Seat du jour: Boothby

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.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

92 comments on “Seat du jour: Boothby”

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  1. Its interesting that there has been a few people attacking comments questioning the ability of the fine labor candidate in this seat, on the grounds that its typical sexist stuff. The polls would tend to show that the greatest reaction to her ability has come from female voters, ummm

  2. Hopefully, she won’t cost Labor this seat, but I don’t hold that much hope. Labor should have just preselected a good ol’ fashioned union thug.

  3. I thought people didn’t like politicians.Nicole is certainly not a politician, she should romp it in.
    The problem is with the media, they always give that other non politician (Pauline H)a better run and she can’t even speak English nor Australian. Just some gibberish about being Oystrayan.

  4. actually Nicole Cornes is very warm and articulate in real life, i went to one of her meet and greets out of curiosity,{i’m in Wakefield} i can understand her freezing in front of the cameras in the beginning, it’s no easy thing believe me, i spent eleven years in the public eye under extremely distressing circumstances and during that time i think i was on just about every current affairs program on air plus hundreds of newscasts, we never knew when we pulled into our driveway just what tv channel would be on our front lawn waiting, i survived it in the end by going into robot mode, you press the on button, recite whatever you’ve been primed up to say and then press the off button and collapse in a quivering heap, Nicole didnt have time to prepare for the media feeding frenzy before they descended on her and one thing you cant do with the media is be outright honest– ask Garrett.
    the impression of Nicole being a loser can mostly be blamed on newspaper rivalry, though both the Advertiser and the Sunday Mail are from Rupert’s stable the editors are nevertheless bitter rivals, Nicole was a Sunday Mail columnist and the Advertiser ran a hate campaign against her– nuff said.
    just look at how Nicole has stuck it out regardless of the shite thats been aimed at her, a lesser person would have cut and run, believe me it would have been a far easier option, that says something about her charactor, i hope she gets in even just to give the slaggers the finger and i’m sure she’ll be a much better representative for Boothby than Southcott.
    after that rant i’ll now retire back into my corner lol.

  5. Well they say perception is everything in politics. Cornes may well be hard-working and reasonably intelligent to those who know her, but a string of verbal blunders has made her come across as a dumb blonde bimbo with no knowledge of politics at all.

  6. If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen!
    My comment had more to do with the fact that she heartily endorsed the rodent as
    a great prime minister in 2004, is that a good recommendation for Labor pre-selection???

  7. I’ve said this before, but… if this seat (where I live) doesn’t fall to the ALP, then Kevin Foley needs to have a good long hard look at himself. The arrogance and cronyism of this decision shows the worst aspects of ALP factionalism. Kevin Foley needs to stop parachuting friends into winnable contests and thereby losing them!

  8. Basil, it’s a womans perogative to change her mind, at that time she wouldnt have been tuned into politics, lets face it anyone would have seemed great against Latham, i’m a dyed in the wool laborite from my roots and yet even i couldnt bring myself to vote for Latham, ive been very anti Gillard because of her strong ties with Latham and it’s only been recently that ive become an admirer of her by clearing my mind of bias and watching her at work, perhaps you could try and do the same over Cornes and try giving her a go, if she gets in i doubt she’ll ever make the front bench but if she represents her constituants fairly then she will have done her job, thats something Southcott has never done.

  9. Judy @ 11, I have the greatest admiration for women becoming actively involved in politics, indeed I am a great admirer of Penny Wong, she is one of the best things that could have happened to Labor. My point was made irregardless of gender, this person is an air-head of the first order, why oh why did they decide to put her in what should have been a winnable seat?

  10. basil just how much do you know about Cornes? you call her an airhead, she was born in the area, she had to leave school at 15 to go to work and help out her single mother support her siblings, she worked her way up to secretary at radio 5AA where she met her husband and then started a family, while having her two children she opened a successful small business which she then sold, she then went back to school and got her matric and went onto uni and just finished her law degree with high distinctions when she was asked to stand for Boothby, thats hardly the resume of an average housewife, i took the trouble to find out about her after my journo pal was scathing about the attacks on her, he told me she was entirely different to the way she was portrayed, as i wrote before i can understand her panic in her first media interviews, they were dropped on her without any preparation after the news of her standing was leaked out– you can blame her minders for that.

  11. JustAlarmed (above) is spot on. Kevin Foley reeks of arrogance, rudeness and is so unqualified to lead our state’s economy is makes me feel sick! Cornes won’t win this seat, she has no chance. Most of my family and friends live in Boothby (I live in neighbouring Kingston) and those who are Labor voters say they are being treated with absolute contempt by having Cornes thrust on them.

    Strangely though I observe that the entire electorate is covered in Cornes posters (to a greater extent that any other SA marginal seat). In the past fortnight I have traversed the entire electorate for one reason or another and on every stobie pole there’s image of Cornes staring down at me.

    However, yesterday as I was driving home, in the southern section of the electorate there is now a huge billboard of … not Cornes, but Amanda Rishworth, ALP candidate for Kingston, obviously Labor are using their money wisely to target voters in transit through the electorate rather than those living in it.

    Cornes will not win.


    There is a newspaper article indicating Southcott has held the seat four times and his current margin is 5.4 percent but even Southcott does not consider it a ‘safe’ Coalition seat, claiming {b.s I am told by people who live there] he has worked very hard for his seat since being elected..blah blah blah.

    The article notes that Cornes mumbled and stumbled through a media scrum (again) after Mr. Rudd gave her the benefit of his support toward the end of week four.

    As I wrote to Ms Jasmine on a previous thread after she spat the dummy and went elsewhere, screaming feminist diatribe slogans at people who attacked Ms Cornes, her gender does NOT shape my veiw of her as a candidate for a political election.

    What does concern me from a Labor Party standpoint is that —

    (1) A two time sitting member is hard to unseat, let alone a four time sitting member (even if he is useless and unsighted);

    (2) The Advertiser going hard at finding her faults and giving her constant ‘bad press’ is neither here nor there, not everyone beleives the sun rises in SA if The Advertiser says so. In fact, if they keep posting her picture on the front page it will attract many a moron voter because she is very ‘easy on the eye’ (hot, you might say); Is it concerning that people vote on the basis of looks, chitt yeah, but that is the reality;

    (3) Feminist freinds of mine living in SA, from Flinders University and Adelaide University, tell me she is NOT being attacked or lambasted or whatever for being a WOMAN candidate, she is being attacked for being “stupid”, a dim wit, thick, not much between the posts. That is the dominant image of her, like it or not.

    (4) She has to combat the equally moronic stereotype of her being a ‘blond bimbo’ with the ‘educated/intellectual’ morons who poo poo blokes who will vote for her because she is ‘hot’ and then vote against her because she fits their ‘blond bimbo’ stereotype;

    (5) The hypocritical educated/intelligent moron dismissal of Cornes is fed by her having been too often nervous and uncomfortable with suddenly finding cameras and tape recorders and microphones shoved vehemently in her face every time she takes a breath in the public space by vultures looking to win authorship of the next news *grab* in TV and print media ‘Headlines’.

    The ‘bad press’ feeds the egos of wankers and intellectuals who would not have voted for Cornes anyway and this may be counter balanced by equally moronic male voters who will vote for her because she is physically attractive.

    On reflection, Labor may look back and wonder what a different candidate might have acheived if Southcott gets over the line with his margin slashed to less that 2.0 but survives to hold Boothby for the Coalition for a 5th time.

    Every party produces ‘dud’ candidates and ‘dud’ Ministers as well {think of Dolly, Pyne, Andrews, Nelson, Coonan and my favourite, Ruddock}.

    My distant perception of Cornes is that she is a ‘dud’ candidate with no political sense at all, but I won’t blame her entirely if the seat is not won for Labor.

    Others will have to share the responsibility for that and not be gutless wonders hiding under her skirts and using her as the donkey to pin.

  13. I reckon the Tsunami will elect Nicola Cornes as well,anyone else who thinks differently are kidding themselves.It is the nature of landslides to elect the good,the mediocre and the bad.Why??
    The electoral process is presidential in style,people want to vote for Rudd and get rid of Howard(after all this IS all about Howard),So Cornes will benefit from that sentiment,pure and simple.

  14. I think Nicole has a chance, but if she does win, she will be lucky. It’s clear that her candidacy has had its problems, although the media has been unfair, but not unexpectedly so.

    When looking at William’s booth-by-booth maps and knowing the suburbs quite well, I just can’t see where a decent enough swing is going to come from. When I do the same thing for Sturt, however, I see the potential for quite large swings in a fair number of booths.

    For this reason, and based on the statewide anti-liberal feeling sweeping south australia, I am confidently predicting an upset win for Mia Handshin in Sturt. Common sense tells me that Nicole Cornes will miss out, but will probably shave some of the margin from Southcott. If that is the case, the ALP will honestly know they chose the wrong candidate.

  15. If you’re not from Adelaide and reading this blog, you have no idea of the controversy Nicole Cornes has stirred up. I would bet London to a brick Nicole Cornes will get well below the state average swing, it’s just a question of how much below, and if that can get her over the line. I think the green vote will be fairly high, which might be Nicole’s best chance.

  16. I would like to re-iterate what Matthew said. You simply cannot comprehend how people see Nicole Cornes here unless you live in Adelaide. It’s hard to give an example for other states, because SA is so unique in that we are one big damn country town.

    It won’t happen. There will be a swing, but it won’t be enough.

  17. Well if Cornes does get over the line it will be Kudos to the likes of another ‘female’ Labor person, campaign spokeswoman Penny Wong. Matty I am an ex Adelaide person and I have freinds and family over there [yes in Boothby] and they are telling me anecdotally she is considered a ‘dud candidate’. I hope she does prove the critics wrong and wins the seat without much support from Labor outside of SA.

    As Jasmine says, “Go Nicole, you show them” and I will gladly acknowledge the egg on my face in assessing her at this point as a political dud with no political sense.

  18. Labor hasn’t won Boothby since 1946. It would be a miracle if it ever wins it again. Nevertheless, the Liberals are resorting to personalized TV to boost their sitting member in Boothby. They must be worried.

    Actually, Labor will be lucky to win any new seats in SA at this election if the Murdoch press continues in the vein of today’s Sunday Mail.

    1. The front page splash is the old beat-up about how Julia Gillard’s former lover defrauded the AWU. The scam is explained at length on Page 4 with lots of innuendo.

    2. Page 5 leads with “Doubt over Rudd as PM” – a Galaxy focus group’s finding in Kingston. Reports from a more favourable focus group in Makin are buried low in the story. Makin Lib candidate Bob Day is pictured shaking the hand of a supporter.

    3. Nick Xenophon is derided on Page 7 for his alleged lack of action in trying to save the Murray. (Also on Page 7, Kevin Rudd warns of dew IR plan and is pictured with supporters).

    4. An extraordinary editorial occupies Page 41 – “Why Mr X does not deserve your vote”.

    5. Glenn Milne on Page 42 tells “Why Rudd is engaged in a giant ruse”.

    6. Piers Ackermann on Page 43 invokes Latham and ‘exposes’ how Rudd’s using “phony crises … to scare votes from punters”.

    Almost wall-to-wall sleaze and smear.

  19. Phil @ 23. On point 2), I also noticed that headline.

    Reading the article, their focus groups consist of only 7 people.

    Hardly representative & worthy of that headline.

    Another piece of blanat political bias.

  20. I read the Sunday Mail “focus group” article too chaps, and concur with your comments. Those sorts of things just make me laugh, they are just so blatantly skewed to present whatever point the editor wishes to make. What’s more the articles are so shabbily written, it makes you wonder where News Limited find their journos. Probably P*ssed as parrots in Glenn Milne’s favourite bar.

  21. Phil @ 23. I haven’t seen any personalised Liberal for Boothby TV adverts. Would you care to enlighten us a little more?

  22. Good grief.

    I’ve only just gone to read the Sunday Mail… what on Earth has gotten into them? That is an unbelievably petty attack on Xenophon. Writing a few negative articles is on thing, a full page personalised attacking editorial is another.


  23. Of course, buried further down the Sunday Mail article was the report of another enormous focus group of seven voters in Makin, where 3 would vote Labor and only 2 Liberal, with 2 undecided and some scathing comments about Howard quoted.

    So, according to the Sunday Mail, the Liberals will presumably get a vote of 70% in Kingston and 30% to 40% in Makin?

    The focus group of 11 voters they have been following from the start of the campaign are currently as follows:

    Voted Liberal in 2004 – 6
    Voted ALP – 0 (Well balanced Sunday Mail sample, as usual)
    Voted Greens – 1
    Voted Democrat – 1
    Voted Independent – 1
    Didn’t vote – 2

    Their current leaning is now:

    Leaning to Liberal – 3

    Leaning to Labor – 7

    Leaning to Labor or Independent – 1

    So the ALP has presumably gained 7 new votes out of 11 people.

    Naturally, the featured headline is “Doubt over Rudd as PM”.

  24. Thanks Phil @ 32. I hadn’t seen or heard about any either, and just wanted to check that i wasnt missing out.

    as Thommo @ 29 said, I expect this to be a safe retain for the government, predominantly due to the choice of ALP candidate. Had a Mia Handshin been present in Boothby, I believe it would have been a LOT closer.

  25. Southcott has lived a very charmed life, having 2 very prestigious roles in the community (Surgeon and MP) and being very mediocre at both of them. He hasn’t had to do anything to retain this seat except keep his mouth shut and watch the media savage Nicole Cornes.

    The impression I have from Nicole Cornes is that she is a people-person, not a media-person. She’s very engaging but has no clue about policies except that she doesn’t like WorkChoices or the Iraq war. A bit like most voters. I think given the media’s treatment of her so far, she’d have to work harder than Southcott if she was elected, simply because if she failed to perform for her electorate, it would be front page news.

    Matthew Sykes has it right on. There’s too much blue blood in Boothby for Nicole Cornes to win it on the anti-Howard vote.

  26. Nicole has had good recent publicity in the suburban press, including a front page account of how she was loudly cheered – while Dr Southcott was jeered – at a candidates forum before 200 people at Blackwood

  27. What the Wax farmer should have done was asked someone like Greg Combet to run in this seat. I guess Combet was promised a safe Labor seat in return for the campaign funding ^^.

  28. all these attacks on nicole cornes and foley, I think they need to be clarified.

    Think back to around feb this year when preselections were occuring. at that time of south australia’s 11 seats there are the following

    Safe labor 1 (pt adelaide_
    very marginal labor 2 (hindmarsh, adelaide)
    very marginal liberal 3 (kingston, makin, wakefield)
    sligtly marginal liberal 2 (boothby, sturt)
    safe lib 3 (gray, barker, mayo)

    so essentially that means that 7 of 11 seats are in play. Remember at the time of preselections the rudd bandwaggon had not being running strong for 9 months, hindsight is a powerful thing. It would have been expected that it would be close in atleast some of the 5 ultra marginals.

    Campaigns cost alot of money, in makin, adelaide and hindmarsh labor are running against millionaires (and in the case of makin, mr money bags), wakefield and kingston both have the benefit of incumbency (as do sturt and boothby) for the liberals.

    Now lets say your the alp guy that splits up the money for each campaign, it is obviously going to be tight in the distribution of resources (even if each campaign raises there own money, most of it comes from the same limited groups of people). Rishworth and champion both need alot of money spent on them to establish profiles in the community, and bob day has already sent the entire electorate a ruler, fridge magnet, notepad and a kitchen sink.

    During preselections boothby and sturt were not highly likely to be won at the election, and given the state has 5 of its 11 seats as marginal it is logical to try and save money.

    Thus the logical option is to choose a candidate who dosn’t need to have tens of thousands in establishing a profile, and get one that get’s alot of free media. Enter Cornes and Handshin, both ‘celebrity’ (id never heard of either of them, but meh) candidates. Both already have a profile and in the case of sturt have the added benefit of making it easier to spend enough to keep pyne and his money bags at home.

    As it turns out the swing to labor is looking very impressive in sa and both boothby and sturt are seriously in play, and the 5 ultra marginals are almost certain to fall to labor. However judging the preselection in hindsight is not fair, and while it clearly hasn’t worked out all that well I dont think it was a bad decision based on the cicumstances at the the time.

    remember if labor had preselected a union thug/branch member their name recognition would be minimal at best.

  29. Regardless of Cornes or not, I still think that demographically Sturt is more ripe for swinging than Boothby. Boothby has many areas with a high percentage of older conservative voters, who wouldn’t swing away from the liberal party in a million years. Sturt has a much more tertiary educated liberal type of voter. These people would be impressed with the more conservative (but not too much so) Kevin Rudd. Also the north-eastern areas of Sturt (quite different from the rest of the seat) which have 2004 2PP votes of 50-55 for the liberals look more like they should have 50-55 to labor at this election.

  30. I agree Matthew, the seat of torrens and florey in sturt have a significant difference in state and federal vote, potential for 10%+ swings in those booths, they are needed as I dont think the burnside council is going to swing nearly as much as the national swing, also note that last election the southern booths swung about 2% to the alp, while the northern booths the reverse. So yeah the northern booths are critical, however they need to swing alot to make up for some of the real strong southern booths (65% liberal primary…)

    william: any chance of sturt getting an analysis in the next two weeks?

  31. look everyone we’ll know in two weeks today how the dice has fallen, Nicole either will or wont get Boothby for Rudd and the same goes for Mia against Pyne, what ive taken offence to is people here who have never met the woman writing her off as a blonde bimbo because of some newspaper reports when clearly she’s not, ive had to face up to some horrific headlines and stories in the past and i KNOW most journos dont let the truth get in the way of a good story, the Adelaide people here would know all about the “family” murders and the media feeding frenzy of those years, i’m very cynical of most journos–i know them all too well, i cant help but feel sorry for her and the way they are trying to destroy her credibility.
    on a different subject i rang David Fawcett the Wakefield incumbant and gave hin an earful about his ad saying Rann was soft on crime, i told him he’s alienated a lot of people seeing Rann bought in the dangerous offenders legislation recently, he was a bit nonplussed at my reaction i think.

  32. The Advertiser has been disgraceful on its treatment of Cornes, and even Southcott as well. I have it on very good authority that journalists at the Advertiser have benn ordered to run with a “No good news” policy on Cornes. I am all for her being criticised for her gaffe on Adelaide radio and other such mistakes which she actually does make, but some of the negative stories they have run on her recently have been just bizzare. The same can’t be said for Mia Handhin, a former columnist at the Advertiser, who the sun seems to shine out of.

    As for criticisms of Nicole previously voting for Southcott; I think that has now been overshadowed and isn’t even an issue. When I first heard the news I thouht it would be a positive for the ALP, as there is no way the wealthy residents of Boothby would vote for a raving left winger. Most of them have been blue ribbon Liberal voters for generations, and if anything a former Howard voter would appeal to them more than the average ALP candidate.

  33. Kev, as ive written before, though their from the same stable theres fierce rivalry from both the editors of the two papers, Nicole was a Sunday Mail comumnist so the Advertiser sets out to belittle her, my journo mate switched from one to the other paper and there was ructions, how stupid and petty can it get?

  34. Actually Judy I completely agree and I would blame that goose Foley, who barely sees beyond peroxide and any skirt lately, his vision has been obscured by the massive swelling associated with his cranium

  35. Dave S I agree with all of your comments except the ALP strongly believes Cornes will win, thats why you have seen masses of corflutes appear, mind you they are using the same pollster this time that advised Latham last time

  36. Bluebotlle you are being misled by your sources, cornes is an object of sympathy, people are starting to react to the media beating up on her- she will win

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