CONSERVATIVE voters in rural South Australia have every right to be frustrated. Once again the Liberal Party has lost an election it should have won – had it campaigned strongly enough in the seats that mattered.
But it did not. And rather than talk like a sore loser with claims of illegitimacy and an electoral system that has failed SA, it would do well to be a little gracious and lick its wounds that were, after all, entirely self-inflicted.
It did not come to metropolitan voters with a credible plan for the state that would appeal to a broad audience.
It focused its election policies on business and regional SA – two traditional support bases that were already painted blue.
It did not seize the day with a bold plan to coax swinging metropolitan voters away from a government that had been making some very visible progress to the city of Adelaide. It criticised and hoped the negative tide would be enough to get it over the line without taking any risks.
And those who have since turned their frustration upon Independent Geoff Brock, and belittled, abused and even threatened him for siding with Labor, wake up! The man had no choice.
Labor finished with 23 seats versus the Liberals' 22 – leaving both parties short of the 24 seats required to form government.
Had Mr Brock sided with the Liberals it would have given both major parties 23 seats in the House of Assembly without a ruling party. This would have meant a seriously hung parliament and turmoil for a SA cut off at the neck.
The other Independent given the role of kingmaker in the election stalemate, Bob Such, fell seriously ill. He was hospitalised and his two months' leave of absence left no guarantee when or whether he would be back.
Mr Brock – now Regional Development Minister – found himself in a very difficult position and, despite his best efforts last week talking with local government and industry stakeholders to gather wishlists and bargaining chips to make the best decision possible, ultimately had no choice but to side with Labor.
He now has a real opportunity to make a significant difference to regional development and progress – an area that badly needs attention.
But the Liberal Party, for all its strengths in rural electorates, failed to convince enough voters in marginal metropolitan and peri-urban seats that it was a credible alternative.
That is why it lost. Case closed. Time to move on.