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Minority Government In South Australia

The South Australian Liberal government of John Olsen lost its majority in the lower house yesterday after one of its backbenchers, the member for Hammond, Peter Lewis, was expelled from the parliamentary party.

OlsenThe Liberal Party now holds only 23 of the 47 seats in the House of Assembly. It will be dependent on the support of the National Party member for Chaffey, Karlene Maywald, or the independent member for Gordon, Rory McEwen. The ALP has 21 seats.

Lewis was expelled after calling for the replacement of John Olsen with his predecessor, Dean Brown.

The Liberal Party in South Australia has been long divided between supporters of Olsen or Brown. Olsen was the leader between 1982 and 1990, before becoming a Senator. He returned to the House of Assembly in a by-election after the then leader, Dale Baker, agreed to stand down in 1992. Brown also returned to the Assembly in another by-election held simultaneously. Brown defeated Olsen in the ensuing ballot for the leadership.

Brown went on to win a landslide victory against the ALP’s Lynn Arnold in 1993. He was ousted by Olsen in November 1996. Olsen went on to a near-disastrous election in 1997, losing 12 seats to the ALP and forming a minority government until the independent member for Mackillop, Mitch Williams, rejoined the Liberal Party. Yesterday’s expulsion of Peter Lewis means the Olsen government is again a minority government.

The government can probably survive in the short-term, but opinion polls have indicated a dramatic loss of support for the Liberals in recent times. An early election would probably deliver government to the ALP.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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