Labor enjoyed blowout majorities in traditionally marginal Adelaide seats at the 2010 election, but the Liberals are expressing optimism that what went up might be about to come down.
The north-eastern Adelaide seat of Makin extends from Pooraka near the city to Tea Tree Gully and Greenwith at the limits of the metropolitan area. Labor is especially strong in the areas nearer the city, from Walkley Heights north to Salibsury East, beyond which are generally newer suburbs with more mortgage payers and families, who have helped keep the Liberals competitive or better for most of the seat’s history. The redistribution has added around 6000 voters from Port Adelaide in the west, including a newly developed Liberal-leaning area around the University of South Australia campus at Mawson Lakes along with strongly Labor Salisbury further north. The combined effect has been to shave the Labor margin from 12.2% to 11.8%.
Makin is one of three seats which went from being Liberal seats in the final term of the Howard government to Labor seats with double-digit margins after the 2010 election, together with Kingston in the south of the city and Wakefield in its outer north. It was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984 from an area that had mostly formed the southern end of safe Labor Bonython, the majority of which was in turn absorbed by Wakefield when it was abolished in 2004. Makin was held for Labor by uncomfortable margins from 1984 to 1996 by Peter Duncan, a former Attorney-General in Don Dunstan’s state government. A 4.8% swing put Duncan on the Keating government casualty list in 1996, and he returned to the headlines in 2007 after being charged with fraudulently obtaining government grants for his plastics recycling company.
Duncan’s Liberal successor was former nurse Trish Draper, who emerged as a prime ministerial favourite after strong performances at the next two elections. The swing against Draper at the 1998 election was just 0.2% compared with a statewide swing to Labor of 4.2%, and in 2001 she bettered her 1996 margin after picking up a swing of 3.0%. Draper went on to hit serious trouble in the lead-up to the 2004 election when it emerged she had taken a boyfriend on a study trip to Europe at taxpayers’ expense, in breach of rules limiting the benefit to spouses. She nonetheless survived by 0.9% at the 2004 election, despite suffering a swing which was not reflected in neighbouring seats. Draper retired at the 2007 election citing an illness in the family, before unsuccessfully attempting a comeback in the state seat of Newland at the March 2010 election.
Tony Zappia won Makin for Labor on his second attempt in 2007, and handsomely increased his margin to 12.2% in 2010. He had been the mayor of Salisbury since 1997, a councillor for many years beforehand, and at one time a weightlifting champion. Zappia was widely reckoned to have been victim of his own factional non-alignment when the Right’s Julie Woodman defeated him for preselection in 2001, and a repeat performance appeared on the cards when a factional deal ahead of the 2004 election reserved the seat for Dana Wortley of the “hard Left”. The arrangement displeased local branches as well as party hard-heads concerned that a crucial marginal seat should be contested by the most appealing candidate, and Premier Mike Rann prevailed upon Wortley’s backers to throw their weight behind Zappia.
The move appeared a dead end for Zappia in the short term, as he was unable to win the seat in 2004 whereas Wortley was elected from the Senate position she was offered as consolation. However, he performed considerably better with the electoral breeze at his back in 2007, demolishing the 0.9% Liberal margin with a swing of 8.6%. This was achieved in the face of a high-impact publicity campaign by Liberal candidate Bob Day, housing tycoon and national president of the Housing Industry Association who has since run for election with Family First.
The once non-aligned Zappia is now a member of the Left, and is believed to have backed Kevin Rudd during his February 2012 leadership challenge. His Liberal opponent is Sue Lawrie, who has variously run flower sales businesses and worked on the staff of various Liberal MPs. Lawrie has run several times at state level, most recently as an independent Liberal at the Port Adelaide by-election of February 2012.