The Poll Bludger
Margin: Labor 5.1%
Region: Eastern Adelaide, South Australia
In a nutshell: Held by the Liberals throughout the Howard years, the north-eastern Adelaide seat of Makin remained well beyond their reach in 2013 after heavy swings to Labor in 2007 and 2010.
Candidates in ballot paper order
Makin is a north-eastern Adelaide seat that was in Liberal hands throughout the Howard years, but is now held by Labor by Tony Zappia on a fairly comfortable margin of 5.1%. It extends north-westwards from Pooraka at the city end to Tea Tree Gully and Greenwith at the limits of the metropolitan area. Labor is especially strong in the areas nearer the city, from Walkley Heights north to Salibsury East, beyond which are generally newer suburbs with more mortgage payers and families, with concentrations of higher incomes around Gulfview Heights and Greenwith. Together with Kingston in the south of the city and Wakefield in its outer north, Makin was one of three Adelaide seats held by the Liberals in the Howard government’s final term where Labor built up double-digit margins at the 2010 election, and which remain securely in the Labor fold despite the 2013 election defeat. In Makin’s case the Labor margin reached 12.0% in 2010, before the 2013 swing reduced it to 5.1%.
Makin was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984 from an area that had mostly formed the southern end of the safe Labor seat of Bonython, the majority of which was in turn absorbed by Wakefield when it was abolished in 2004. It was held for Labor by uncomfortable margins from 1984 to 1996 by Peter Duncan, a former Attorney-General in Don Dunstan’s state government. A 4.8% swing put Duncan on the Keating government casualty list in 1996, and he returned to the headlines in 2007 after being charged with fraudulently obtaining government grants for his plastics recycling company. The seat was then held for the Liberals by Trish Draper, who emerged as a prime ministerial favourite after strong performances at the next two elections. A swing against Draper of 0.2% in 1998 compared with a statewide swing of 4.2%, and she consolidated her margin by 3.0% in 2001. Draper hit trouble in the lead-up to the 2004 election when it emerged she had breached parliamentary rules by taking a boyfriend on a study trip to Europe at taxpayers’ expense, but she survived by 0.9% in the face of a swing that was not reflected in neighbouring seats. Draper retired at the 2007 election citing a family illness, before unsuccessfully attempting a comeback in the state seat of Newland at the March 2010 election.
The seat was then won for Labor on the second attempt by Tony Zappia, who had been the mayor of Salisbury since 1997 and a councillor for many years beforehand, and was at one time a weightlifting champion. Zappia was widely thought to have been a victim of his factional non-alignment when the Right’s Julie Woodman defeated him for preselection in 2001, and a repeat performance appeared on the cards when a deal ahead of the 2004 election reserved the seat for Dana Wortley of the “hard Left”. The arrangement displeased local branches, as well as party hard-heads concerned that a crucial marginal seat should be contested by the most appealing candidate, and Premier Mike Rann successfully prevailed upon Wortley’s backers to throw their weight behind Zappia. The move appeared a dead end for Zappia in the short term as he proved unable to win the seat, whereas Wortley was elected from the number three Senate position she was offered as consolation. However, Zappia performed considerably better with the electoral breeze at his back in 2007, demolishing the 0.9% Liberal margin with a swing of 8.6%. This was achieved in the face of a high-impact publicity campaign by Liberal candidate Bob Day, housing tycoon and national president of the Housing Industry Association who has since found a way into parliament as a Senator for Family First.
The once non-aligned Zappia is now a member of the Left, and is believed to have been a backer of Kevin Rudd’s leadership challenges, and of Anthony Albanese over Bill Shorten in the post-election leadership contest. After spending the period in government on the back bench, he won promotion after the election defeat to shadow parliamentary secretary for manufacturing, before being reassigned to health in October 2015. Zappia’s opponents at the coming election include Liberal candidate Graham Reynolds, a Salisbury councillor and former Defence Materiel Organisation engineer, and Nick Xenophon Team candidate Craig Bossie, executive officer of Chaplaincy Services SA.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.