Tom Playford rides on South Australian rural bias of Liberal-Country League merger in 1932
Tom Playford's 27-year run as premier benefited from 2:1 bias to rural seats in the Liberal and Country League (LCL) merger
The fusion by Archibald Peake of a single anti-Labor political party in 1910 only lasted until the early 1920s.
The Liberal Union, created under Peake, carried to conservative-versus-liberals tension, with Australasian National League (formerly National Defence League) and the agrarian Farmers and Producers Political Union on the conservative side and the Liberal and Democratic Union carrying liberal ideas.
The other point of tension was country versus urban interests. With a perceived threat to their interests by the labour movement and Labor and concern that their voice wasn’t being properly heart, a Farmers and Settlers Association was formed in 1917 and this led to the Country Party to represent it in parliament.
With more Labor election victories under a first-past-the-post voting system, the Country Party merged in 1932 with the Liberal Federation (a merger of the Liberal Union and National Party from 1923-32) to form the South Australian Liberal and Country League (LCL). The key concession for the merger demanded by the Country Party was a 2:1 ratio in favour of rural areas to be built into both the structure of the LCL and the state’s electoral system. This was fundamental to rural interests within the new party and to the eventual electoral success of the LCL.
The 2:1 ratio was first applied at the 1933 election and underpinned the “golden age” of the LCL – the record successes in the Playford era. Tom Playford became premier in 1938 and dominated state politics until his retirement after his first election loss in 1965.
With the electoral advantage of the “Playmander”, Tom Playford embarked on a moves such as nationalising the Adelaide Electric Supply Co and forming the Electricity Trust of South Australia.
Such moves stunned Playford’s conservative colleagues but passed – with Labor support.