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A Brief History of the Rann Government (Updated)

The Labor Government in South Australia has been in office since 2002. It has been led by Premier Mike Rann throughout.

The government was formed following the elections of February 9, 2002. That election returned a hung Parliament with 23 ALP, 20 Liberal, 1 National and 3 Independent members in the 47-seat House of Assembly.

Following the opening of Parliament on March 5, 2002, the then Liberal Premier, Rob Kerin, moved a motion of confidence in his Liberal government which had been in office since 1993. After a 45 minute debate, the motion was defeated by 23 votes to 22. There was one abstention (Dr. Bob Such, Independent member for Fisher). The newly-elected Speaker, Peter Lewis, the Independent member for Hammond, was not required to vote, but he had previously indicated that he would support the ALP.

In accordance with the principles of the Westminster system and parliamentary democracy, Kerin then surrendered his commission to the Governor, Marjorie Jackson-Nelson, recommending that she call upon Mike Rann and commission him to form a government.

Rann formed a minority government with the support of Peter Lewis, an independent who had formerly been a Liberal member. Lewis was made Speaker.

At the end of 2002, following months of uncertainty arising from the erratic behaviour of Lewis, Rann appointed the independent member for Mount Gambier, Rory McEwen, to a new cabinet position as Minister for Trade and Regional Development. McEwen was a former member of the Liberal Party who won his seat as an independent after failing to win Liberal preselection.

In 2004, Rann appointed the only National Party member of the House of Assembly, Karlene Maywald, to his ministry. Maywald, the member for the conservative rural electorate of Chaffey, was given a portfolio with responsibility for water management. Like McEwen, Maywald had supported Kerin in the confidence vote in 2002.

Following the 2006 election, the government was returned with 28 seats to the Liberals 15, Independents 3 and one National. The agreement with McEwen and Maywald was honoured and they remained in the Cabinet.

The Rann government suffered a massive swing against it at the 2010 election. It lost 7.8% of its primary vote, winning just 37.5%. There was a two-party-preferred swing of 8.4% against the ALP, reducing it to just 48.4%. Despite this, the ALP won 26 seats, a net loss of 2.

In the election, Maywald’s seat was won by the Nationals. McEwen had retired and his seat was won by another independent.

Rann’s success in the election was attributed to a successful campaign of “sandbagging” marginal seats.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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