Margin: Liberal 0.6%
Location: Southern Adelaide, South Australia
In a nutshell: This Adelaide seat has been in Liberal hands since 1949, Labor having just failed to get over the line after historically strong performances in South Australia at the last two elections.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
SALLY DAWN COX
The southern Adelaide electorate of Boothby covers coastal suburbs from Brighton south to Marino, extending inland to the edge of the coastal plain at Myrtle Bank and the hills at Belair, Eden Hills, Bellevue Heights and Flagstaff Hill. The seat’s Liberal lean is softened by the area around the defunct Tonsley Park Mitsubishi plant, the only part of the electorate with below average incomes and above average ethnic diversity. There has been a pronounced trend to Labor since the election of the Howard government in 1996, with swings in their direction at each of the five subsequent elections. The redistribution has shaved the Liberal margin from 0.8% to 0.3% by adding about 10,000 in Aberfolye Park from Mayo in the south, and removing 4000 voters at Myrtlebank to Sturt and 1500 at Edwardstown to Hindmarsh.
Boothby was created when South Australia was first divided into electorates in 1903, at which time it was landlocked and extended north into the eastern suburbs. Its coastal areas were acquired when the neighbouring electorate of Hawker was abolished in 1993. Labor held the seat for the first eight years of its existence, and remained competitive until the Menzies government was elected in 1949. This began a long-term trend to the Liberals which peaked in the 1970s, when margins were consistently in double digits. The seat’s member from 1981 until 1996 was Steele Hall, former Premier and figurehead of the early 1970s breakaway Liberal Movement.
A positive swing in the context of an otherwise poor performance at the 2004 election had Labor hopeful of going one better in 2007, inspiring Right powerbrokers to recruit what they imagined to be a star candidate in Nicole Cornes, a minor Adelaide celebrity and wife of local football legend Graham Cornes. However, Cornes only managed a 2.4% swing compared with a statewide result of 6.8% after a series of disastrous media performances during the campaign. Labor again had high hopes at the 2010 election, seeing in the seat a potential gain to balance anticipated losses in Queensland and New South Wales. However, while the Labor swing of 2.2% outperformed a statewide result of 0.8%, perhaps reflecting a suppressed vote in 2007, it fell 0.8% short of what was required.
The seat’s current Liberal member is Andrew Southcott, who came to the seat in 1996 after winning preselection at the age of 26 at the expense of fellow moderate Robert Hill, the faction’s leading light in the Senate. The Right had reportedly built up strength in local branches with a view to unseating its bitter rival Steele Hall, and when denied by his retirement turned its guns on Hill as a “surrogate”. Unlike Hill, who went on to become government leader in the Senate, Southcott has led a fairly low-key parliamentary career, taking until after the 2007 election defeat to win promotion to Shadow Minister for Employment Participation, Apprenticeships and Training. However, he was demoted to parliamentary secretary when Tony Abbott became leader in December 2009, having backed Malcolm Turnbull in the leadership vote.
Southcott’s preselection for the coming election was challenged by former state party president Chris Moriarty, following disquiet in the party over his fundraising record. However, Moriarty was only able to manage 35 votes in the February 2012 party ballot against 195 for Southcott, support for the challenge having reportedly evaporated as Kevin Rudd’s first leadership challenge came to a head. Southcott will again face his Labor opponent from 2010, Annabel Digance, a former nurse and SA Water Board member factionally aligned with the Right.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.