Labor's huge win against the Liberals in the South Australian state election underscores an important lesson in the upcoming federal election.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is poised to pull the trigger on a federal election in coming weeks, with May 14 widely expected to be poll day.
In South Australia on Saturday night, Liberal leader Steven Marshall conceded the loss of government to the Labor opposition led by Peter Malinauskas after only one term.
The loss was the first for any incumbent state or territory government during the pandemic.
Retiring federal Liberal MP Nicolle Flint said the party would need to pay attention to the requirements of Mr Morrison’s “quiet Australians”, who were devastated by issues such as the SA Liberal government’s decision to axe the Adelaide 500 Supercars race.
She said suburban voters, who were already impacted by the loss of car manufacturing jobs and the COVID-19 pandemic, felt the motor race decision was like “another nail in the coffin”.
Labor MP Amanda Rishworth said while the Morrison government had talked about jobs, voters in suburban SA had not benefited.
“The messaging around the economy and jobs has not been as tangible as it should have been out in the suburbs,” she told Sky News.
“We have to speak to bread and butter issues - that is the lesson.”
Cabinet minister Anne Ruston said the state election had been fought on issues around health and the Marshall government’s management of the pandemic, not federal issues.
Senator Ruston said when it came to the federal election, it would be fought on jobs and national security.
“They are two different elections and they are going to be fought on two different grounds,” she said.
She rejected suggestions Mr Marshall should have picked more of a fight with Canberra in order to be seen as a strong leader for his state.
“I reckon Australians want our governments to work together,” she said.
One of the key factors in the state election which could impact on the federal result is the shifting of votes from minor parties such as SA Best - led by former senator Nick Xenophon - to Labor, and the strength of the Greens vote.
It could see the defeat of two sitting crossbench senators, Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff.
With the seat of Boothby set to be a key battleground in the federal vote, a swing in the state seat covering that area to Labor will give the federal opposition some heart.
Prime Minister responds
On Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison congratulated Mr Malinauskas on the win and wished Mr Marshall well.
“It’s a significant victory and they are elected with a very strong mandate to move forward with many issues that they’ve intended take forward,” Mr Morrison told reports in Sydney.
“To my dear friend, Steven Marshall, who has been an outstanding Premier, I want to wish him all the very best and I want to thank him for the tremendous role that he played in turning around his own state.
“I want to thank him for his great leadership, I also want to thank him for the very positive and constructive role he played around the national cabinet table.
“Steven Marshall ran a good show for the time he served as premier and I was very pleased to work closely with him on turning the state around, getting people into jobs, getting investment into businesses, and putting confidence back.”