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Federal Election 2016

Feb 16, 2014

Seat of the week: Hindmarsh

Maintaining the recent South Australian focus ahead of the looming state election, the latest instalment of Seat of the Week takes us to the only electorate in the state to change hands at the September federal election.

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Red and blue numbers respectively indicate booths with two-party majorities for Labor and Liberal. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

Covering coastal Adelaide directly to the west of the city centre, Hindmarsh was the Liberals’ only South Australian gain of the 2013 election, at which Matthew Williams unseated Labor’s member of nine years, Steve Georganas. The electorate was one of seven created when South Australian electoral boundaries were first drawn in 1903, its traditional orientation around the working-class suburbs of north-western Adelaide making it a Labor stronghold for much of its history. The creation of the electorate of Port Adelaide in 1949 made it somewhat less secure, pushing it southwards into more conservative Henley Beach, but only with the 1966 landslide was long-term Labor member Clyde Cameron seriously threatened. The watershed in its progress from safe Labor to marginal came with the abolition of Hawker in 1993, which drew Hindmarsh still further south into Liberal-voting Glenelg. Currently the electorate covers the coast from Semaphore Park south to Glenelg South, from which it extends inland to mostly Labor-voting suburbs including Kidman Park and Torrensville in the north and Morphettville and Ascot Park in the south.

The Liberals’ first ever win in the seat followed the aforementioned redistribution at the 1993 election, which cut the Labor margin by 1.2% concurrently with the retirement of John Scott, who had held the seat since 1980. The Liberal candidate was Christine Gallus, who had become the first Liberal ever to win Hawker in 1990, a feat she duly followed by becoming the first Liberal ever to win Hindmarsh. This was achieved on the back of a 2.8% swing, the losing Labor candidate being John Rau, who has since emerged as a senior figure in the state government. Liberal hard-heads rated Gallus’s vote-pulling power very highly, and were duly dismayed when she decided to retire at the 2004 election. Her departure created an expectation that the seat would fall to Labor’s Steve Georganas, a former taxi driver who won preselection for the 2004 election with backing from the “soft Left” faction. So it proved, but the 1.2% swing to Labor was only enough to secure the deal by 108 votes. The unsuccessful Liberal candidate was Simon Birmingham, who went on to enter the Senate in 2007.

Georganas’s margin increased by 5.0% in 2007 and 0.7% in 2010, but these were modest gains by the standards of Labor’s performance in South Australia, leaving him on a weaker margin than Labor colleagues in Makin, Kingston and Wakefield, which unlike Hindmarsh had stayed with the Liberals in 2004. The margin going into the 2013 election was nonetheless a solid 6.1%, having been boosted slightly by redistribution, but this was accounted for by a forceful swing to the Liberals of 8.0%, the largest in the state. The seat is now held by Matt Williams, who had previously been national business development manager with law firm Piper Alderman.

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