Margin: Labor 4.7%
Region: Outer Southern Suburbs
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Located at the southern tip of Adelaide, Mawson was the scene of a remarkable result for Labor at the 2010 election in being one of only two seats in the state to swing in their favour, together with the other of Labor’s two most marginal seats at the time, the Gawler-based electorate of Light at the city’s opposite end. It thus made a strong contribution to the government’s success in winning a majority from 48.4% of the two-party preferred vote. The electorate consists of three distinct areas, including the McLaren Vale wine-growing district and its surrounds along with two incursions into the outer suburbs: middle-income Woodcroft at the northern end, and the developing lower-income areas of Hackham, Huntfield Heights and Noarlunga Downs nearer the coast. The area’s population growth is reflected by a large transfer of 4100 voters in the northern half of Woodcroft to Fisher, for which it is compensated with 1500 voters in Onkaparinga Hills from Reynell and 900 around Old Noarlunga from Kaurna, both areas being in the north-west of the electorate. The changes have only a minor effect on the Labor margin, which increases by 0.3%.
Mawson was a bellwether electorate from its creation in 1970 until 2002, when Robert Brokenshire retained it for the Liberals at an election that saw Mike Rann lead a minority Labor government to office. Don Hopgood held the seat for Labor from 1970 until moving to the safer new seat of Baudin in 1977, leaving leaving Leslie Drury to serve for a term until Labor’s defeat in 1979. Ivar Schmidt held the seat for the Liberals under David Tonkin’s one-term government, losing the seat in 1982 to Labor’s Susan Lenehan. Lenehan sought refuge from the looming electorate debacle in the safer neighbouring seat of Reynell in 1993, but such was the scale of the Labor debacle that she was unable to carry it. It was then that Robert Brokenshire came to the seat, defeating Labor candidate Michael Wright, later to emerge as the member for Lee. Brokenshire served as Police and Emergency Services Minister from 1998 until the Kerin government’s defeat at the 2002 election, at which he retained Mawson by a margin of 3.5%. Despite suffering a relatively mild 0.5% drop on the primary vote at the 2006 election, Greens preferences fuelled a 5.7% swing that decided the result in favour of Labor’s Leon Bignell by a margin of 2.4%. Brokenshire returned to parliament in July 2008 as a Family First member of the Legislative Council.
The electoral damage for the Liberals at the 2010 election was concentrated in the semi-rural component of the electorate centred on McLaren Vale, with the three booths of McLaren Vale, McLaren Flat and Willunga swinging to Labor by 4.5%, 9.8% and 6.8% compared with a status quo result elsewhere. This area moved very sharply in the opposite direction at the 2013 federal election, which each booth recording Liberal swings well into double figures. The Liberals’ failure to make headway may have resulted from them being outmanoeuvred over the promised duplication of the Southern Expressway, with the government releasing a costing shortly before the campaign began which required that their own figures be revised. The Liberal policy as announced three days before the election was not accounted for in the party’s costings, and Shadow Treasurer Steven Griffiths declined to comment on how it would be funded.
Leon Bignell began his working life as a journalist for the now-defunct Adelaide News, later working for The Advertiser, Channel Seven, Channel Ten and the ABC, before entering the political field through jobs with the ALP and as media adviser to Patrick Conlon. A member of the Left faction, he was often mentioned as a prospect for ministerial promotion but continually emerged empty-handed. This perhaps reflected a penchant for making powerful enemies, most notably Kevin Foley, who complained that Bignell was an ex-ABC reporter who runs around pretending to be a political genius. Bignell publicly expressed a desire to see Jay Weatherill replace Mike Rann in mid-2011, but was only able to secure a parliamentary secretary position when this came to pass in October 2011. He finally entered cabinet in the reshuffle of January 2013, taking on tourism, recreation and sport.
The Liberals have endorsed Stephen Annells, who has international experience in the agribusiness, exports and change management businesses.
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.