The Poll Bludger
Margin: Labor 3.9%
Region: Inner Adelaide, South Australia
In a nutshell: Labor generally loses the seat of Adelaide only in particularly bleak periods, and Kate Ellis had built up enough of a buffer by 2013 to survive comfortably the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd backlash.
Candidates in ballot paper order
The electorate of Adelaide has existed without fundamental change since South Australia was first divided into electorates in 1903, and currently extends from the city centre into the Labor strongholds of Prospect, Enfield and Brompton in the north, and an electorally mixed bag of suburbs to the east and south. While it has usually been held by Labor, there are areas 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 has held it about 70% of the time since. It was lost in 1988 at a by-election caused by the resignation of Chris Hurford, when Liberal candidate Mike Pratt was elected with an 8.4% swing. Pratt was unable to retain the seat at the 1990 election, but it was back in the Liberal fold in 1993 after an unfavourable redistribution and a broader swing fuelled by hostility to the state Labor government. Adelaide was held for the Liberals by Trish Worth for the next 11 years, her margin never exceeding 3.5%. She was finally toppled when inner-city seats across the land bucked the national trend to the Coalition in 2004, in this case delivering a decisive 1.9% swing to Labor’s Kate Ellis. The seat has reflected statewide trends since, swinging 7.2% to Labor in 2007, 0.8% to Liberal in 2010 and 3.6% to Liberal in 2013.
Kate Ellis won preselection for Adelaide at the age of 27, after serving her apprenticeship as an adviser to state Industry Minister Rory McEwen and Treasurer Kevin Foley. This followed the late withdrawal of Tim Stanley, an industrial lawyer and later Supreme Court justice. Ellis was promoted to the outer ministry at the age of 30 following the 2007 election victory, breaking Paul Keating’s record as Labor’s youngest ever minister. After 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. She then won a substantial promotion to Shadow Education Minister following the 2013 election defeat.
Ellis is associated with the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association and its attendant “Catholic Right” faction, and in particular with its powerful state figurehead, Don Farrell. This faction was noted for its support for Julia Gillard, which according to Ellis prompted Kevin Rudd to ask how their “conservative brand of Catholicism” could be reconciled with “a childless, atheist ex-communist as Labor leader”. Ellis was also a declared supporter for Bill Shorten in the leadership vote after the 2013 election.
The Liberal candidate is David Colovic, an insolvency litigator locally described as “one of the state’s leading lawyers”. Colovic won preselection from a field of six that also included Houssam Abiad, the deputy Lord Mayor of Adelaide, who was encumbered by past remarks denouncing the “war of terror” and the creation of Israel. The seat will be contested for the Nick Xenophon Team by Joe Hill, business development manager with Coffey International, an international aid consultancy. The Greens candidate is Sophie Guy, an academic at the University of South Australia’s Centre for Population Health.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.