Senate – South Australia – Australia 2022

Incumbent Senators

Term due to expire 2022 Term due to expire 2025
Simon Birmingham (Liberal) Alex Antic (Liberal)
Don Farrell (Labor) David Fawcett (Liberal)
Stirling Griff (Centre Alliance) Alex Gallacher (Labor)
Andrew McLachlan (Liberal)1 Sarah Hanson-Young (Greens)
Rex Patrick (Rex Patrick Team)2 Anne Ruston (Liberal)
Penny Wong (Labor) Marielle Smith (Labor)

1Andrew McLachlan replaced Cory Bernardi on 6 February 2020 following Bernardi’s resignation.
2Rex Patrick resigned from the Centre Alliance on 9 August 2020 to become an independent.

South Australia was represented by five Labor senators and five Liberal senators from 1951 until the 1961 election, when the ALP managed to gain a 6-4 majority. A 5-5 balance was restored in 1967.

Former Liberal premier Steele Hall was elected in 1974 on the ticket of the Liberal Movement, taking a seat away from the Liberal Party. Hall was re-elected in 1975, while the Liberals regained their fifth seat at the expense of the ALP. Hall retired in 1977 and was replaced by Janine Haines of the Democrats. The 1977 election saw the Democrats lose the seat, with the Liberals winning six seats to the ALP’s four.

Haines was returned to the Senate for the Democrats in 1980, alongside five Liberals and four ALP senators. The 1983 double dissolution saw the ALP win a fifth seat off the Liberals. In 1984, the Democrats won a second seat while each major party held five seats. This pattern continued until 1993, when the Liberals won a sixth seat off the ALP, producing a 6-4-2 pattern which was maintained until the 2004 election.

The 2004 election saw the former Democrats seat (belonging to Meg Lees) lost to the ALP, producing a 6-5-1 split. In 2007, Natasha Stott Despoja’s seat was lost. The Liberal Party also lost one of their six seats. The ALP and Liberals each now hold five Senate seats, along with independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Sarah Hanson-Young of the Greens.

In 2010, the ALP lost one of their three seats to the Greens’ Penny Wright, producing an overall split of 5 Liberals, 4 Labor, 2 Greens and one independent.

2013 was a low-point for Labor, falling into third place behind the Nick Xenophon group. Sarah Hanson-Young, Nick Xenophon and the two Liberal senators were re-elected, but Labor only retained one of their two seats, with the final seat falling to Family First’s Bob Day.

The Liberal Party and the Greens both lost seats in 2016. The Greens lost one of their two seats, while the Liberal Party dropped from five seats to four. Both of these seats went to the Nick Xenophon Team, who won a second and third seat.

Family First senator Bob Day was forced to resign from the Senate in 2016 due to ineligibility. He was replaced by Lucy Gichuhi, who went on to join the Liberal Party.

Nick Xenophon resigned from the Senate in 2017 to unsuccessfully contest the 2018 South Australian state election, and was replaced by Rex Patrick. Fellow NXT senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore was forced to resign due to citizenship issues, and she was replaced by Tim Storer, who had stood in 2016 for the Nick Xenophon Team but sat in the Senate as an independent. Xenophon withdrew from politics in 2018 and his party was renamed “Centre Alliance”.

Storer retired in 2019, and Kakoschke-Moore stood unsuccessfully. The third NXT seat, along with the Family First seat, were absorbed by the Labor and Liberal parties, who each gained one seat. The Greens retained their one seat, while the two Centre Alliance senators were not up for election.

2019 result

Group Votes % Swing Quota
Liberal 413,957 37.8 +5.2 2.6467
Labor 332,399 30.4 +3.0 2.1253
Greens 119,470 10.9 +5.0 0.7639
One Nation 53,314 4.9 +1.9 0.3409
United Australia Party 33,191 3.0 +3.0 0.2122
Centre Alliance 28,416 2.6 -19.2 0.1817
Help End Marijuana Prohibition 23,265 2.1 +2.1 0.1487
Animal Justice 20,445 1.9 +1.0 0.1307
Australian Conservatives 16,145 1.5 +1.5 0.1032
Great Australian Party 12,698 1.2 +1.2 0.0812
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers 12,003 1.1 +0.4 0.0767
Conservative National Party 7,829 0.7 +0.7 0.0501
Liberal Democrats 7,345 0.7 +0.0 0.0470
Australian Democrats 6,497 0.6 +0.6 0.0415
Others 7,849 0.7

Preference flows
Four seats were won on primary votes: two each for the Liberal and Labor parties.

Fast forward to the last nine candidates for the last two seats:

  • Sarah Hanson-Young (GRN) – 0.8062 quotas
  • Alex Antic (LIB) – 0.6736
  • Jennifer Game (ON) – 0.4119
  • Kristian Rees (UAP) – 0.2409
  • Skye Kakoschke-Moore (CA) – 0.2240
  • Angela Adams (HEMP) – 0.1837
  • Louise Pfeiffer (AJP) – 0.1565
  • Emily Gore (ALP) – 0.1517
  • Rikki Lambert (CON) – 0.1349

Conservatives preferences strongly favoured the Liberal Party, with some going to One Nation and the UAP:

  • Hanson-Young (GRN) – 0.8115
  • Antic (LIB) – 0.7334
  • Game (ON) – 0.4346
  • Rees (UAP) – 0.2642
  • Kakoschke-Moore (CA) – 0.2302
  • Adams (HEMP) – 0.1869
  • Pfeiffer (AJP) – 0.1614
  • Gore (ALP) – 0.1581

About half of the Labor preferences went to the Greens, with others going to Animal Justice and Liberal:

  • Hanson-Young (GRN) – 0.8873
  • Antic (LIB) – 0.7538
  • Game (ON) – 0.4441
  • Rees (UAP) – 0.2753
  • Kakoschke-Moore (CA) – 0.2367
  • Adams (HEMP) – 0.1960
  • Pfeiffer (AJP) – 0.1820

Animal Justice preferences pushed the Greens close to a quota:

  • Hanson-Young (GRN) – 0.9682
  • Antic (LIB) – 0.7715
  • Game (ON) – 0.4583
  • Rees (UAP) – 0.2923
  • Kakoschke-Moore (CA) – 0.2454
  • Adams (HEMP) – 0.2300

HEMP preferences flowed strongly to the Greens, electing Sarah Hanson-Young to the fifth seat:

  • Hanson-Young (GRN) – 1.0601
  • Antic (LIB) – 0.8018
  • Game (ON) – 0.4988
  • Rees (UAP) – 0.3176
  • Kakoschke-Moore (CA) – 0.2628

The Greens surplus favoured Kakoschke-Moore, but not enough to save her from being eliminated in the next round:

  • Antic (LIB) – 0.8018
  • Game (ON) – 0.5027
  • Rees (UAP) – 0.3230
  • Kakoschke-Moore (CA) – 0.2866

Centre Alliance preferences had a high exhaustion rate, but the remainder favoured the Liberal candidate:

  • Antic (LIB) – 0.9245
  • Game (ON) – 0.5633
  • Rees (UAP) – 0.3530

UAP preferences split roughly evenly, with a slight lean towards the Liberal candidate, which was enough to push Antic over quota for the final seat:

  • Antic (LIB) – 1.0648
  • Game (ON) – 0.6889


The Labor and Liberal parties should be able to retain their two seats each, with the two seats won by the Nick Xenophon Team in 2016 in play.

It seems likely that Nick Xenophon will at least regain his former seat, but whether he has enough strength after four years out of politics to challenge for a second seat is not clear. He polled almost 25% in 2013, which would probably be enough to win a second seat under the current system, but he polled around 19-21% in his most recent races, which may not.

The Greens will have a good chance at winning a seat. They have won a seat at every half-Senate election since 2007, but lost a seat in 2016 when they failed to retain two seats at the double dissolution.

The chances for a third Liberal seat were probably eliminated when Nick Xenophon announced he would run. In current circumstances, a single Xenophon seat would likely come from the right, leaving the left with three, but if Xenophon wins two the second seat would most likely defeat the Greens.

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  1. Your point about Voices not being relevant in certain seats has merit. I just don’t see how the Democrats do. This isn’t the 90s and Australia isn’t America or the UK. He’s better off sticking with his own name, even tarnished as it is.

  2. Griff and Patrick’s chances of winning in Xenophon’s absence were already basically zero.

    Xenophon is a strong contender. His 2013 vote was high enough that he probably would’ve won two seats in the absence of group voting tickets. I suspect his vote will be a bit lower after a few years out of politics and no party name, and I think it’s more likely he’ll take a single seat from the right than the left.

    As for the Voices movement, that political model is a creature of a particular kind of electorate. It’s never made much sense for PR elections. They don’t need to have a broad national impact, if they can cause trouble in a few otherwise-safe seats.

  3. Nick Xenophon’s attempted comeback may struggle according to a poll.

    ‘But former senator Xenophon, who quit the senate to run a failed state campaign at the 2018 election, is currently languishing on just 5.2 per cent according to the poll – well down on his 2016 high-watermark, at which his NXT party won three senate seats in a double-dissolution election.’

  4. So, current polling for the SA Senate has Labor on 36.1%, Liberals on 32.2%, Greens on 11.6%, Xenophon and Patrick combined on 8.2% (assuming that preferences are likely to flow from one to the other), PHON on 3.9%, and UAP on 2.7%, which would leave 5.3% for all others (and likely some “undecided” as well).

    On these numbers, Labor has 2.527 quotas, Liberals 2.254 quotas, Greens 0.812 quotas, Xenophon+Patrick on 0.574 quotas, and PHON+UAP on 0.462 quotas, with 0.371 quotas elsewhere.

    I think it’s easy to see that, at minimum, we’re looking at Labor 2, Liberals 2, Greens 1. Barring a shock strong performance by another party or independent not named above, the 0.371 quotas will flow primarily to the listed parties.

    Fusion and AJP are likely to flow pretty strongly to Greens. Citizens Party are likely to flow through the bigger minor parties (based on 2019 HTV cards (not in SA, as ABC doesn’t have a listing for their SA HTV), I’d expect PHON, UAP, then Greens – possibly with Xenophon or Patrick somewhere in there). IMOP will probably go to PHON and maybe UAP, and then exhaust, as will LDP.

    Based on this, I suspect about a third of 0.371 quotas will go to Greens, a third to PHON (with UAP being secondary beneficiaries, but I expect most UAP to flow to PHON anyway), and maybe one in twelve going to Labor and Xenophon/Patrick, with little reaching the Liberals at this point, and about one in six exhausting. So now we’re looking at something like:

    Greens: 0.936
    Xenophon/Patrick: 0.605
    PHON/UAP: 0.586
    Labor: 0.558
    Liberal: 0.260

    UAP would probably go before Liberals, but let’s pretend it would all flow to PHON anyway, so we’ll follow Liberal next. In 2019 in SA, Liberal HTV had UAP, then CA among the remaining groupings… but UAP are running pretty hard against the Liberals, so I don’t think they’ll send preferences to UAP. So I’m going to assume Xenophon/Patrick get the benefit from this, with a bit of leakage to Greens and PHON/UAP. I’ll say 0.15 quotas to X/P, 0.03 quotas to Greens and to PHON/UAP, and 0.01 quotas to Labor, with the remainder exhausting.

    Greens: 0.966
    Xenophon/Patrick: 0.755
    PHON/UAP: 0.616
    Labor: 0.568

    The remaining question mark is where UAP preferences go, though. As I said, it seems sensible to think PHON might be the main beneficiary, but Palmer has been saying he’d put Greens ahead of Liberal and Labor, which might mean enough leakage for it to push the Greens over the line before Labor gets knocked out.

    If Greens tweak over the line first, then it’s a hard call – Labor might edge up enough to grab the final seat, or it might go to Xenophon (or Patrick, depending on how the preferences end up flowing up to this point – PHON/UAP/etc might put Patrick ahead of Xenophon). If Labor gets knocked out first, their preferences will flow mostly to Greens, push them over the line, and then Green preferences will more strongly flow to Xenophon/Patrick over PHON, etc.

    I’d say there’s about an 80% chance of Lab 2, Lib 2, Greens 1 + Xenophon, with a 5% chance that it’s Patrick instead of Xenophon, and a 14% chance that Labor manage to nab it for Lab 3, Lib 2, Greens 1, with a slim chance that the final seat lands with PHON.

    Note that much of my conclusion is operating on the assumption that there will be a bit of movement over the campaign period, but not massive movement, and that the polling is somewhat accurate.

  5. SA may be the only state (other than QLD) that will elect a senator that is neither from the LNP, ALP nor Greens.

    I am wondering how Rex Patrick and Nick Xenophon will fare.

  6. Its been reported in the Adelaide Advertiser that Labor is poised to win three senate seats in South Australia. Wow.

  7. After that SA Senate poll it might be 2 Labor, 2 Libs, 1 Green, and Xenophon thankfully beating PHON for the final seat, as someone has already gone into. If Xenophon tanks a bit or Labor does a bit better then it might be 3 Labor instead?

  8. Patrick really should have quit and run for Grey, unless he’s happy leaving politics altogether.

  9. Now, here I know a lot of what is going on.
    A fascinating mix, different to any other state thanks to Mr X, and the ex-Mr X colleague, Senator Patrick, giving the Centre some realistic alternatives.Alas, I do not see either getting up with Rex’s Primary being too small and Mr X receiving no preferences help at all thanks to burning bridges in previous campaigns.
    It will be a tight race for the last 2 spots, but I think the Greens will win and the conservative minors will pick up a lot of the lost Lib voters (no LNP in SA), however, I won’t be shocked if we end up with 3 ALP AND a Green.
    ALP 2, Lib 2, Green 1, PHON 1

  10. I think Bash is right. 2 Lib, 2 Lab with the remainder helping elect the Green, 6th seat is up for grabs.
    There are a few realistic preference groups that could elect the final candidate.
    Patrick/Xenophon are worth about 6-8% between them, but have no preference recommendations. For that reason I think both will lose.
    The “Freedom” parties are in two groupings: LDP (with ALP preferences after the Greens) and UAP are swapping preferences. Bob Day (with definite Liberal preferences – 2nd preference after Nats) has exchanged 1st/2nd preferences with One Nation. If PHON gets ahead of Bob Day, it will pick up his votes. If they get ahead of the UAP/LDP grouping, Jennifer Game will be the next Senator. If the UAP/LDP/ALP leftover grouping is above PHON, we will probably see Michael Arbon in the next Senate.

    A third Labor seat is improbable but not impossible, especially if Xenophon/Patrick preferences flow strongly towards the ALP. The problem is that Mr X’s HTVs have no preferencing recommendations, so they could spray anywhere.

  11. Could Simon Birmingham make a switch to the lower house to run for leader? Gorton did it so it isn’t impossible so to speak. Although with the diminishing presence of moderates in the house it seems unlikely he would have the numbers to defeat Peter Dutton.

    If he were to make such a move he would need a lower house seat. I doubt he would be willing to move states as that would be seen as parachuting and a power grab, He would have to convince either Tony Pasin or Rowan Ramsay to resign considering they are the only safe liberal seats left in the state.

  12. I like Brimingham and he is a great sensible voice for the moderate side of the party, but do you really think he suits a non urban seat?

    He would really need a safe Adelaide seat and that does not exist.

  13. The Liberals got a swing against them here. Can someone explain why they are likely to gain in senator in Kerrynne Liddle?

    It looks mathematically impossible for them to get 3 quotas so I don’t get how in Western Australia and Victoria they aren’t getting it. But in South Australia?

  14. Looks like the race for 5th and 6th will start with LNP, ALP and ON all around 0.3 with greens on about 0.85

    I imagine that the Greens would pick up the left-leaning preferences from the smaller parties e.g. AJP, HEMP to get their quota – meaning ALP will still be around 0.3 for the race to 6th

    LDP and UAP have around 0.35 together which will mainly flow to either ON or Libs. Rex Patrick and Xenophon have around 0.35 too which I guess would favour libs over ALP

    So my guess is Libs favourite for 6th with ON a chance and ALP very slim chance

  15. Gaining a senate seat despite the swing against them on the primaries, and having 50% of the senate seats in the state while winning less than 40% of the primary vote in both elections is not democracy and should have ramifications for a change in electoral system.

  16. If this was a territory senate race – 33% would get you 1 or the 2 seats so doesn’t seem too unreasonable
    Also is the LNP on 33.9% any less worthy of the final seat than the parties that had between 2% and 4% of the primary vote?
    Based on the results it seemed a fair proportion of ON/LDP/UAP voters preferred the Liberal party to their similarly aligned minor party

  17. Daniel,

    This is why people argue that we shouldn’t have even-numbered vacancies. Expanding the Senate to 7 senators per state per election would help prevent this kind of situation. It’s not a surprise that this is what happens.

    And when you’re calculating swing you’ve got to compare the result to 2016, and it is technically a slight swing to the Liberal Party since then.


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