1979 South Australian state election
State elections were held in South Australia on 15 September 1979. All 47 seats in the South Australian House of Assembly were up for election. The incumbent Australian Labor Party led by Premier of South Australia Des Corcoran was defeated by the Liberal Party of Australia led by Leader of the Opposition David Tonkin.
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
The Liberals originally won 25 seats, but a court decision overturned their win in Norwood. Labor won the Norwood by-election, which meant the Liberals held 24 seats, with Labor on 20 seats.
Spurred by positive opinion polls and seeking to escape the shadow of Dunstan, Corcoran called a snap election (without pre-informing the party apparatus) in order to gain a mandate of his own. The election campaign was plagued by problems, which allowed an opening for the Liberals under Tonkin. It did not help matters that The Advertiser was biased toward the Liberal campaign.
Labor suffered a large swing, losing seven seats to the Liberals. The Liberals also won 55 percent of the two-party vote to Labor's 45 percent. In most of Australia, this would have been enough for a landslide Liberal victory. However, most of the Liberal margin was wasted on massive landslides in rural areas. The Liberals only won 13 seats in Adelaide, netting them a total of 25 seats, a bare majority of two. This was pared back to 24 seats, just barely enough to form government, after the Norwood by-election. Narrow as it was, it was the first time the main non-Labor party in South Australia had won the most seats while also winning a majority of the vote since the Liberal and Country League won 50.3 percent of the two-party vote in 1959.
Corcoran was bitter in defeat, believing sections of the ALP had undermined him during the campaign. He resigned as leader soon after the election, and retired from politics in 1982.
House of Assembly
|Summary of votes by party|
|National Country||14,013||1.91||+0.31||1||± 0|
|Summary of votes by party|
One of the seats lost to the Liberals had been Dunstan's old seat of Norwood. However, in 1980, a court overturned Liberal Frank Webster's victory, triggering a 1980 Norwood by-election. Greg Crafter regained the seat for Labor, reducing the Liberal government to 24 seats, a one-seat majority. A 1982 Mitcham by-election and 1982 Florey by-election were triggered, the Democrats retained Mitcham by 45 votes, Labor increased their margin in Florey.
|LIBERAL SEATS (24)|
|Henley Beach||Bob Randall||LIB||1.0%|
|Mount Gambier||Harold Allison||LIB||5.6%|
|Mallee||Peter Lewis||LIB||7.3% v NAT|
|Rocky River||John Olsen||LIB||13.1%|
|LABOR SEATS (20)|
|Ascot Park||John Trainer||ALP||1.7%|
|Albert Park||Kevin Hamilton||ALP||3.9%|
|Ross Smith||John Bannon||ALP||18.4%|
|CROSSBENCH SEATS (3)|
|Mitcham||Robin Millhouse||DEM||4.7% v LIB|
|Semaphore||Norm Peterson||IND||12.2% v ALP|
|Flinders||Peter Blacker||NCP||20.1% v LIB|
- History of South Australian elections 1857-2006, volume 1: ECSA
- Historical lower house results
- Historical upper house results
- State and federal election results in Australia since 1890
- "Details of SA 1979 Election". Australian Politics and Elections Database.
- "History of South Australian elections 1857-2006, volume 2 Legislative Council". ECSA. Retrieved 22 May 2016.