Party reflections

David Speirs became the new SA Liberal leader in April 2022.

The SA Liberal Party’s new leadership team, chosen in the wake of its landslide State Election loss, now has the opportunity to pull together and mount an effective Opposition to the new State Government.
As a State, we need viable political choices.
Strong competition is vital for a healthy democracy, as it forces elected members and major parties to work harder for their constituents and also delivers a level of accountability.
But to rebound from the election loss, the Liberals will need to reflect on the reasons for their defeat.
Despite its relatively strong record on dealing with the coronavirus, the former State Government was the first in Australia to lose an election during the pandemic.
While its approach to Covid-19 kept the virus largely at bay – and South Australians largely out of lockdown – over the past two years, the Party itself faced a raft of internal challenges that may have impacted the election outcome.
The Party lost a number of MPs to the cross-bench during its four years in Government, which did little to quell rumors of divisions and fracturing or to boost public confidence in its ability to lead.
While some MPs were forced to move to the cross-bench over questions surrounding their conduct, Kavel MP Dan Cregan left after accusing his own Government of having no plan for the Hills.
Mr Cregan retained his seat after the election – a historically safe Liberal seat lost.
But the loss of Kavel wasn’t the only one the Party suffered in regional SA last month.
Liberal-turn-independent Fraser Ellis kept his Yorke Peninsula seat, while former Liberal Minister Dan van holst Pellekaan lost his seat of Stuart to popular independent Geoff Brock – now a Minister in the Labor cabinet. The Liberal Party also almost lost Finniss, Flinders and Hammond to independents.
While there were likely many factors that influenced the election result – not least the State’s pressured health system – the Liberal Party’s loss of ground in regional areas begs the question: has the Liberal Party taken its regional voter base for granted?
With former Environment Minister David Speirs now at the helm, the Liberal Party will no doubt be carefully examining what went wrong on March 19.
As they do, it would seem prudent for them to consider how the Party lost so much ground in regional areas, including the Hills, and how it might regain the trust of regional voters ahead of the 2026 poll.