The north-eastern Adelaide electorate of Makin was created in 1984 from an area that had mostly formed the southern end of Bonython, a seat made safe for Labor by Elizabeth to the north-east (until its abolition at the 2004 election). Makin currently extends from Para Hills and Walkley Heights near the city to Tea Tree Gully and Greenwith at the limits of the metropolitan area. As my swing and vote result maps for Crikey demonstrate, Labor rules the roost as far east as Salisbury East and Modbury North, beyond which are suburbs with somewhat higher incomes. Census data prepared by George Megalogenis of The Australian shows the seat to be highly sensitive to interest rates, coming nineteenth on the ranking of electorates with the most mortgage payers and ninth on couple families with dependent children paying off home. However, it also ranks in the lowest quarter on mortgage burden (median repayment divided by median income) and the lowest third on median household income for those paying off their homes.
Makin was narrowly held for Labor from 1984 to 1996 by Peter Duncan, a former Attorney-General in Don Dunstan’s state government. A 4.8 per cent swing put Duncan on the Keating government casualty list at the 1996 election, and he was recently back in the news after being charged with fraudulently obtaining government grants for his plastics recycling company. His Liberal successor was former nurse Trish Draper, who emerged as a prime ministerial favourite after strong performances at the next two elections. The swing to Labor in 1998 was just 0.2 per cent, and she bettered her 1996 margin when she picked up a 3.0 per cent swing in 2001. Draper hit serious trouble in the lead-up to the 2004 election when it emerged she had taken a boyfriend on a study trip to Europe at taxpayers’ expense. This was in breach of rules limiting the benefit to spouses, and she was required to pay back nearly $10,000. Draper subsequently suffered a swing in every booth in the electorate, a trend that failed to carry over into neighbouring seats (with the exception of Adelaide, where Trish Worth was defeated by a 1.9 per cent swing). She nonetheless retained the seat with her margin cut from 3.8 per cent to 0.9 per cent, compared with a small statewide swing to the Liberals.
When Draper announced her intention to retire in July 2006, citing an illness in the family, Housing Industry Association national president Bob Day (right) immediately emerged as the preselection front-runner. Described in The Australian as a multi-millionaire housing tycoon, Day’s Home Australia owns brand names including Homestead Homes in SA, Collier Homes in WA, Ashford Homes in Victoria, Newstart Homes in Qld and Huxley Homes in NSW. No alternative candidates to Day were mentioned in the media, and he was unopposed when nominations closed in August 2006. Kim Wheatley of The Advertiser reported in March that Day had already spent no less than $100,000 on his own campaign, which encompassed mini-rulers, notepads, calendars, newsletters and eight-page glossy brochures along with half-page advertisements in local newspapers. Later reports spoke of thousands of personalised postage stamps produced for Day by Australia Post at 90 cents a pop, as well as dog jackets labelled Bob Day for Makin. He would thus have particular cause to have felt miffed by this week’s reports that the Liberal hierarchy has begged Draper to reverse her decision to retire, believing a sitting member would be better placed to retain the seat.
Labor has again nominated its candidate from 2004, former weightlifting champion Tony Zappia (left), who has been mayor of Salisbury since 1997 and was a councillor for many years beforehand. Zappia was widely reckoned to have been hard done by when he lost the 2001 preselection to the Right’s Julie Woodman, essentially due to his factional non-alignment. A repeat performance appeared to be on the cards at the 2004 election, when the factions cut a three-way deal that was to deliver Hindmarsh to Steve Georganas of the soft Left, Adelaide to Kate Ellis of the Right and Makin to Dana Wortley of the hard Left. The nomination of Wortley was to serve the purposes of soft Left warlord Nick Bolkus, as it would allow the party’s affirmative action target to be met without costing him his seat in the Senate. However, the arrangement displeased local branches as well as party hard-heads who were concerned that the crucial marginal seat should be contested by the most appealing candidate. Premier Mike Rann prevailed upon Wortley’s backers to throw their weight behind Zappia, and Bolkus shifted his focus to having the party loosely interpret its affirmative action requirement. His problem appeared solved when another Senator, Geoff Buckland, announced his retirement and backed former state deputy leader Annette Hurley to replace him. Perversely, Bolkus then decided that he too would call it a day, leading to suggestions he had only been holding on to thwart the ambitions of state minister Patrick Conlon (the member for Elder).
Although he failed to win the seat, Zappia’s creditable performance in 2004 prompted ongoing speculation that a parliamentary career still awaited him. It was suggested that state front-benchers Lea Stevens and Trish White might be persuaded to retire at last year’s election so their seats of Little Para or Taylor could be made available, but both stood firm. Zappia then emerged as the logical candidate for the looming Makin preselection, but The Australian’s Michelle Wiese Brockman reported that he was again battling to win backing to stand from factional leaders. Writing in the City Messenger newspaper, Christian Kerr noted talk that the Left and the Right might reach a deal to back Zappia, in which he would vote with the Left in party forums in SA and with the Right in Canberra. If that fell through, the nomination might instead go to his Salisbury Council colleague Chad Buchanan. Subsequent reports suggested that Zappia indeed secured cross-factional backing, and he has since aligned himself with the Left. Zappia suffered an embarrassment in March when it emerged he had provided a reference for Hells Angels bikie Terry John McKelliff, a client at his fitness centre who was later convicted of drug trafficking. There were some suggestions Zappia might have to stand aside in light of the precedent of Kelvin Thomson, who had recently quit the front bench for providing a reference to Melbourne gangland figure Tony Mokbel.