Liberals set for historic defeat

Labor is set to secure the Dunstan by-election. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Kelly Barnes

The Liberals are headed for a historic defeat in the Dunstan by-election after early polls favour Labor.

South Australian Liberal Party leader David Speirs has admitted retaining the seat in Adelaide’s inner east will be “exceptionally difficult”, with support for Labor and Greens swelling in the electorate.

Labor candidate for Dunstan Cressida O'Hanlon is favoured in a four per cent swing toward her party. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Kelly Barnes

Labor candidate Cressida O’Hanlon is set to claim the seat, an electorate that has not been lost to an incumbent government by the opposition for 116 years.

A massive surge has also been recorded in first-preference support for Greens candidate Katie McCusker.

While the Liberals have not yet officially conceded defeat, Mr Speirs has spoken to supporters about preparing for a disappointing outcome.

David Speirs has not yet officially conceded defeat. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Morgan Sette

“Both major parties have seen a fairly significant fall in their primary votes, there’s been a big shift towards the Greens,” he said.

“That’s going to make our pathway to holding this seat exceptionally difficult going forward.

“There is a pathway to holding this seat, but it is a pathway which has a lot of barriers in it and so that’s going to be challenging.

“For that result, I apologise. I am really sorry that it is as difficult as it might be.”

The Liberals only won by 0.5 per cent in the last election. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Roy VanDerVegt

However, he said he was still holding onto a sliver of hope, given pre-poll votes had not yet been counted, and there was still a chance they “might get over the line in this election”.

The by-election was triggered by the retirement of former premier Steven Marshall, leaving about 27,000 people eligible to vote.

Mr Marshall only just scraped through in the state’s most marginal seat in the last election with a minuscule margin of 0.5 per cent, with a mere 260 votes dividing the frontrunners on a two-party-preferred basis.

Premier Peter Malinauskas attributed the party’s success to teamwork. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Roy VanDerVegt

Premier Peter Malinauskas said the reason for his party’s impending success was due to teamwork.

“The only reason why we’re in a position to defy 116 years of history isn’t because of one individual effort – it’s because of a genuine team effort,” he said.

“Cressida and I are both quite taken aback to be in this extraordinary position.

“History tells us governments just do not win seats off oppositions at by-elections.

“It hasn’t happened in South Australia since 1908.”

Liberal candidate Anna Finizio shared her pride in her campaign and said they had a “huge crack” at retaining the state’s most marginal seat.

Liberal candidate Anna Finizio said she was proud of her campaign. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Morgan Sette

More than 7000 pre-poll and postal votes will be counted on Monday, but a 4 per cent swing still favours Labor on the two-party-preferred result.

The Greens also secured a hefty 8.8 per cent swing their way.