All 47 seats in the South Australian House of Assembly
24 seats were needed for a majority
11 (of the 22) seats in the South Australian Legislative Council
State elections were held in South Australia on 11 October 1997. All 47 seats in the South Australian House of Assembly were up for election. The incumbent Liberal Party of Australia led by Premier of South Australia John Olsen defeated the Australian Labor Party led by Leader of the Opposition Mike Rann, forming a minority government with the SA Nationals and independent MPs.
Following the 1993 landslide to the Liberals, ending 11 years of Labor government, Labor now led by Mike Rann held just 11 seats in the House of Assembly. The Liberals held 36 seats and there were no independent or minor party members in the House of Assembly. They had held a record 37, but lost one at the 1994 Torrens by-election. However the Liberals were suffering from heightened internal tensions. Premier Dean Brown had been toppled by Industry Minister and factional rival John Olsen in a 1996 party-room coup. Olsen had been in office for just over 10 months on election day.
|Summary of votes by party|
|Independent Liberal||6,970||0.78||+0.78||1||+ 1|
Labor needed a 13-seat swing to make Rann premier, a deficit thought insurmountable before the election. However, to the surprise of most observers, Olsen lost the massive majority he'd inherited from Brown. Labor polled exceptionally well, regaining much of what it had lost in its severe defeat of four years earlier. Indeed, on election night many Liberal observers feared that Labor had managed the swing it needed to regain government. Ultimately, Labor picked up 10 seats, three seats short of victory. The Liberals lost a massive 13 seats: 10 to Labor, 1 to the Nationals, and 2 to conservative independents. Labor received a record two-party swing of 9.4 percent, as opposed to the previous record of 8.9 percent to the Liberals at the last election. Olsen was forced to seek the support of the Nationals and the independents to stay in office at the helm of a minority government.
The Liberals briefly regained a majority when Mitch Williams rejoined the Liberal Party in 1999, but lost it again in 2000 when it expelled Peter Lewis from the party in 2000, and Bob Such resigned from the Liberal Party later in 2000. However they continued to govern with the support of the Nationals and independents until the 2002 election.
|Summary of votes by party|
|Recreation and Fishing||7,048||0.79||+0.79||0||0|
In the Legislative Council, the Australian Democrats won two seats for the first time. Elected were 4 Liberal, 4 Labor, 2 Australian Democrats, and No Pokies candidate Nick Xenophon. Carrying over from the 1993 election were 6 Liberal, 4 Labor, 1 Democrat; leaving the numbers at: 10 Liberal, 8 Labor, 3 Democrats, 1 No Pokies.
The election was notable for the Australian Democrats' strongest performance in South Australia, winning two Legislative Council two seats at an election for the only time in their history. (Though their predecessors, the Liberal Movement (LM), won two Legislative Council seats on a higher primary vote in 1975 state election). The Democrats also finished second after preferences in seven seats lower house seats (compared to three for the LM in 1975). However, it marked the peak for Democrats' influence in South Australia. From here on they would slowly lose numbers and influence, winning only one more seat (in 2002), and losing their remaining parliamentary representation as of the 2010 election.
Labor upper house members Terry Cameron and Trevor Crothers would resign from the party in 1998 and 1999 respectively, in order to support the Liberals over the Privatisation of ETSA. This also meant the Democrats lost sole balance of power for the first time since 1985.
The 1997 result put Labor within striking distance of winning government at the next election in 2002. John Olsen was left with internal disquiet over the leadership challenge and poor election result while his opponent, Mike Rann, was seen to have 'won' the campaign despite losing the election.
On 6 February 2007, Mike Rann told parliament that some in the Liberal party had leaked information to him before and during the election campaign. The following quote by Rann is from Hansard on 6/2/2007 :