Vale Steele Hall

SA Gov

South Australians have lost a significant political figure with the death of former Premier Steele Hall at the age of 95.

Across a parliamentary career spanning three decades, Steele Hall served as Premier of South Australia, led two political parties – one of which he founded – and served as a member of the South Australian House of Assembly, the Federal House of Representatives and the Senate.

He is the only Australian to serve as premier of a state as well as the member of three legislatures.

Born in Balaklava in 1928, Steele Hall worked on the family wheat and sheep farm. He secured Liberal and Country League (LCL) preselection for the seat of Gouger, which covered Balaklava and surrounds, and was elected in 1959.

He was a member of the Playford Government and ultimately succeeded Sir Thomas Playford as leader of the LCL in 1966. In just two years, he returned the Liberals to government in 1968.

Hall recognised the longstanding inequities in the South Australian electoral system, colloquially known as the ‘Playmander’, an electoral malapportionment which favoured rural areas over the city and had heavily advantaged the LCL for the previous three decades.

In one of the bravest political moves in the state’s history, Hall introduced legislation to reform the House of Assembly to provide a more equitable system of representation. He did so knowing it would be detrimental to himself and his own party.

Years later, he told The Advertiser: “There were some strong Labor seats with 40,000 voters and some Liberal seats with 5,000 voters. It was totally undemocratic, totally wrong. We could not continue with the boundaries the way they were. The changes we made in the electoral boundaries were immense and we knew that we were sacrificing government at the following election, but it had to be done.”

Hall’s LCL did lose the subsequent 1970 election, contested on the new, fairer boundaries, which heralded the Dunstan decade. Hall stayed on as Leader of the Opposition but resigned in 1972.

Hall switched from state to federal politics in 1974, and was elected to the Senate, where he served until 1977. He subsequently served a 15-year tenure as the Member for Boothby in the House of Representatives from 1981 to 1996.

Steele Hall is rightly seen as a significant figure in the history of South Australian politics.

He leaves behind a reputation for integrity and political courage, a man who truly put his state ahead of party political interests.

On behalf of the State Government, I wish to pass on my condolences to Steele’s wife Joan, his six children, six grandchildren and his family and friends.

The State Government will extend the offer of a State Funeral to the Hall family.

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