The fascination with the still unresolved post-election situation in Tasmania has drawn some attention away from the somewhat more run of the mill situation in South Australia. With the Rann Labor government gaining a clear, albeit slightly unexpected, victory in the South Australian election, and the Liberals in that state quickly reverting to type and engaging in internal squabbles, it is fair enough that the curious Tasmanian situation – where it seems both major parties are shying away from trying to gain government – has gained much more attention.
But today saw the final result from the South Australian declared – the contest for 11 seats in the Legislative Council (or Upper House) – and there were a few bits of history involved in the result. Most notably, the result has seen 21 year old Kelly Vincent become the youngest woman ever elected to an Australian Parliament, taking that mantle from the Democrats Ros Dundas, who was elected to the ACT Assembly in 2001 at the age of 23. To some extent, Ms Vincent can be added to the category of what might be called ‘accidental’ MPs, as she only became lead candidate for her Dignity for Disability party when the party’s lead candidate, Dr Paul Collier, died during the election campaign. But there is no reason to suggest she will not do a good job and certainly her own experience with disability will bring some valuable life experience not otherwise present in the Parliament.
The Greens had a solid rather than spectacular result, increasing their Upper House vote to 6.6% and gaining a second MP in the SA Upper House for the first time with the election of Tammy Jennings. While that’s the best the Greens have ever achieved in South Australia, it is still below what the Australian Democrats used to regularly achieve in that state before their decline started during 2002, suggesting there is still room for more growth in their vote. Ms Jennings is a former member of the Australian Democrats, and stood as a Senate candidate for that party in SA in 2004. Having a former Democrat elected for the Greens to bring about their highest ever representation provides some symmetry with the other historical aspect of the SA Upper House result, as the Greens in effect have gained the seat which was the last parliamentary seat ever won by the Democrats.
The Democrats won that Upper House seat at the 2002 election– a time when Natasha Stott Despoja led the party federally and Mike Elliott was the party’s leader in South Australia. It was the last time the party was to win a seat at any level of government in Australia. The Democrats lost their hold on that seat when David Winderlich – the man elected by Democrat members to take on the seat when Sandra Kanck retired – resigned from the party last year to become an Independent. Both the Democrats and Mr Winderlich failed in their efforts to regain it. Even combining the 0.9% the Democrats polled with the 0.6% David Winderlich polled produces a figure which is down on their 2006 result of 1.8%, which had previously been their lowest result. A sad way to end up, but a final end to the terminal decline which took hold all the way back in 2002.