Margin: Labor 0.1%
Region: Eastern Suburbs
Click here for SA Electoral Commission boundaries map
Held for Labor by Employment Minister Grace Portolesi, the key marginal seat of Hartley covers suburbs a few miles east of the city, extending from Kensington Gardens north through Magill and Hectorville to Campbelltown and Paradise. Hectorville and Glynde in the centre of the electorate are the focal point of Adelaide’s Italian community, with respectively 25.3% and 20.0% of their residents nominating Italian as their main language. There is a clear north-south divide in the electorate, with Labor’s strength in Campbelltown, Felixstow and Hectorville balanced by very safe Liberal Kensington Gardens. The redistribution has all but eliminated the 2.3% Labor margin from the 2010 election by adjusting its southern boundary, adding 1400 voters in southern Kensington Gardens and western Rosslyn Park from Bragg, along with 1500 in Auldana, eastern Rossyln Park and south-eastern Magill from Morialta. A countervailing transfer sends Kensington Park and its 1700 voters to Bragg.
Hartley was won on its creation at the 1977 election by soon-to-be Premier Des Corcoran, who had previously been the member for Coles (which was renamed Morialta in 2002). After leading the government to defeat at the 1979 election, Corcoran retired in 1982 and was succeeded as Labor member by Terry Groom. Groom quit the Labor Party in 1991 when an unfavourable redistribution prompted him to make an unsuccessful bid for preselection in Napier, but he continued to serve in Lynn Arnold’s cabinet and unsuccessfully contested Napier as an independent at the 1993 election. Hartley meanwhile was won for the Liberals in the ensuing landslide by high school teacher Joe Scalzi, who managed to hang on the seat as the pendulum swung back in 1997 and 2002. A 6.7% swing to Labor at the 2006 election was relatively mild in the context of the overall result in Adelaide, but nonetheless easily enough to account for Scalzi’s 2.1% margin.
The seat has since been held for Labor by Grace Portolesi, previously chief-of-staff to Jay Weatherill in his capacity as a minister in the first term of the Rann government, and like Weatherill a member of the Left. With Joe Scalzi again standing against her at the 2010 election, Portolesi did extremely well to limit the Liberal swing to 3.3%, in comparison with a statewide result of 8.4% that was particularly pronounced in Adelaide. She won promotion to parliamentary secretary immediately upon her entry to parliament, and was elevated to cabinet in the minor portfolios of Aboriginal affairs, multicultural affairs, youth and volunteers after the 2010 election.
Further promotion came when her old boss assumed the premiership in October 2011, when she exchanged her existing portfolios for education and child development. The new portfolio placed her at the centre of a firestorm relating to the sexual assault of a young girl in an out-of-hours school care program in 2010. While the matter related to Weatherill’s time as Education Minister, a police statement contradicted Portolesi’s claim in parliament that the school had acted on their advice in not informing parents of the matter. Portolesi was demoted in a January 2013 reshuffle from education to employment, education and skills and science and information economy.
The Liberal candidate is Vincent Tarzia, a Norwood, Payneham and St Peters councillor associated with Christopher Pyne and the moderate faction. Tarzia comfortably won a preselection vote in October 2012 with 79 votes against 11 for Campbelltown councillor Marijka Ryan, who also contested preselection ahead of the 2010 election, and 10 for a persistent Joe Scalzi.
A fortnight out from polling day, the Liberals complained to the Electoral Commission over a fundraising letter sent by Labor member Grace Portolesi to a public servant at her Education Department workplace, and queried whether its invitation to purchase raffle tickets amounted to an electoral bribe. Portolesi told Michael McGuire of The Advertiser that the material was being sent to those who requested it at the address they nominated. Later that week, Nick Xenophon provided Portolesi with a message of support to distribute to voters in her knife-edge marginal seat, in which she was described as “an outstanding local member in getting things done”.
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.