate-preferred vote in most areas, ranging from 53.7% in the outback to 68% in the west. The Nick Xenophon Team won a majority in three of the larger towns, ranging from 58.7% in Port Pirie to 68.5% in Whyalla.

The Labor primary vote ranged from 8.9% in the west to 42.4% in Whyalla.

Voter groupALP prim %LIB 2CP %Total votes% of votes
Port Pirie31.241.36,3636.0
Port Lincoln14.754.25,9885.7
Port Augusta30.239.34,5014.3
Other votes22.954.914,93414.2

Election results in Grey at the 2016 federal election
Toggle between two-candidate-preferred votes (LNP vs NXT) and Labor primary votes.

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  1. Without the name brand of Nick Xenophon, I suspect this will become a safe retain for the Liberal Party at the next federal election.

  2. Labor will finish 2nd, and Centre Alliance preferences will split evenly as they’re unlikely to put out a how to vote card only preferencing Labor.

    Liberal retain. Labor blew their only chance of dislodging the Liberals by running an open ticket in 2016.

  3. This is the only seat in Australia where tactical voting is relevant; a rarity in this voting system but a situation that comes up in discussions of electoral reform.

    People who want to get rid of the Liberals should try to ensure that Centre Alliance comes in ahead of Labor as if Centre Alliance comes 3rd, their preferences will split 50/50 and ensure a Liberal win.

    As for other possible non monotonic contests, Boothby and Sturt will be Liberal vs Labor. Those are the two seats where tactical voting could have potentially beaten the Liberals last time, but it didn’t. Boothby is winnable for either party. Sturt less so, but I can’t see Centre Alliance coming close to overtaking Labor this time.

    Barker on the other hand I can’t see as being anything but a Liberal vs Centre Alliance contest.

  4. Should those kind of tactics need to take place at the voter level? The Labor party are grown ups. Couldn’t they drop hints to Xenophon and run extremely weak in these kind of seats. Man polling stations fully of course, gotta get those HTV cards with Xenophon above Lib into people’s hands…

  5. Even in countries where tactical voting is extremely relevant due to first past the post, you don’t see much in the way of “tactical withdrawals” by political parties, especially major ones. There were many seats in the UK where the Liberal Democrats lost to the Tories by less than the Labour vote, and many seats where Labour lost to the Tories by less than the Green vote. Canada has had many conservative governments due to the two centre left political parties (three in Quebec) spoiling each other.

    I am thankful that Australia’s electoral system largely renders tactical voting irrelevant, but these SA seats resemble the hypothetical cases that get brought up by people opposing preferential voting – where things like non-monotonicity and the “no show paradox” actually come up.

    It would be smart for Labor to play down their own chances, but they do need to build up senate votes and also reach out to their demographics. What makes no sense is Labor running open tickets, which is what they did last time.

  6. Tactical voting as applies overseas is all about minor/weaker party/candidate voters voting for the ‘lesser evil’ of the two strongest candidates. (Or threshold considerations, in many PR systems.)

    Tactical voting *here* is mostly limited to determining who the final two candidates will be, since it’s easy to predict which major will win if they’re the top two.

    The name of the game is still “getting the lesser evil elected in a seat that you expect to lose”.

    The Left getting NXT into the top two in electorates where Labor would lose to the Liberals is one good example (and vice versa for the Right in left-leaning electorates). I.E minors preferencing NXT over the majors, and major party voters tactically switching.

    In the safer Left seats that also happen to be strong for the Greens, the Liberals likewise want to run 3rd and be kingmaker. (Whether they want to disrupt Labor or lock the Greens out has varied over time.

    The one weird bit tactically (which is perhaps unique to runoff systems) is seats like Prahran with more Greens>Liberal prefs than Labor>Liberal, a close Liberal 2CP *and* a close Labor/Greens 3PP margin. Then Liberal voters have a small incentive to vote Labor, to ensure the Greens come third and enough prefs go Liberal!

    A large element of this, of course, in all cases, is tactical *campaigning* as much as it is tactical *voting*.

  7. “Labor blew their only chance of dislodging the Liberals by running an open ticket in 2016.”


    Labor didn’t “blow their chance”, Xenophon ran open tickets so Labor told Xenophon he wouldn’t be getting a free lunch and returned the favor.

    Xenophon is former member of the Liberal party, just to think Labor owed it to preference Xenophon because he is not a Liberal while Xenophon refuses to preference Labor was the right thing to do on principle.

  8. He’s not a Liberal, and not to the right of the Liberals. Labor owe it to their voters to try and prevent a Liberal government, deal or no deal.

    Labor would be wise to use Centre Alliance to dislodge Libs here and Barker. Boothby on the other hand is winnable for Labor. The grey area is Sturt – not a big margin at all.

  9. Agreed John! Most independents do not preference the ALP.. even Windsor and Oakshott didn’t… and yet the ALP still preferences them on tactical grounds. So why should this have been different?

    The truth is that the ALP was also worried about losing their own seats to Xenophon, so it would appear they entered into an ‘arrangement’ with the Liberal Party. As it turned out, NXT was only a threat to the Liberals, but as NXT were a new quantity, the ALP didn’t know this beforehand and simply got it wrong.

  10. So Peter Labor “appears” to reached in an arrangement with the Liberals but you have given no proof to back that.

    The truth is that Xenophon party wasn’t going to give Labor preferences so why should Labor return the favor. This view that Xenophon never harmed Labor and should be treated as a protected species is wrong, with the Xenophon party taking senate votes away from Labor and costing Labor a fourth senator at the federal election.

    The other thing is Labor only ran open tickets the same as Xenophon position in Grey. The Greens in SA election went one step further and put Xenophon’s SA Best party behind the Liberals in preferences in some seats in SA state election. The Greens rationale for doing this is ‘blue Liberals and orange Liberals were exactly the same’.

    There are also many prominent Unions that have reached out to minor parties but not Xenophon. Its likely because Xenophon in the past has given very wishy washy statements on industrial relations refusing to rule out siding with the Liberals.

  11. Idiocy all around. I think there was a tactical error by the Greens in preferencing Labor over NXT in Boothby and Sturt, then monstrously stupid decisions in the SA state election. I think Labor would have gotten a 5th term if SA Best won Heysen and Finniss and got balance of power, but Green preferences blew it.

    Xenophon is, at worst, a Liberal. How that isn’t preferable to full time Liberals is beyond me.

  12. Broadfoot almost won last time, Now she’s running again, Due to the bad year for the liberals. This should be a narrow Centre-Alliance gain, She has name recognition, And what on earth has Ramsay done for Grey for the past 11 years? Nothing. It will be close, But if the Liberals want to hold they should put their money in seats like this rather than trying to hold their Liberal Vs Labor marginals because once this seat falls to Centre Alliance, It is likely theirs until the member retires or messes up

  13. Yeah for sure Daniel currently as it stands i reckon this should be a narrow victory for the CA providing CA runs a decent campaign to a simmilar measure as last time. The pure electoral backlash from the leadership coup should be enough to get CA over the line. I would predict somewhere between 51-54% for CA. Meanwhile Barker on the other hand.

  14. I’m dubious of the notion that Andrea Broadfoot’s name recognition is strong enough to counteract the loss of Nick Xenophon’s name recognition. This seat is the Liberals’ to lose, not Centre Alliance’s to gain. Could be an interesting litmus of how widespread the “Wagga Wagga effect” (if we can so describe it) is, but it’s a little premature to be conducting the autopsy of the Liberal party here.

  15. The Centre Alliance almost did What Labor cannot do here build up huge votes in the Iron Triangle which almost gets them there. This time round. suspect easier liberal win

  16. Have you been to Gray? Ramsay is despised here, refer to my other post above, Blackjack will lose after 12 years, he hasnt done anything significat here, and polling is 58-42 against the coalition on federal figures in South australia.

  17. I would like labor to win but labor gets an excellent vote in Wyalla only needs something like 70% plus in the whole Iron Triangle….I don’t think they are getting like that… each boundary change adds more rural non labor areas to the seat

  18. Andrea Broadfoot is recontesting for Centre Alliance. If she holds her vote and Labor actually preference her, she’ll win. Biggest risk is Labor overtaking her and her votes splitting 50/50. Non Lib parties should really sort preferences out lest Ramsay (by all accounts over the job) sneak another term.

  19. Daniel,

    I very much doubt CA will win here. Since the state election, their vote has collapsed into the mid single digits which is well down from their massive highs between 2016-2018.

    To be honest, I would not be surprised if Georgina Downer gave CA a run for their money in Mayo.

  20. Agree with Wreathy of Sydney, CA will struggle to make further inroads into Grey or Barker and may have a small swing against them in Mayo (but still hold on).

    Their campaign won’t have anywhere near the same focus, since Xenophon has vacated the field.

  21. The ABC has not only not listed it as a key seat, but lists the incorrect LIB vs ALP margin and calls it a safe seat without mentioning Broadfoot.

    Also the independents campaigns for climate change includes Sharkie but not Broadfoot. She got closer than Oakeshott did last time. Centre Alliance has collapsed but their strategy of targeting just the 3 rural seats could pay off.

    This seat has been forgotten and I think it still has sleeper potential. Greens are preferencing Broadfoot this time (although I don’t think that will amount to much). Keen to see a Labor card.

  22. The CA didn’t get ALP preferences in 2016 but they almost certainly will this time, so they can actually afford to go backwards a bit and still win. Perhaps their vote will collapse. If it doesn’t they are in with a chance here.

  23. Broadfoot still seem to be getting decent coverage in the Iron triangle. Undoubtedly, the ALP primary vote will increase here which should result in a close result.

  24. Great observation, Yappo. This seat has snuck under the radar of many experts. Looks like it will be part of the entertainment on Saturday evening.

  25. Certainly could be in play but needs to be growth in the ALP vote, the Centre Alliance vote staying steady and ahead of the ALP.

    Seems unlikely. CA vote should drop.


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