1977 South Australian state election

State elections were held in South Australia on 17 September 1977. All 47 seats in the South Australian House of Assembly were up for election. The incumbent Australian Labor Party led by Premier of South Australia Don Dunstan won a fourth term in government, defeating the Liberal Party of Australia led by Leader of the Opposition David Tonkin.

1977 South Australian state election

← 1975 17 September 1977 (1977-09-17) 1979 →

All 47 seats in the South Australian House of Assembly
24 seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party
  Don Dunstan 1968 crop.jpg David Tonkin.jpg
Leader Don Dunstan David Tonkin
Party Labor Liberal
Leader since 1 June 1967 24 July 1975
Leader's seat Norwood Bragg
Seats before 23 seats 21 seats
Seats won 27 seats 17 seats
Seat change Increase4 Decrease4
Percentage 53.4% 46.6%
Swing Increase4.2 Decrease4.2

Premier before election

Don Dunstan

Elected Premier

Don Dunstan


Parliamentary elections for the lower house of the Parliament of South Australia were held in South Australia in 1977. There was no election for Legislative Council; and as of 2020, this is the most recent South Australian election which has not been for both houses.

The Labor Party led by Don Dunstan, which had won the previous three elections in 1970, 1973 and 1975, defeated the Liberal Party of Australia opposition led by David Tonkin. It was the first time that a Labor government in South Australia had been re-elected for a fourth term, and would be the first nine-year-incumbent Labor government. This would be Dunstan's last election before resigning due to ill health in 1979.

This was the first election after the end of Playmander seat weighting where one vote one value was introduced. At the previous election some metropolitan seats still saw more than three times the number of voters than in some rural seats, despite most of the Playmander being abolished nearly a decade ago. The redistribution was the reason Dunstan called an early election.[1]

The Australian Democrats ran for the first time under a joint New LM-Australian Democrats ticket, winning an average 12.3 percent of the primary vote in the 12 electorates they contested, with former LCL MP Robin Millhouse retaining his seat of Mitcham, which he would hold until 1982.

Key datesEdit

  • Issue of writ: 25 August 1977
  • Close of nominations: 2 September 1977
  • Polling day: 19 September 1977
  • Return of writ: On or before 3 October 1977


Keith Russack stood as an Independent Liberal, but later joined the Liberal Party; giving the numbers: 27 Labor, 18 Liberal, 1 Country Party, 1 Australian Democrat.

A 1979 Norwood by-election was triggered as a result of Dunstan's resignation. Labor retained the seat on a considerably reduced majority.

South Australian state election, 17 September 1977[2]
House of Assembly
<< 19751979 >>

Enrolled voters 818,341
Votes cast 764,077 Turnout 93.37 -0.19
Informal votes 20,743 Informal 2.71 -1.14
Summary of votes by party
Party Primary votes % Swing Seats Change
  Labor 383,831 51.64 +5.31 27 + 4
  Liberal 306,356 41.21 +9.68 17 – 3
  Democrats 25,855 3.48 * 1 – 1
  National Country 11,855 1.59 -1.18 1 ± 0
  Independent Liberal 10,793 1.45 * 1 + 1
  Independent 2,914 0.39 -0.51 0 – 1
  Other 1,730 0.23 * 0 ± 0
Total 743,334     47  
  Labor 396,957 53.40 +4.20
  Liberal 346,372 46.60 –4.20

Seats changing party representationEdit

This table lists changes in party representation at the 1977 election.

Seat Incumbent member Party New member Party
Baudin New seat   Don Hopgood   Labor
Frome Ernest Allen   Liberal Seat abolished  
Gouger Keith Russack*   Liberal Seat abolished  
Goyder David Boundy*   Liberal Keith Russack   Independent
Hartley New seat   Des Corcoran   Labor
Heysen David Wotton*   Liberal Seat abolished  
Millicent Murray Vandepeer   Liberal Seat abolished  
Mitcham Robin Millhouse*   Liberal Movement Robin Millhouse   Democrats
Morphett New seat   Terry Groom   Labor
Napier New seat   Terry Hemmings   Labor
Newland New seat   John Klunder   Labor
Pirie Ted Connelly*   Labor Seat abolished  
Tea Tree Gully Molly Byrne*   Labor Seat abolished  
Todd New seat   Molly Byrne   Labor
  • Members listed in italics did not recontest this election.
  • Keith Russack was the sitting Liberal member for the abolished district of Gouger. He was not pre-selected for any seat in the redistribution, so he quit the party and ran as an Independent candidate for the seat of Goyder.
  • David Boundy was elected as a Liberal Movement member for Goyder, but joined the Liberal party in 1976. He was defeated by Keith Russack, who re-joined the Liberal party after being elected.
  • Sitting Liberal MP for the abolished district of Heysen, David Wotton was preselected for the district of Murray over incumbent MP Ivon Wardle. Wardle contested the election as an Independent, but was defeated by Wotton.
  • Robin Millhouse was elected in 1975 as Liberal Movement member for Mitcham. He joined the Democrats in 1977 and won a second term to his seat.
  • Ted Connelly was elected as an Independent MP for the abolished district of Pirie in 1975, but later joined the Labor party. He contested the seat of Rocky River and lost.
  • Sitting Labor MP for the abolished seat of Tea Tree Gully, Molly Byrne instead contested the new seat of Todd and won.

Post-election pendulumEdit

Labor seats (27)
Morphett Terry Groom ALP 0.3%
Fairly safe
Mawson Leslie Drury ALP 6.5%
Todd Molly Byrne ALP 6.5%
Brighton Hugh Hudson ALP 8.1%
Henley Beach Glen Broomhill ALP 9.3%
Newland John Klunder ALP 9.8%
Unley Gil Langley ALP 10.1%
Norwood Don Dunstan ALP 10.2%
Hartley Des Corcoran ALP 10.4%
Mitchell Ron Payne ALP 11.4%
Ascot Park Geoff Virgo ALP 12.5%
Gilles Jack Slater ALP 12.8%
Albert Park Charles Harrison ALP 14.1%
Playford Terry McRae ALP 15.1%
Adelaide Jack Wright ALP 16.2%
Baudin Don Hopgood ALP 16.7%
Florey Charles Wells ALP 17.0%
Peake Don Simmons ALP 17.4%
Price George Whitten ALP 19.4%
Salisbury Reg Groth ALP 19.5%
Napier Terry Hemmings ALP 21.0%
Ross Smith John Bannon ALP 22.2%
Semaphore Jack Olson ALP 22.2%
Elizabeth Peter Duncan ALP 22.4%
Whyalla Max Brown ALP 23.2%
Stuart Gavin Keneally ALP 23.9%
Spence Roy Abbott ALP 27.3%
Liberal seats (17)
Coles Jennifer Adamson LIB 1.4%
Mount Gambier Harold Allison LIB 1.4%
Torrens Michael Wilson LIB 2.5%
Hanson Heini Becker LIB 5.4%
Eyre Graham Gunn LIB 5.9%
Fairly safe
Rocky River Howard Venning LIB 8.2%
Glenelg John Mathwin LIB 9.5%
Chaffey Peter Arnold LIB 9.6%
Murray David Wotton LIB 10.0%
Fisher Stan Evans LIB 10.4%
Light Bruce Eastick LIB 10.7%
Bragg David Tonkin LIB 15.3%
Victoria Allan Rodda LIB 15.3%
Kavel Roger Goldsworthy LIB 18.7%
Alexandra Ted Chapman LIB 19.8%
Mallee Bill Nankivell LIB 23.8%
Davenport Dean Brown LIB 24.2%
Crossbench seats (3)
Mitcham Robin Millhouse DEM 6.5% v LIB
Goyder Keith Russack IND 7.9% v LIB
Flinders Peter Blacker NCP 24.2% v LIB

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ History of South Australian elections 1857–2006, volume 1, Dean Jaensch, Electoral Commission of SA
  2. ^ "Details of SA 1977 Election". Australian Politics and Elections Database.