“I suspect that the people of South Australia will feel cheated if having voted quite substantially for a change of government, that’s not what they get,” Mr Abbott said.
“I think that’s a message that won’t be lost on the independent members of parliament.” Despite the Labor Party being in the box seat – it is likely to hold one more seat than the Liberals – Mr Abbott said he was optimistic the Liberals’ position would improve as the large number of postal votes were counted next week.
The prime minister would not comment on suggestions his involvement in the campaign had a negative impact on the Liberals’ result.
“I was very happy to be involved … and I know that my involvement was welcomed by Liberal Steven Marshall,” he said.
Earlier, South Australian Liberal senator Simon Birmingham blamed campaigning in marginal seats for the party’s poorer than expected performance at yesterday’s state election, but says his party still has a good chance of winning.
Speaking on Australian Agenda this morning, Senator Birmingham said the party’s campaigning in key seats was not as organised as it could have been.
“We have to face the reality that organisationally, marginal seats campaigning has not necessarily made the difference it should in those key seats and that is a problem for us,” he said.
“I think Steven Marshall can hold his head up high from this result; he grew the vote well. We have a very strong liberal vote in South Australia, we just haven’t translated it where it matters in marginal seats.”
“If this one goes Labor’s way, six out of the last seven elections in South Australia will have seen the Liberal party win the two party preferred vote and lose the actual election.”
Senator Birmingham also acknowledged just how tough it was to knock out “entrenched” Labor MPs, but said he was optimistic about the election outcome.
“There’s still a good chance of winning the election, there are five Labor seats that Labor are in front in but could still turn on postal and pre-poll votes,” he said.
“There’s around 16 per cent or there abouts of votes still to be counted across these seats. That could make a very big difference to who forms government.”
Labor MP Nick Champion told the Australian Agenda panel South Australian premier Jay Weatherill had written himself into the history books after his hard fought campaign.
“Wetherhill had a really great campaign, he’s written himself into Labor history just by being a fighting underdog and by bringing us into a situation where we could be competitive,” he said.
“On the Liberal side, you have an inexperienced leader seeking a really negative mandate. And they seemed to campaign everywhere except where it matters. You saw them in safe Labor seats like demons.”
The member for Wakefield also said Tony Abbott’s “aggressive stance” on Holden helped Labor in marginal seats.
South Australian Labor senator Don Farrell said on ABC’s AM program voters were concerned with Liberal leader Steven Marhsall’s image.
“The electors had a look at Steven Marhsall, their initial view was quite positive, but the longer the campaign went on the more concerned they were that Steven Marhsall was just another version of Tony Abbott,” he said.
But senior Liberal MP Jamie Briggs told AM he was optimistic his party could win the South Australian election, even though he was disappointed with the initial result.
“The Labor Party ran a very negative final fortnight, they went very personal on Steven Marshall and Steven has only been in parliament for four years; in that sense they were able to raise questions in the voters’ minds,” he said.
“I’m not yet convinced we haven’t won government. At the end of the day you’ve got to play on the field presented. It is disappointing we didn’t have a stronger result.”
Independents set to decide SA result
But in a resounding election triumph, Tasmanian Liberal leader Will Hodgman has swept to power, ending 16 years of Labor rule. The Liberals look likely to win 14 seats in the 25-seat parliament after four years of an ALP-Greens alliance.
Additional reporting: AAP