The last year has delivered David Speirs a liberal dose of the challenges that come with being an opposition leader.

On top of continuing to regroup after a bruising state election loss, starting policy development and trying to hold the Peter Malinauskas-led Labor government to account, he is two MPs down on where he was at the same time in 2023.

Following south-east MP Nick McBride’s departure from the party room to the crossbench has come the defeat a fortnight ago at the Dunstan by-election, triggered by former premier Steven Marshall’s resignation from parliament.

David Speirs says the Liberal Party will release new policies before the next election.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Despite those headaches, Mr Speirs does not think he is on borrowed time.

“My colleagues want me to stay as leader,” he told ABC News after the by-election result.

“And there is no-one putting their hand up to take over the job, so I’ll be staying as leader.

“There was never going to be a challenge.”

They’re revealing statements, given the SA Liberal Party’s historic issues with leadership changes.

This is the party that had three opposition leaders over a four-year parliamentary term in the not-too-distant past. 

Liberals need to reflect on failed Dunstan campaign, Speirs says

Mr Speirs said he still thinks the Dunstan campaign was a “good one” at a “macro level,” especially how it targeted Labor’s performance on ramping, which has remained at or near record levels despite the government’s pledge to “fix the ramping crisis”.

But he says he needs to “reflect” on the campaign too.

“Did we have enough of a nuanced local campaign, street-by-street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood?” Mr Speirs questioned.

David Speirs, pictured with the Liberals’ Dunstan candidate Anna Finizio, says he needs to ‘reflect’ on the campaign.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

“Appealing to different parts of a very diverse electorate … perhaps we had a one-size-fits-all approach and need to reflect on that as well.”

In the lead-up to the by-election, Labor accused the opposition of being devoid of settled policies.

Mr Speirs said it would be “deeply disrespectful” to the community to release policy this close to the 2022 election loss.

“A good couple of years should be spent on getting a handle on what the party is all about, and then building policy on that foundation,” he said.

“In 2024 and 2025, we will be policy-heavy. We will be releasing lots of policies, and the South Australian people can judge us on that.”

Mr Speirs cites “keynote policies” around housing, tax reform and energy stability as the areas where announcements will be made “in coming months”.

Then there’s health, the portfolio which proved to be the Liberal’s Achilles heel during the last state campaign.

“We will be announcing a really significant policy in the mental health space,” he said.

“We know that there is an unmet need in the mental health space of over $100 million. Big gaps in service delivery there.”

‘The state team is united’

Few would question just how big the job is ahead of Mr Speirs and the Liberals coming into the next election, which is now less than two years away.

The electoral maths alone is daunting.

Cressida O’Hanlon won the Dunstan by-election for Labor.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

With the Liberals holding just 14 of 47 lower house seats, the party needs to pick up 10 MPs if it is to wrestle power back from Labor, be that through claiming the seats themselves or dealing with independents.

That also assumes the opposition manages to hold on to its current electorates.

Mr Speirs hopes the youth of his MPs will present an attractive alternative.

“I have a young team. Nine of my front bench are in their thirties,” Mr Speirs said.

“We’re building, we’re growing. And I think the South Australian public should be able to be confident that we are a party that has left our historic baggage at the door.

“The state team is united.”

Unity that is set to be put to the test over the next 23 months before South Australians go to the polls again.