SA Election: Voters Punish Pro-Abortion Liberals in Landslide Labor Win
22 March 2022
Pro-life voters can take heart from the results of the SA election. The weekend saw a clean-out of woke Liberal MPs and the election of a socially conservative Catholic premier who will prioritise mainstream values.
In a landslide result over the weekend, Peter Malinauskas pulled of an almost 8% swing to unseat Stephen Marshall after a single term, putting Labor back in charge in South Australia. The stunning result makes Marshall the first incumbent premier in Australia to lose a pandemic election.
Incoming premier Peter Malinauskas is on track to win at least 26 of the state’s 47 lower house seats. Labor’s results in the upper house won’t be quite as favourable, with minor parties and independents likely to play an outsized role once counting concludes next month.
In the wake of Saturday’s result, Stephen Marshall has stepped down as party leader. Hit by a major swing in his seat of Dunstan, he may yet lose his own spot in parliament.
Before Marshall’s term, the SA Liberals spent 16 years in the electoral wilderness. Now the party has at least four more years to consider why they were punished so comprehensively, and how to rally themselves behind better leadership.
Tom Kenyon on the Liberal Clean-Out
Malinauskas is a charismatic leader, and voters undoubtedly rewarded him for staying focussed on state issues like health, ambulance ramping and opportunities for working class South Australians.
But the story of SA’s 2022 election cannot be told without reference to major Liberal miscalculations on social policy, particularly abortion.
Tom Kenyon, who ran for a spot in the Legislative Council and resurrected the Family First Party to stand candidates in 34 lower house electorates, is pleased with Saturday’s result. “Our primary goal was to unseat bad members in the lower house, to get a better parliament, and show that we can move the Christian vote around,” he told the Daily Declaration this week.
“The life and freedom vote moved about five to ten per cent in a whole bunch of seats, and that counts,” said Kenyon. “I don’t think they can discount us now,” he added, confirming that Family First will be “better organised and more united” for the next state election.
Kenyon is impressed with Peter Malinauskas, a socially conservative Catholic, who he sees as a once-in-a-generation leader with a “friendly underlying worldview” for conservatives. Malinauskas “is not a [culture] warrior,” says Kenyon, and “he has the sense not to involve himself” in abortion and other social policies that saw the Liberal party undermine its own voter base.
Abortion-to-Birth was the Liberals’ Death-Knell
Nationwide, the Liberals are generally known to be the better of the two major parties in standing up for the rights of the unborn. However, this has not recently been the case in South Australia.
Along with his deputy premier Vicky Chapman, Stephen Marshall led the campaign to legalise abortion-to-birth in South Australia last year, despite the public showing little mood for it. In stunning scenes in February last year, around 5,000 normally politically timid South Aussies marched against the horrific abortion bill, with only around 200-300 turning up for a counter rally.
The Termination of Pregnancy Bill passed with few amendments — and with significant support from Stephen Marshall’s so-called ‘moderate’ left faction.
Over the weekend, four of the six Liberals to lose their seats had voted in favour of abortion-to-birth. These were Carolyn Power, Rachel Sanderson, Corey Wingard and Paula Luethen, all from metropolitan Adelaide electorates. The latter three had also voted down the crucial Spiers amendment, which narrowly lost in a vote of 26-20.
By contrast, over three-quarters of the 10 Liberal MPs who voted against the Termination of Pregnancy Bill kept their seat on Saturday.* All Labor MPs who voted against abortion will likewise remain in parliament.
Why Woke-Lite ‘Conservative’ Parties Can’t Win
While many issues were at play in the weekend’s electoral shake-up, the Liberals’ handling of abortion was indicative of broader trends. South Australians have not rewarded politicians who ignored mainstream concerns to go after ‘woke’ social issues. Indeed, they’ve shown disdain for an ostensibly liberal-conservative party that has abandoned its base to become woke-lite.
As Sky News host Chris Kenny observed:
The Liberals in South Australia rejected a nuclear industry from opposition when Labor was prepared to consider one. Then when they got into government they rejected conservative MPs. They railed against Christians joining their party. They liberalised abortion and euthanasia laws. They went with the zeitgeist on climate and energy.
They axed the V8 supercar race and talked about replacing it with an electric car race. They surrendered leadership during the pandemic to unelected officials, stoked fears about the virus, and had lockdowns and border closures, so that people expected the government to ‘keep them safe’ forever… and then they wonder why they lost.
Kenny voiced what is increasingly obvious nationwide: “The Liberals can only win when they run on right-of-centre mainstream issues. They drift to the left, they seek to please the progressive media and Twitter crowd, at their peril.”
Encouraging Signs for the Pro-Life Movement
Liberal MP and NSW Minister for Transport and Veterans David Elliott agrees. “The result of tonight’s South Australian election is an example of what happens when a centre-right party moves away from the centre-right,” he wrote in a social media post on Sunday. “Ignore the base and the base ignores you.”
“There are way too many woke issues that are seeping through the cracks and the electorate isn’t too grateful for it,” Elliott also told The Daily Telegraph. David Elliot has unique insights on the situation, given that it was his party, the NSW Liberals, that sadly led the nationwide charge for abortion-to-birth and euthanasia.
Lyle Shelton, former managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, shared similar reflections over the weekend. “Libs have to get back to the mainstream,” he tweeted Saturday night. “A semi-social conservative like Peter Malinauskas (he at least voted for some protections for unborn babies) is far better than a government run by Christopher Pyne’s ‘modern Liberals’,” Shelton added.
Saturday’s result represents progress for pro-life voters, but there were several disappointments. Sadly Steve Murray, a pro-life Liberal, lost his seat of Davenport. Tom Kenyon also told the Daily Declaration it would have been good to see pro-life independent Sam Duluk retain his seat, and Carolyn Power who gave moderate support to the rights of the unborn.
Kenyon is not confident that Family First will finish with enough preferences to secure an upper house seat — an outcome that would be his biggest regret, he says. This result might have been different if Bob Day’s Australian Family Party had shared preferences with Family First, providing pro-life parties with a lesson on the importance of putting differences aside to work together.
Nevertheless, there is still a chance Tom Kenyon will find his way into the Legislative Council. Two seats remain open and currently favour pro-life One Nation, pro-abortion Liberal Democrats, and Family First, in that order. The final results are expected to be announced in April.
* An earlier edition of this article incorrectly stated that 15 Liberal MPs voted against the SA abortion bill.
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This is really encouraging, thanks for the insight, Kurt!
Really great insight