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.

The electorate of Adelaide has existed without fundamental change since South Australia was first divided into electorates in 1903, currently stretching from the city centre to the Labor strongholds of Prospect, Enfield and Brompton to the north and an electorally mixed bag of areas to the east and south. There are sources of Liberal strength in Walkerville to the north-east of the city, Toorak Gardens to the east and Malvern to the south. Labor first won Adelaide in 1908, and it was usually held by them from then until 1988. It was lost in that year at a by-election caused by the resignation of Chris Hurford, falling to Liberal candidate Mike Pratt with an 8.4% swing. Labor recovered the seat at the 1990 election, but an unfavourable redistribution together with a swing fuelled by hostility to the state government delivered it to Liberal candidate Trish Worth in 1993. Worth’s margin never rose above 3.5% in her 11 years as member, and she survived by just 343 votes in 2001. Labor finally toppled her in 2004 when inner-city seats across the land bucked the national shift to the Coalition, a decisive 1.9% swing delivering Adelaide to Kate Ellis. In keeping with statewide trends, the seat moved solidly to Labor in 2007 (by 7.2%), recorded little change in 2010 (a 0.8% Liberal swing), and swung to the Liberals in 2013 (reducing the margin from 7.5% to 3.6%).

Kate Ellis is associated with the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association and its attendant “Catholic Right” faction, and is close to its powerful state figurehead, outgoing Senator Don Farrell. After serving her apprenticeship as an adviser to state Industry Minister Rory McEwen and Treasurer Kevin Foley, Ellis won preselection for Adelaide at the age of 27 in 2004, following the late withdrawal of Tim Stanley, an industrial lawyer and later Supreme Court justice. Her path was smoothed by a three-way factional deal that secured Hindmarsh for Steve Georganas of the “soft Left” and Makin for Dana Wortley of the “hard Left” (who nevertheless lost the preselection to Tony Zappia, but was compensated with a Senate seat).

Ellis was promoted to the outer ministry at the age of 30 following the 2007 election victory, beating Paul Keating’s record as Labor’s youngest ever minister. Following the 2010 election she was reassigned from her portfolios of youth and sport to employment participation, childcare and the status of women, exchanging the latter for early childhood and youth when Kevin Rudd resumed the leadership in June 2013. In common with the rest of her faction, Ellis was a strong supporter of Julia Gillard’s leadership, making headlines shortly before Rudd’s February 2012 challenge by claiming Rudd had asked her and other SDA figures how they could reconcile their “conservative brand of Catholicism” with “a childless, atheist ex-communist as Labor leader”. Following the 2013 election defeat she received a substantial promotion to shadow cabinet in the education portfolio.

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