Margin: Labor 2.8%
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Scene of an impressive victory by Labor member Tony Piccolo at the 2010 election, Light has existed as an electorate without interruption since self-government was established in 1857, its name honouring colonial founding father Colonel William Light. In modern times it has been based on Gawler, a town of 24,000 located about five kilometres beyond the northern limit of metropolitan Adelaide, from which it extends northwards into the rural district of Wasleys and southwards into strongly Labor-voting suburbs at the city’s outer edge. The redistribution has taken a 2.5% chunk from the margin by curtailing the latter area through a transfer of 3000 voters in Munno Para and Smithfield Plains to the already safe Labor seat of Napier. Reflecting the area’s population growth, which saw Gawler’s population increase 20% between the 2006 and 2011 censuses, this is counterbalanced by a gain of just 1000 voters at Angle Vale further to the west from Taylor.
Prior to 2006, Light had only been in Labor hands at the party’s national high-water mark during World War II. The turning point came when the Liberal margin was slashed from 6.4% to 1.4% with the addition of Munno Para at the redistribution before the 2002 election. In recognition of the its status as a crucial target seat for Labor, deputy leader Annette Hurley volunteered to put her career in state politics on the line by abandoning her safe seat of Napier in order to run. While Hurley managed to add 4.0% to Labor’s primary vote, the collapse of the Democrats (from 21.7% in 1997 to 5.4%) produced a less favourable flow of preferences, allowing Olsen-Kerin government Education Minister Malcolm Buckby to add 1.0% to his existing two-party margin. Hurley was rewarded for her sacrifice with a Senate seat at the 2004 election.
Labor did well at the 2006 election to enlist as its candidate Gawler mayor Tony Piccolo, who had contested unsuccessfully way back in 1985 at the age of 25. Buckby performed creditably in the context of the election to limit the swing against him to 4.7%, but Piccolo was able to secure victory with a margin of 2.2%. The seat was Labor’s most marginal going into the 2010 election, but it dramatically defied the statewide trend by recording a 3.2% swing to Labor, thus emerging as a crucial element of an election victory achieved from a minority of the overall two-party vote.
Piccolo was promoted to parliamentary secretary in February 2011, before being reassigned to Deputy Speaker the following November. In January 2013 he was elevated to cabinet on the insistence of Jay Weatherill in the communities, social housing, disabilities, youth and volunteers portfolios, which came at the expense of the favoured candidate of the Right, Taylor MP Leesa Vlahos. Part of the arrangement was for Piccolo, a former member of the defunct Independent Left faction, to become a notional member of the Right, which thereby won control of delegates from branches in the electorate.
Despite the disappointing result in 2010, the Liberals have again endorsed as their candidate Cosie Costa, owner of a Gawler earth moving business.
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.