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Federal Election 2016

Jan 26, 2014

Seat of the week: Port Adelaide

Keeping things focused on South Australia as the state election looms into view, the latest instalment of Seat of the Week takes us to the state's safest Labor seat.

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Numbers indicate size of two-party preferred booth majority for Labor. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

The electorate of Port Adelaide includes Port Adelaide itself and the adjacent Le Fevre Peninsula, including the suburbs around Sempahore and Largs Bay, along with Woodville and its surrounds to the north of the city and, some distance to the north-east, a stretch of suburbs from Parfield Gardens north to Salisbury North, which are separated from the rest of the electorate by the Dry Creek industrial area. A very safe seat for Labor, its margin after the 2013 election was 14.0%, pared back from a redistribution-adjusted 20.9% by a 6.9% swing to the Liberals.

Port Adelaide was created with the expansion of parliament in 1949 from an area that had previously made Hindmarsh a safe seat for Labor. Such was Labor’s strength that the Liberals did not field candidates in 1954 and 1955, when the only competition for Labor came from the Communist Party. Rod Sawford assumed the seat at a by-election in 1988 upon the resignation of the rather more high-profile Mick Young, who had been the member since 1974. With Sawford’s retirement at the 2007 election the seat passed on to Mark Butler, the state secretary of the Left faction Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union and a descendant of two conservative state premiers: his great- and great-great-grandfathers, both of whom were called Sir Richard Butler.

Butler quietly established himself as a rising star over Labor’s two terms in government, winning promotion to parliamentary secretary in June 2009 and then to the junior ministry portfolios of mental health and ageing after the 2010 election. The latter promotion came despite his noted hesitancy in jumping aboard the Julia Gillard bandwagon during the June 2010 leadership coup. Butler was elevated to cabinet in December 2011 when social inclusion was added to his existing responsibilities, and he further gained housing and homeless in the February 2013 reshuffle which followed the departure of Nicola Roxon and Chris Evans. He remained solidly behind Gillard when Kevin Rudd challenged her for the leadership in February 2012, but emerged among the decisive defectors to the Rudd camp ahead of his successful leadership bid in June 2013. The subsequent reshuffle saw him promoted to environment and climate change, which he retained in the shadow ministry following the election defeat.

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