Margin: Liberal 16.5%
Region: Adelaide Hills
Click to download SA Electoral Commission boundaries map
Isobel Redmond’s electorate of Heysen covers an area of the Adelaide Hills beyond the south-eastern edge of the metropolitan area, including Stirling and Hahndorf, together with rural territory south to Strathalbyn. It has only been marginally changed in the latest redistribution. There is room for dispute as to whether Heysen or Waite is the successor to Mitcham, which was the only lower house seat ever won by the Australian Democrats. The electorate was substantially redrawn at the redistribution before the 2010 election, which mostly entailed the exchange of outer suburban areas for Strathalbyn and Hahndorf.
Heysen was first created at the redistribution which gave effect to the electoral reform of 1970, although it disappeared between 1977 and 1985. David Wotton held the seat for the Liberals at both ends of the exchange, from 1975 to 1977 and again from 1985 to 2002, serving in the more rural seat of Murray in between. Wotton was run close on a number of occasions by the Australian Democrats, who were aided by Labor’s tactic of running dead. The Democrats’ last gasp came when Wotton retired in 2002, when they polled 16.3% and came within 4.0% of victory after preferences. The Greens have at least partly filled the void, their primary vote consistently being around the 17% mark at the last three elections.
Wotton’s successor as Liberal member was Isobel Redmond, a solicitor who shared Wotton’s links to the locally dominant Evans family faction. Redmond was quickly promoted to the front bench in April 2004, and there were suggestions she would emerge as a compromise candidate for the deputy leadership after the 2006 election as conservative elements grumbled about a deal that gave the position to leading moderate Vickie Chapman. Redmond herself complained of interference by federal MPs in reaching the deal and made a vain protest by running for the leadership instead, scoring two votes to Iain Evans’s 20.
As Evans’ successor Martin Hamilton-Smith floundered as leader in the wake of the fake emails affair in June 2009, Redmond was seen to add fuel to the fire by saying she would grab it with both hands and go for it if the opportunity to become leader fell to herself. However, she declined to put her name forward when Hamilton-Smith called for a spill the following month, instead taking the deputy leadership from Chapman when she failed to topple Hamilton-Smith by a margin of one vote.
When Hamilton-Smith called another spill to clear the air immediately afterwards, Redmond was prevailed upon to put her name forward by way of breaking the impasse between Chapman and her opponents. Hamilton-Smith duly announced he would step aside and support Redmond, who won the party room ballot with 13 votes to nine for Chapman after a third contender, Mitch Williams, was knocked out in the first round. With Redmond as leader, the Liberals gained an 8.4% swing at the 2010 election to win the two-party vote by 51.6% to 48.4%, but the swing’s uneven distribution meant the Liberals were only to gain three of the required six seats.
The election result proved the high-water mark of Redmond’s political fortunes. In its immediate wake she sought to have her deputy, Steven Griffiths, replaced by Iain Evans, whose factional muscle would become an increasingly important part of her security in the leadership. However, the party room then rebuffed her by instead electing Martin Hamilton-Smith, leading an infuriated Redmond to move for another ballot. Evans then agreed to leave the field clear for Mitch Williams as a compromise candidate.
Redmond then suffered a series of gaffes and mounting discontent over her lack of aggression in response to bad economic news and the axing of BHP’s Olympic Dam expansion. That her own enthusiasm for the job was waning was evident in mid-2012 when she mused about the possibility of filling Mary Jo Fisher’s Senate vacancy. Meanwhile, talk was afoot of schemes to bring either Alexander Downer or lobbyist Ian Smith into parliament to take over from her. The condition of Redmond’s leadership deteriorated still further the following September when she said she wished to see the size of the public service cut by nearly a quarter. The next month she was challenged by Martin Hamilton-Smith, whose failure to succeed by a single vote was said to have resulted from some MPs holding out for the promise of Downer being drafted.
Redmond finally announced she was standing aside the following February, with Norwood MP Steven Marshall securing cross-factional support to replace her without opposition. She has since sat on the back bench, and she has since sat on the back bench.
All post-redistribution margins are as calculated by Jenni Newton-Farrelly of the South Australian Parliamentary Library. Corrections, complaints and feedback to William Bowe at pollbludger-at-bigpond-dot-com. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.