Margin: Labor 8.5%
Location: Central Adelaide, South Australia
In a nutshell: Labor’s Kate Ellis bucked the trend of the 2004 election to recover a seat that ceased to be a party stronghold in the late 1980s. While the 2007 election left her with a substantial margin, a massive swing to the Liberals in the state seat of Adelaide at the election in March 2010 has left them vaguely hopeful.
The electorate of Adelaide has existed without fundamental change since South Australia was first divided into single-member electorates in 1903. Labor first won the seat in 1908, and it was usually in the party’s hands from then until 1988. It was then lost at a mid-term by-election caused by the resignation of Chris Hurford, falling to Liberal candidate Mike Pratt with an 8.4 per cent swing. Labor recovered it in 1990, but an unfavourable redistribution combined with a small swing to deliver it to Liberal member Trish Worth in 1993. Unfavourable demographic trends meant Worth’s margin never rose above 3.5 per cent in her 11 years as member, and she survived by just 343 votes in 2001. The seat finally fell in 2004 when inner-city seats across the land bucked the national trend to the Coalition, a decisive 1.9 per cent swing delivering the seat to Labor’s 27-year-old candidate Kate Ellis.
Previously an adviser to state Industry Minister Rory McEwen and Treasurer Kevin Foley, Ellis won preselection following a three-way factional deal that secured Hindmarsh for the “soft Left”’s Steve Georganas and Makin for the “hard Left”’s Dana Wortley (who nevertheless lost the preselection to Tony Zappia, but was compensated with a Senate seat). After the 2007 election victory, at which she consolidated her hold on Adelaide with a 7.2 per cent swing, Ellis was promoted into the junior ministry as Youth and Sport Minister, a beneficiary of Kevin Rudd’s assumption of the right to choose his own ministry. At 30 years of age she was Labor’s youngest ever minister, the previous record holder being Paul Keating at 31. Her Liberal opponent at the election is Luke Westley, marketing manager for Adelaide Produce Market and candidate for Enfield at the March 2010 state election.
Luke Westley won a Liberal preselection vote ahead of Houssam Abiad, whose fell short despite backing from two factional antagonists: Alexander Downer of the Right and moderate warlord Christopher Pyne. This may have had something to do with anti-Israel comments publicised by perennial career-wrecker VexNews. Others in the field of eight were factional conservative and former Young Liberals president Sam Duluk, recruitment consultant David Maerschel and real estate agent Vivienne Twelftree.
Shortly before the leadership change, The Advertiser published a poll of 530 voters which failed to provide support for the Liberals’ reported optimism that the seat might go the same way as its state equivalent, where Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith was unseated at the March 2010 election by a 15 per cent swing. The poll had Labor’s primary vote down 7 per cent from the election to 41 per cent, but the Liberals were also down from 37 per cent to 35 per cent and most of the dividend went to the Greens, up 6 per cent to 16 per cent. In two-party terms, Labor retained a handsome 57-43 lead.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.