Electoral Form Guide: Sturt
Margin: Liberal 0.9%
Location: Inner Eastern Adelaide, South Australia
In a nutshell: Senior Liberal Christopher Pyne emerged from the 2007 election with a highly tenuous hold on a seat that had been in Liberal hands since 1972. His prospects of surviving the coming election have fluctuated with the Coalition’s highly variable fortunes over the past term.
Two-party vote map
Swing % map
Electorate analysis: Sturt covers the inner eastern suburbs of Adelaide, including Payneham, Kensington, Tranmere and Skye east of the city, Klemzig, Campbelltown, Paradise and Highbury to the north, and Glenunga, Glen Osmond and Beaumont to the south. When created in 1949 it also covered the north of Adelaide, which after 1955 formed the basis of the new electorate of Bonython (which was abolished in 2004). The loss of this territory made Sturt notionally Liberal, prompting Labor member Norman Makin – who had gained the seat from the Liberals in 1954 – to contest the new seat. It has since been won by Labor only in 1969, when Norman Foster secured a narrow victory after a 15.0 per cent swing. The redistribution resulting from South Australia’s loss of a seat in 2004 shifted the seat eastwards, adding the outer suburbs around Tea Tree Gully, formerly part of Mayo, and transferring territory closer to the city to Adelaide.
Sturt has been held for the Liberals since 1993 by Christopher Pyne, a former staffer to Senator Amanda Vanstone and soon to emerge as the most powerful South Australian figure in her moderate faction. Pyne was promoted to parliamentary secretary a year after entering parliament, and his failure to rise into the ministry until January 2007 was widely put down to his closeness to Peter Costello. After the 2007 election defeat he ran for the deputy leadership, finishing in third place with 18 votes behind Julie Bishop on 44 and Andrew Robb on 25. He has since served in high-profile positions on the opposition front bench: justice and border protection under Brendan Nelson, and education, apprenticeships and training under Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott. He further gained the position of manager of opposition business in February 2009, to the chagrin of the Right.
It was long expected that the seat would again be constested for Labor by Mia Handshin, a former Young South Australian of the Year and founder of “inspirational speaking and consultancy group” Mana of Speaking, who had picked up a 5.9 per cent swing as candidate in 2007. After the election Handshin worked as a staffer to Sports Minister and member for Adelaide Kate Ellis and retained the patronage of Senator and Right powerbroker Don Farrell, leaving little doubt the nomination would be hers for the taking. However, she unexpectedly withdrew from the running in August 2009. Brad Crouch of the Sunday Mail reported the announcement came “within hours” of her being queried by the paper over her family’s involvement with a collapsed real estate group. Michael Owen of The Australian nonetheless reported speculation Hanshin was to run for the state seat of Hartley and leave Sturt for its sitting member, Grace Portolesi – which Portolesi promptly denied. Christian Kerr in the same paper described Handshin as “potential premier”. In Handshin’s absence the Labor nomination has gone to Rick Sarre, professor of law and commerce at the University of South Australia.
In the second week of the campaign Julia Gillard announced $100 million in funding for stormwater harvesting and reuse, the first cab off the rank being a $10 million contribution to a pitch for $33 million by councils in eastern Adelaide. With the councils to fund half the cost, this left a $6 million hole which Labor wanted filled by a previously reluctant state government. The next day Tony Abbott trumped Labor by promising to put up the full $16.5 million. The Coalition also promised $7.5 million to improve Fosters and Gorge roads.
Late in the third week of the campaign The Advertiser published a poll showing Christopher Pyne with a 55-45 lead on two-party preferred and 49 per cent to 35 per cent on the primary vote, compared with 47.2 per cent and 41.5 per cent at the 2007 election. The Greens were on 10 per cent, up from 6.4 per cent in 2007. More happily for Labor, 44 per cent of respondents rated Julia Gillard stronger on the economy compared with 41 per cent for Tony Abbott, and as more honest by 46 per cent compared with 38 per cent for Abbott. The margin of error on the poll is about 4 per cent. In the second last week of the campaign the seat was one of four South Australian marginals covered by a Galaxy survey of 800 respondents, which showed no swing across the four. The JWS Research-Telereach poll conducted during the final weekend of the campaign, covering 400 respondents in the electorate with a margin of error of about 5 per cent, had Pyne leading 52.7-47.3.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.