The southern Adelaide electorate of Boothby extends from Brighton and Marino on the coast through the outer edge of the coastal plain to Myrtle Bank, and out into the hills at Belair, Eden Hills, Bellevue Heights and Flagstaff Hill. These are established areas marked by a high level of religious observance and relatively few young families. The seat’s Liberal leaning is softened slightly by the area around the Mitsubishi plant at Clovelly Park, the only part of the electorate with below average incomes and above average ethnic diversity. This area has usually reversed the overall patten of Liberal support in the high fifties, although the 2004 election produced a partial convergence: the Labor suburbs swung slightly to the Liberals, while the remainder followed the trend of Adelaide’s affluent areas in going solidly to Labor. The relatively strong Labor performance was partly credited to its candidate Chloe Fox, who went on to win the state seat of Bright with a 14.0 per cent swing at the March 2006 election. Maps below show 2004 two-party vote and swing results at booth level, with numbers varying in size to indicate the number of votes cast.
Boothby was created when South Australia was first divided into electorates in 1903, at which time it was landlocked and extended north into the eastern suburbs. Its coastal areas were acquired when the neighbouring electorate of Hawker was abolished in 1993. Labor held the seat for the first eight years of its existence, and remained competitive until the Menzies government was elected in 1949. This began a long-term trend to the Liberals which peaked in the 1970s, when margins were consistently in double digits. Former Premier and Liberal Movement figurehead Steele Hall held the seat from 1981 until he retired in 1996, at which point his moderate faction hoped the seat might accommodate its leading light in the Senate, Robert Hill. However, Hill suffered an embarrassing preselection defeat at the hands of a 26-year-old factional colleague, Andrew Southcott (right). Tony Wright of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote that the Right had built up strength in local branches with a view to unseating its hated rival Hall, and when denied by his retirement turned its guns on Hill as a surrogate. This manoeuvre left a star performer stuck in the Senate, while a plum lower house seat went to a man who has not made it so far as parliamentary secretary during 11 years in parliament.
Sniffing a potential upset, Labor poached what it imagined to be a star candidate in Nicole Cornes (left), a minor celebrity in Adelaide through her lightweight Sunday Mail column and marriage to local football legend Graham Cornes. State Treasurer and Right faction powerbroker Kevin Foley, a friend of the couple, had initially made the offer to Graham, a former Liberal supporter who had used his own newspaper column to rail against the Prime Minister over the Iraq war. When this was knocked back the invitation was extended to Nicole, Foley perhaps sensing a parallel with Jackie Kelly and her win in Lindsay in 1996. Amid the blaze of publicity surrounding the announcement of Cornes’s candidacy in April, attention was quickly drawn to a column from 2004 in which she wrote that John Howard had proved himself to be a fine PM. That soon proved the least of her concerns, as a series of embarrassing performances before the media showed her to be out of her depth. The worst of these occurred in late September, when she floundered disastrously in attempting to explain her party’s position on WorkChoices in an interview on ABC radio. This was on the same day that an Advertiser poll showed her trailing Southcott 49 per cent to 32 per cent on the primary vote, and by 52 per cent to 27 per cent among women.
While most statewide opinion polls have pointed to a swing in South Australia upwards of 10 per cent, the Advertiser poll helped establish a consensus that Southcott would retain the seat. Mark Kenny of The Advertiser wrote last week that Boothby was not expected to change hands, unless the political stocks of the Government deteriorate even further. Half-way through the campaign Newspoll published a marginal seat poll covering Boothby along with the three Adelaide marginals that have been all but written off for the Liberals, Kingston, Wakefield and Makin. This pointed to a below-par swing to Labor of 5.8 per cent, suggesting Boothby might have dragged down the average. Nicole Cornes had yet another awkward public moment in the fourth week of the campaign, stammering her way through a confrontation with a bloodthirsty media pack after a shopping centre appearance with Kevin Rudd.