Margin: Independent 16.6% versus Liberal
Region: Southern Suburbs
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DARYL VAN DEN BRINK
Held since 1989 by Liberal-turned-independent Bob Such, Fisher encompasses suburbs around the Happy Valley Reservoir on the inland edge of southern Adelaide, including O’Halloran Hill to its west and Aberfoyle Park to its east. From there it extends eastwards into lightly populated Adelaide Hills territory from Coromandel East south to Clarendon. The redistribution has added 4100 voters at northern Woodcroft in the southern part of the suburban end, and transferred Flagstaff Hill and its 2600 voters to Davenport in the northern part.
Fisher was created with the redistribution that followed the electoral reform of 1970 and held for the Liberals for its first 15 years by Stan Evans. The redistribution ahead of the 1985 election markedly changed its complexion by moving it into the suburbs of Adelaide, turning it from a safe Liberal to a marginal seat. This caused Evans to take his business to neighbouring Davenport where he challenged future Premier Dean Brown first for Liberal preselection, and then successfully at the election as an independent Liberal candidate. Fisher meanwhile was won for Labor by Philip Tyler, who was unseated at the following election in 1989 by Bob Such.
After strengthening his grip on the seat in the 1993 landslide, Such became Employment and Training Minister in the new government, but was dumped when John Olsen deposed Dean Brown as leader in November 1996. In early 2002 he quit the Liberal Party citing general disillusionment over the Olsen government’s style, but he was said to have been particularly put out by a lack of party support when challenged for preselection by former federal Kingston MP Susan Jeanes, who went on to win the Liberal endorsement in his absence. Such easily prevailed at the March 2002 election with 34.6% of the primary vote against 30.9% for Jeanes, a gap that widened to 13.1% after Labor preferences. In what may have proved a costly mistake, the Liberals had issued a punitive preference ticket which put Such behind Labor.
When the election left the three independents holding the balance of power, Such won favour with his constituents by issuing questionnaires seeking advice on how he should handle the situation. Given that Hammond MP Peter Lewis had decided to back Labor, voters overwhelmingly favoured Such lining up behind the Rann government for the sake of stability. The Kerin government was ultimately brought down by Such’s decision to abstain from a confidence motion when parliament resumed in March 2002, obviating the need for Peter Lewis to exercise his casting vote as the newly appointed Speaker.
Rann proved keenly sensitive to the importance of good relations with Such during the government’s first term, sending him on a trade mission to Paris shortly after the election and eventually securing him the Deputy Speaker’s position. In April 2005 he went one better, replacing fellow independent Peter Lewis in the Speaker’s chair when Lewis resigned pending a no-confidence motion. Like Lewis, Such had long coveted the job as a Liberal MP, having accepted Labor’s nomination when the Olsen government lost its majority at the 1997 election. When the prospect was raised of Lewis being removed from parliament altogether, Such declared he would not back a change of government if the Liberals recovered Lewis’s seat at a by-election. Such nonetheless lost the position after Labor secured a clear majority at the 2006 election, when he was succeeded by Playford MP Jack Snelling.
Now 69, there was long-standing speculation that the current term might be Such’s last, but he declared himself intent on seeking another term in the middle of last year. The seat was mentioned as a possible entry point for Alexander Downer amid talk of him assuming the Liberal leadership in late 2012 and early 2013. With that having fallen through, the party’s candidate is Sam Duluk, a Right faction figure described by the Liberal Party website as having “spent his professional career in accounting and finance in the banking industry”.
All post-redistribution margins are as calculated by Jenni Newton-Farrelly of the South Australian Parliamentary Library. Corrections, complaints and feedback to William Bowe at pollbludger-at-bigpond-dot-com. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.