Monday Dec 11, 2023

Liberal holding narrow lead in key SA by-election as counting continues

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The South Australian Liberals appear set to retain the prized state seat of Bragg in a by-election forced by the resignation of former deputy premier Vickie Chapman, but not before being pushed to the wire.

With only postal and pre-poll votes to count this week, Liberal Jack Batty is clinging to a narrow lead over Labor’s Alice Rolls after another big swing to the ALP.

With about 50 per cent counted, Mr Batty had 50.9 per cent of the two-party preferred vote to 49.1 per cent for Ms Rolls.

In the March state election, Ms Chapman’s 16 per cent margin was halved to eight per cent.

But most of that has now been wiped out in another strong performance by Labor, with the party also benefiting through preferences from the Greens.

Greens candidate Jim Bastiras attracted almost 18 per cent of the primary vote, well up on the 13 per cent the party managed at the state election.

About 9000 voters cast either an early ballot or applied to vote by post in Bragg, with those ballots to be counted from Monday. They could now prove crucial to the result.

From safe to marginal

While Labor appeared to have fallen just short of victory, Premier Peter Malinauskas said it was amazing to think Bragg, in Adelaide’s affluent eastern suburbs and for so long a Liberal stronghold, was now a marginal seat.

“To be able to get a significant swing to us on the back of an even bigger swing a few months ago is something we’re very excited about,” he said.

“This is the safest Liberal seat in Adelaide so it’s obviously very, very hard to win.

“To get so close is a little surprising. But it’s also a demonstration of the fact the people of the eastern suburbs have been taken for granted by the Liberal Party.”

Ms Rolls said while the final result was still to be determined, it appeared she would just miss out.

She said she had already spoken to Mr Batty to wish him all the best.

“Obviously it would be nice to be the member for Bragg,” she said.

“It is still too early to formally concede, but it looks like he’s going to get over the line by a whisker.”

Before the polls closed on Saturday, Opposition Leader David Speirs said retaining Bragg would be the first of many stepping stones to return the Liberals to government in 2026.

He described the by-election as a crucial opportunity to road test the party’s new direction with voters.

Assuming the Liberals hold Bragg, the opposition will have 16 MPs in parliament’s 47-seat House of Assembly.

The Labor government holds power with 27 seats, with the remaining four held by independents.



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