Seat of the week: Wakefield

Located on the northern fringe of Adelaide, Wakefield has a safe-looking double-digit Labor margin. But the Liberals have held the seat before, and indications of a strong statewide swing have given them hope they might do so again.

UPDATE: Essential Research has the Coalition lead up from 55-45 to 56-44, from primary votes of 48% for the Coalition (steady), 33% for Labor (down one) and 9% for the Greens (steady). There are also numerous questions on national debt, led off by the finding that 48% are aware that Australia’s is relatively low compared to other countries against 25% who believe otherwise. However, 46% believe the main reason for Australia’s debt is that the “government are poor economic managers”, against 26% for the world economy and 17% for the high dollar. Same-sex marriage has been gauged for the second time in a fortnight, showing 58% support (up four on last time) and 32% opposition (down one).

Extending from outer northern Adelaide into rural territory beyond, Wakefield has existed in name since South Australia was first divided into electorates in 1903, but its complexion changed dramatically when its southern neighbour Bonython was abolished when the state’s representation was cut from 12 seats to 11 at the 2004 election. Previously a conservative rural and urban fringe seat encompassing the Murray Valley and Yorke Peninsula, it came to absorb the heavily Labor-voting industrial centre of Elizabeth in the outer north of Adelaide while retaining the satellite town of Gawler, the Clare Valley wine-growing district, and the Gulf St Vincent coast from Two Wells north to Port Wakefield. Labor’s overwhelming strength in Elizabeth is balanced by strong support for the Liberals in Clare and the rural areas, along moderate support in Gawler.

The redistribution to take effect at the coming election has cut Labor’s margin from 12.0% to 10.3% by making two changes at the electorate’s southern end. The boundary with Port Adelaide has been redrawn, removing 8000 voters in the strongly Labor area around Salisbury North while adding around 700 west of Princes Highway. Immediately east of Gawler the boundaries have been made to conform with those of Barossa Valley District Council, adding 2600 voters around Lyndoch from Barker and 2100 around Williamstown from Mayo.

Prior to 2004, Wakefield was won by the prevailing major conservative party of the day at every election except 1938 and 1943, the only two occasions when it was won by Labor, and 1928, when it was by the Country Party. The seat was held for the Liberals from 1983 to 2004 by Neil Andrew, who served as Speaker from 1998 onwards. When the 2004 redistribution turned Wakefield’s 14.7% margin into a notional Labor margin of 1.5%, Andrew at first considered challenging Patrick Secker for preselection in Barker, but instead opted to retire. Wakefield was nonetheless retained for the Liberals at the ensuing election by David Fawcett, who picked up a 2.2% swing off a subdued Labor vote around Elizabeth to unseat Martyn Evans, who had held Bonython for Labor since 1994. Fawcett’s slender margin was demolished by a 7.3% swing in 2007, but he would return to parliament as a Senator after the 2010 election. As was the case with Labor’s other two South Australia gains at that election, Wakefield swung strongly to Labor in 2010, boosting the margin from 6.6% to 12.0%.

Labor’s member over the past two terms has been Nick Champion, a former state party president, Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association official and staffer for state Industrial Relations Minister Michael Wright. The SDA link identifies him with the potentate of the South Australian Right, Senator Don Farrell. Champion came out in support of Kevin Rudd in the days before his unsuccessful February 2012 leadership challenge, resigning as caucus secretary to do so. Champion’s Liberal opponent will be Tom Zorich, a local sports store retailer, former Gawler councillor and one-time player and club president of the Central Districts Football Club. Despite the size of the margin he faces, the Liberals are reportedly buoyed by weak polling for Labor in South Australia generally, and by Holden’s announcement in April that 400 jobs would be cut at its Elizabeth plant.

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.

2,287 comments on “Seat of the week: Wakefield”

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  1. Ah,…..that is why Gillard was honouring Raoul Wallenberg, to apologise for setting the election date on Yom Kippur

  2. “Perhaps you guys can ask GIllard why she avoided meeting the dirty locals in her recent slither to Western Sydney. She got an ego boost at rent-a-crowd gatherings but she avoided any locals like the plague. This isn’t the approach that a PM should be taking but there we are.”

    Please, William!…please, please, please!!!?….

  3. joe carli

    [Please, William!…please, please, please!!!?….]

    Don’t hold your breath Joe – nothing will be done about the trolling.

  4. Of all the places in the world, bloody Cuba is taking legal action against us for plain packaging.

    [CUBA has become the latest country to launch a legal attack on Australia’s landmark plain packaging rules for tobacco at the World Trade Organisation, the global body says.

    The WTO said that Cuba had requested consultations with Australia on law requiring tobacco products to be sold in identical, olive-brown boxes bearing the same typeface and health warnings with graphic images of diseased smokers.]

  5. I think we have just seen why Labor will be wiped out in Western Sydney and lose government.
    For many of us the Middle East is an interesting debating issue. In and around Auburn, JGs attitude is electoral poison.

  6. [Don’t hold your breath Joe – nothing will be done about the trolling.]

    I thought it was a great post.

    Gillard stay at the Rooty Hill RSL was a stunt. Kirribilli was a 40 minute drive away.

    And he’s right.. she ran and hid from the locals and only went to stage managed events. Couldn’t give a stuff what the locals had to say, just a big Gillard photo-op stunt.

  7. I can understand Cuba’s attitude. I was often given a box of cigars for my birthday and it used to have drawings of happy peasants bringing in the harvest on it. Now its a gangrenous foot, if I’m lucky. Even the bands have been removed and replaced by black health messages.

  8. WB

    [Tom, all of your comments are stupid and half of them abusive, so I don’t know if I’m all that interested in what you think constitutes trolling.]

    Funny that … I wasn’t even talking to you. My comment was directed to Joe.

  9. [Tom Hawkins
    Posted Monday, May 6, 2013 at 10:29 pm | PERMALINK
    I thought it was a great post.

    Of course you did]

    Broad church Tom, broad church………

  10. Mine was a mock appeal to be allowed to sink the boot in…of course, as I said..: A mock appeal…..mind you, M does need to be taught some manners!….Tiche is a lost cause!

  11. A fair amount of the Lib angst on display can no doubt be attributed to the internal revolt against Abbott’s signature policy

  12. Tony Abbott intends to introduce – a great big new tax – to fund his PPL.

    What a pity nobody knows about it (his great big new tax that is).

  13. The students can come up with far better questions than Canberra’s press gallery.

    If only Jones would stop trying to impose himself on the dialogue this would be perfect in terms of questioning of our PM.

  14. I thought the govts position re: the middle east is virtually indistinguishable to the oppositions.
    If labor lose it wont be for that reason.

  15. Re Oakeshott Country @ 2206 In and around Auburn, JGs attitude is electoral poison.

    On the other hand, the Opposition’s stand internationally is close to unconditional support for positions espoused by the USA, which in turn means unconditional support for Israel. Under Howard, Australia stood tall in the UN with Palau, the Marshall Islands and the USA in opposing any motion that suggested that Israel was less than a model global citizen or that the Palestinians got less than a fair go.

  16. Dont think of the children……….. think of poor Swan! locked in government detention trying to balance Labor’s books.

  17. Gillard raised him (Raoul Wallenberg) and the fact that she had honoured him in direct response to a question about holding the election on Yom Kippur.

    I think it was a great idea to give him an honorary citizenship, but it was not a good idea on her part to link the two things. Having said that, Gillard has done very well tonight, she knows her stuff and she can engage when she is not in robot mode.

  18. William it seemed to tighten up after PVO was making all those Twitter leaky comments. They may keep it under guard now.

  19. davidwh:

    Funny you should say that, I feel in my waters that a rogue is on its way actually!

    This is what my waters have been saying for a couple of hours!

  20. Cuban cigars are freely available in Australia – but don’t even think of taking them to the US. I know a drug rep who was given the job of taking some to his boss in New York. Most cigar retailers in Australia have a supply of El Salvadorean cigar bands -for a price they will sell loose Havanas and swap the bands.

  21. [Wayne Swan ‏@SwannyDPM 21m
    Better questions tonight to the PM than she gets in Question Time! #qanda]


  22. [Mod Lib
    Posted Monday, May 6, 2013 at 10:41 pm | PERMALINK

    Funny you should say that, I feel in my waters that a rogue is on its way actually!

    This is what my waters have been saying for a couple of hours!]

    yes, we need a rouge to lift the left a tad. They are getting to depressed and may lash out and do something rash like bring back kev. Though i like Kev.

  23. Reckon they’ll tighten up on Newspoll leaks as the election campaign draws closer and then begins (officially).

  24. Based on the other polling it should be in the same general area as last time. Both the majors seem to have lost a point or two. But it is Newspoll so anything is possible.

  25. What do you lot think of this? How can you be taken off air because you are in a relationship with a Cabinet minister? What about Uhlmann and Penbo?

    [THE ABC says the decision to take Sydney TV newsreader Juanita Phillips off air on Friday night due to a conflict of interest was made “in the usual course” of business.

    Phillips was replaced as reader of the Friday night bulletin in NSW because of her relationship with federal minister Greg Combet, who was to be featured after that day giving evidence to the Independent Commission Against Corruption about his links with former CFMEU boss John Maitland.]

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