Standing for election in South Australia open to all over 18; independent, minor parties effective

Nick Xenophon, a prime example of a South Australian independent candidate who built a following and played a role nationally.

Standing for election to the South Australian parliament is open to individual Australian citizens aged over 18 who register through the Electoral Commission.

Political parties have dominated South Australian parliament but independent candidates have found themselves in powerful positions in supplying an extra seat to keep a government in charge. (The member for Frome, Geoff Brock, and for Waite, Martin Hamilton Smith, are current examples. They were both given a ministries by the Labor government of 2014-18 in exchange for their support. Brock and Hamilton-Smith are in cabinet and guarantee supply and confidence to the government while keeping the right to vote independently on conscience issues.)

The Legislative Council proportional representation system of voting has been a way for minor political parties to gain seats. A quota of 8.3% is needed for a Legislative Council seat but, because of preference deals, some candidates have been elected with a little 1-3%.

South Australia saw its first example of this preference harvesting in 1997 when Nick Xenophon was elected to Legislative Council. On a platform opposing poker machines, he polled 2.9% and reached a quota thanks to prefernces from every other minor party on the ballot. From that start, Xenophon has built up a large following in his own right.

Others elected with less that a quota: 2002 Family First Andrew Evans 4%, 2006 Family First Dennis Hood 4.8%, 2006 Greens Mark Parnell 4.2%, 2010 Family First Rob Brokenshire 4.4% 2010 Dignity for Disability Kelly Vincent 1.2%.

This preference swap between different candidate groups will be curtailed by changes in 2016 to the Legislative Council voting ballot where a vote for a particular candidate group will only result in preferences flowing to candidates in that group.

Individuals also can enter parliament via the pre-selection method within the bigger political parties. This will be a lesson in honing ideas but also in dealing with compromise and factions.

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