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. Your on the money Bob, but in this case it will come as a surprise locally, because the media has beaten up on her and written her off so conclusively, she has been villified by jealous non-selected ALP would be’s from the Bolkus left if the truth be known and their story line “if only they had selected a really good candidate like one of us comrades”, she is actually a lot smarter than she is given credit for and after this experience won’t be as politically naive

  2. Matthew you’d be from Bolkus’s sheltered workshop would you, you should ask the great man what the ALP polling is showing, he like me would probably like to take some of your money. You are correct except in reverse Pyne will probably mang on by his fingernails and cornes will get up, and no Mia would have probably lost in Boothby as would have all the B grade left staffers that wanted a run

  3. I’ve got an example for you Max – Pauline Hanson, she was beaten up on by the media and she was a far greater goose than Cornes but just a sympathy inspiring, get used to it -another seat to Don, you guys messed up again

  4. Dont pennys staffers have aything better to do than write to blogs, Penny has been invisible this campaign and will have nothing to do with Cornes winning infact the opposite the Bolkus left have assiduously sought to undermind her from day one with their media contacts in SA, because she was put up by Foley and Farrell and they wanted the seat. get real

  5. I C Moore just for your own information, I am a member of no ALP faction, I just simply tell it how I honestly see it. I don’t believe internal party polling, I prefer to listen to people I speak to on the ground in these electorates. It is my view Mia has a better chance than Nicole. I hope I am wrong, and they both win.

  6. RE SA seats
    libs are only sure of 2 seats Mayo & Barker
    3 lib held seats are ultra marginal… Kingston, Wakefield and Makin
    2 ” ” Seats are FS lib …. Boothby & Sturt
    Grey is possible for special reasons despite large margin 13%
    so 8 seats are in play
    should labor win any of the last 3 seats then it will be a labor landslide
    Is SA now looking like SA of 1969?

  7. Cornes is a disgrace to accept this position. She got nominated because she is hot and married to a known football hotshot. She has no history of wanting a political career and she has shown no intentions of it, other than to accept this job. Why didn’t they choose someone more passionate and worthy instead of disrespecting Australians for having to choose her to represent Labor.

  8. Blehygu, Cornes may have been caught out of her depth but she is not the disgrace, the Labor Party is. The position would not have been available had they not offered it to her in the first place, and obviously she has at least some interest in politics or she would have refused the position.

  9. Kev, thankyou i was disgusted by Blehygu’s post but i was too upset to answer, it saddens me when others set themselves up to judge someone who has done them no harm and who probably they will never know.

  10. I C Moore says some interesting things on this issue. I agree that being a political novice is not necessarily a liability. Pauline (shudder) Hanson was a prime example before she got megalomania. Flo Bjelke Petersen in the Qld Senate ticket was another. Flo got there with some help from Joh’s name, but she built up a recognition by being herself, which sounded like a dill for many of us insiders but went over a treat with a lot of voters.

    I have a couple of friends in Boothby. Formerly ALP diehards who left after Tampa. Still cheer for Labor. Like Phil and I C, they’ve picked up that she’s doing all right out among the people. And as Judy says, she might not be groomed in politics, but she’s far from a mug. Underestimate her at your peril.

    And another thing about Boothby (at least before the boundaries gradually moved westwards) … in times past at State level the seat of Mitcham was held by one Robin Millhouse, a genuine small ‘l” Liberal and later Liberal Movement Leader and later still Australian Democrat State MP before retiring to the bench. If as Possum suggests there is a backlash against Howard Hansonism in the old leafy inner suburbs, this demographic would probably feel quite safe in supporting Cornes and Rudd,

    I’d like to get Piping Shrike’s take on it. I reckon she’s a chance.

  11. I know lots of people in Boothby who will vote for Nicole Cornes simply because they want to rid this country of Howard. That’s why I will be voting for her…I am being pragmatic about it and have a “bigger picture” to look at. Plus Andrew Southcott is lazy and I has not been a good local member.

  12. believe me cornes will win. Southcott is portraying himself as a “hard working local” without Howard anywhere to be seen in material. He is front and centre. One problem. He hasn’t been a hard working local! The overall anti Howard sentiment will ensure his vote collapses and his lack lustre campaign efforts to distance himself from Howard and as a hard working local will be fruitless. She’ll get up on preferences.
    Also Matthew Sykes, I disagree with ur views on demography. I think Boothby will swing and swing big regardless of candidate. Look at the swings at leafy booths last time. and now the campaign is focussed even more on Iraq, Climate Change, nuclear power and other “doctors wives issues”.Its full of academics, thinking ppl. and many of these see through media hyperbole.
    Libs are in some serious shit in SA and in Boothby or they wouldnt be running ads for southcott.

  13. If a landslide is on the cards, it will not matter a jot who the Labor candidate is. Look at the riff-raff who won seats for the Tories in 96, Kelly, Vaile etc etc. If a big swing is on, the good, the bad and the average will all be swept away.


  14. I hope you’re right Ben, I just feel there are too many oldies in Boothby who won’t switch their vote. I lived in Brighton for a few years, and that and nearby areas are full of conservative wealthies.

    Nicole’s best chance of getting a good swing are from areas like Clarence Gardens, Daw Park, Oaklands Park. In these areas the 2004 labor vote looks way too low for the current SA voting climate. I’d reckon Cornes will need to shift around 10% in those sorts of booths to win the seat. I think if Nicole is to win, it will be via a significant leakage from the green candidate (I’m talking green vote of around 10%).

  15. disappointed with the sunday mails effort to smear the labor party,
    there was no effort for a balanced report on both parties,
    if cornes wins i reckon she will be a hard worker , just to show up all her doubters

  16. My two cents worth:

    1) The woman is smart – she has a law degree – she can learn.

    2) The party have failed to school her.

    3) If Nicole was running for the Liberals, she’d be a dream candidate. Working mother of young children, step-mother, has run her own business, went to university as a part-time mature-age student. She has everything going for her.

    Unfortunately, some supporters of the party just don’t get it – Basil Fawlty, blehygu – I’m talking to you.

    I’d suggest that some other candidates would perform just the same (or worse) if they were getting the same media attention as Nicole Cornes.

  17. Ian, you are smack bang on the mark. To prove it just look what she’s been up agaisnt;

    1) a certain unethical Adelaide journalist persistently raising a very personal and unrelated issue on day 2 of her preselction to get her to cry and then running it front page under a heading that suggested she couldnt handle the pressure (i.e. making it look like she was crying from pressure not the immoral act the journo did in raising such an issue). a deplorable act but went unreported.

    2) Journalists sometimes turning up at her house unannounced at 7am in the morning with camera men hiding out front. public life is one thing but isnt there still a line of decency?

    3) she goes to a shopping centre visit with peter garrett. Garrett turns up 25 mins late from a media interview. Garrett meets Mrs Cornes as soon he gets there and yet the next days story was “Cornes cuts and runs on Garrett”, stating he wandered twenty five minutes looking for her!!! He met her as soon as he was there!! In other words the journalist didnt nail her in a press conference earlier, so he fabricated a story to make a standard walk through with no slip ups, another gaffe. once again a total fabrication, and once again by this notoriously unethical journalist listed above.

    The irony is despite some ppl believing this crap they read in local rag, the papers are actually creating their own narrative on Boothby when in reality feeling on ground is quite opposite. Some journalists are setting themselves up to be red faced election night, unless they start reporting the facts rather than fabricated hype.

    To fight on, despite even the first incident which was a bottom of the barrel act, shows the inner strength of this woman and her sheer toughness.

    Make no mistake she is a real contest against the Libs wet rag of a MP, the lazy southcott

  18. There is gonna be big swings in South Australia, especially Adelaide to Labor.

    Based on this fact, I will be very surprised if Cornes fails to win despite being “piggy in the middle” of a whole raft of landslide victories in seats all around hers.

  19. Mathew @ 70

    Re Nicole and the oldies,

    “Nicole started work as a 14-year-old in aged care, emptying commodes and showering people.”

    Oldies love those who look after them, nurses and youngsters, she has lived in Boothby all her life and her early life would be known to a few people in the area.

    Cornes work with the oldies contrasts with Pyne in the seat next door.

    “The Sunday Age today reported that Mr Pyne told a Liberal-funded breakfast, attended by aged care providers, that he preferred to avoid aged care events because he was young.

    Mr Pyne allegedly said he would rather not open aged care facilities or attend meetings about them because he was young, had a family and because it is an election year. He was also reported as saying he was less interested in aged care than his “passion” for foreign affairs.”

    Ian made a good point that if Cornes was a liberal candidate the press would be prasing her values and her background.

  20. I’m not sure what Pyne was thinking, he has one of the highest numbers of people aged over 65 living in his electorate….. very foolish.

  21. Can someone confirm if Ms Cornes was doing the meet and greet at Oaklands Station this morning (Thursday 15th) ? Even tho’ the Noarlunga express crawls through there, it was difficult to tell. Looked to be working without a safety net too. Go Nicole !

  22. Labor polling shows a 6% swing in Boothby – looks like Cornes may just win. The general feeling in the electorate is that they want Rudd as PM and are looking at the bigger picture, rather than Cornes. Interesting. Also, the Coalition has just about given up on Sturt. Pyne is gone.

  23. I’ve seen some of the candidates up close. Dr Southcott is lacklustre at best. Nicole arrived late for a public meeting but spoke well. She has a heart-felt way about her. I think the media performance was a total failure of the labor machine to support her, what did they think would happen? I think she choked on the first press engagement and everything since has been moulded by the media to fit that picture. It is unfair. Craig Bossie for the Democrats impresses me, he is compassionate, clued in to the local issues and is a very good match for the electorate. He’s been working on the Democrats transport plan issue. There’s a Green, and an independent who now appears to be there to boost the X vote, but that’s not confirmed. Craig Bossie was at the Mitcham shops with Natasha Stott Despoja. I’ll be voting dems 1, then Labor and Liberal last, yes one nation before Liberal.

  24. Now, I chose the easiest 3 SA electorates first, and I don’t think too many people would argue with my assessment of those being picked up by labor.
    Boothby is one of those that everybody will be looking out for on election night. Was Nicole Cornes the right choice ? Is she a disaster ? Will her grass-roots campaign style be effective ? All questions that remain unanswered until next Saturday night, or maybe later if it’s close.

    I work at Flinders University, in the heart of Boothby, and have many friends and colleagues that live within this seat. I can honestly say, I have found little evidence of people wanting to vote directly for Nicole Cornes, in spite of my words of biased labor wisdom. However, I distinctly detect an equal unwillingness to vote for Southcott. A number of people have indicated they will be voting greens and sending their preference to Cornes. So it is for this reason I think a high greens vote will be essential for Cornes to win here. And if she wins, it will be a close-run thing.

    The green vote last time was 7%, which is fairly decent. I suspect it will be much higher this time, easily getting over 10%. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict 12% !

    So, I’m caught in 2 minds, but I don’t think Cornes has done enough, and will just miss out. Liberal retain. (2PP swing to labor of 4%)

  25. Im gonna go out on a limb and say Cornes will win by over 1%. The mood is so pro-Rudd and Cornes through hard work and unwarranted media attention has made this once neglected Lib seat the eye of the nation – why on earth would anyone wanna stop that? If it becomes a marginal seat itll be one of the most marginal in the country and will be getting attention left right and centre from whatever govt gets in. For that reason alone ppl will vote for Cornes. If she was up against a hard working MP then Libs would be in game, but Southcott cant portray himself independently from team. hes done too little locally. Very much agree with pannas, she dispels preconceptions when u meet her, and southcott is very very much a useless wet rag of a bloke. Bossie is quite impressive I agree – they shouldve ran him on senate ticket. very broad background too for a Dem, church minister and ASIO officer – not some crazy leftie human shield like Ruth Russell.

  26. Like so many people I jumped to conclusions about Nicole Cornes on the strength of that first widely published interview, (and to my shame, her looks!) but thought again as I read further reports of her persisting with studying policy, working really hard at one to one contacts and turning up like a trooper at local centres. Since then I’ve followed whatever news turned up about Boothby and Nicole with interest and was really impressed on this blog to read the details of her early life, struggles and achievements. I see other comments here from people who know her personally and trust that it will filter through to her that people outside S.A. have been impressed by her. It must take considerable intestinal fortitude to resist the tide of “blondism” out there and stay strong in the face of vindictive comment Sometimes being born beautiful makes it hard to be taken seriously and I imagine her struggle for an education is part of that. Whether she wins or not Nicole Cornes will do well. Legally Blonde and Reece Witherspoon spring to mind except that Nicole deserves to be taken more seriously than that! Go, Nicole!

  27. As a Victorian I’ve only seen the news grabs of Nicole in action but I’ve seen enough to know her pre-selection was a huge mistake. Look, she just comes across as stupid and lacking in any confidence. What comes out of her mouth is bad enough but the klutzy body language is even worse. If the election is tight she might actually cost Rudd Government. He’ll have only himself to blame for that.

  28. Toby, the only way Nicole will get in is if there’s an absolute overall landslide to Labor and she gets swept over the line in the tsunami. Boothby is not the “litmus test” of this election, she’s made sure of that. So no, she can’t “just as easily win it (Government) for them…” but she sure as hell can lose it.

  29. I think I understand Nicole. The working-class nerd with Distinctions in Law, angel face and boobs. A challenging combination, for her and for us, a clashing of stereotypes alive and well. The battler, the brainy and the gorgeous, cutting through but conflicted and under seige.

    Cunning diplomacy, weapon of choice, can be purchased also has to be learned. Princess Di had a go, with no expense spared. But was missing the crunch. Try My Fair Lady instead – a brunette it’s true; no degree, but with guts and personal mentor to hand. A beauty who fought for and learned social power of the time. So go Nicole – targeted PR tactics are all. You too can conquer the fickle world, as politics requires.

  30. Voting day…and I have a problem….I dearly want Mr. Rudd to win…but I do not want to be represented by Nicole Cornes. Lovely, hardworking gal she may be (and I have never met her) but she does not have the experience (a few rounds within the local government arena) nor the political savvy necessary to assume this position. I think her selection as ALP candidate is a glaring case of ‘jobs for the boys’ gone wrong! For the future – if anyone out there, or even Nicole herself (if she is unsuccessful this time), is truly interested in eventually running for national office – might I suggest one spend some time gathering more appropriate qualifications than a feather-weight newspaper column and a celebratory footballer husband. Meanwhile – how to vote preferences to accomplish my goal??

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