Seat of the week: Grey

The seat which covers most of the geographical area of South Australia has typified Labor’s decline in regional areas by transforming from safe Labor to safe Liberal status since the early 1990s.

Red and blue numbers respectively indicate booths with two-party majorities for Liberal and Labor. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

The electorate of Grey has covered the bulk of South Australia’s land mass since the state was first divided into electorates in 1903, and it currently encompasses much the same territory as it did on its creation. The state’s eastern regions north of the Riverland were at times accommodated by Wakefield, but Grey has at all times accommodated the state’s west together with the “iron triangle” cities of Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Pirie. Labor-voting Whyalla is the electorate’s largest centre with a population of around 22,000, while increasingly marginal Port Augusta and Port Pirie together with strongly conservative Port Lincoln on the lower Eyre Peninsula each have populations of slightly over 13,000. About 60 per cent of the electorate’s population is scattered through the remainder, the strongest concentration being in the rural conservative Yorke Peninsula. The latter area was added to the electorate from Wakefield when South Australia’s representation was reduced from 12 seats to 11 in 2004.

Grey’s industrial centres once made it a reliable seat for Labor, but their decline over recent decades has effected a decisive shift to the Liberals. Labor held the seat for all but one term between 1943 and 1993, the exception being after the landslide defeat of 1966. Laurie Wallis recovered the seat for Labor in 1969 and retained it by margins of 563 votes in 1975 and 65 votes in 1977, surviving on the latter occasion in the face of an unfavourable redistribution, and bequeathed the seat to Lloyd O’Neil in 1983. The turning point arrived in 1993, when the addition of the Clare Valley (since transferred to Wakefield) and the retirement of O’Neil opened the way for Barry Wakelin to win the seat for the Liberals on the back of a 4.3% swing. The Liberals’ position has been strengthening ever since, helping Wakelin to achieve swings of 6.4% in 1996, 1.9% in 2001 and 3.2% in 2004, with a correction of only 0.5% to Labor in 1998. Wakelin’s retirement in 2007 combined with the overall swing to Labor cut the margin that year from 13.8% to 4.4%, but the Liberal ascendancy has since been firmly re-established by successive swings of 6.7% and 2.4% in 2010 and 2013. The member since 2007 has been Rowan Ramsey, who runs a farming property at Buckleboo on the Eyre Peninsula.

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.

1,234 comments on “Seat of the week: Grey”

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  1. Guytaur – add me too,.

    As far as Keane is concerned, he does try, but at the end of the day, his Libral slip shows.

    I have not problem with this but, as others have pointed out, his faux balance this with that and all other things being equal approach, still smacks of an a writer who would be at home with the credo of The Australian.

    What he has just written on Crikey makes some reasonable points, but it is all with a view to making sure now “our side is in” I play Honest Indian with you by having a bit both ways.

    He genuinely believes, from the sound of it, that he thinks Abbott is an a-okay guy with just a bit to learn – that’s all.

  2. mike

    [Thanks. So how does that work as when I log in I log in through Crikey?]

    Just login using your wordpress username and password. Close the crikey sub box and below the text at the topic you should see a pair of text input boxes where you can enter the relevant string values {username; password}

  3. As it turns out, Keane and Dyer have a rather spiffy article on the way in which Abbott is getting muddled about Hockey’s $9 billion, the Reserve Bank, and the value of our dollar.

    The fiscal cognoscenti amongst you would be horrified at just how ignorant Abbott is about these matters.

    Fortunately, those of us with Crikey subscriptions are in the know.

    You will recall that our Treasurer has stuffed up the $9 billion transfer thingie. It turns out that he can trash a car industry but he cannot handle a simple matter like shifting $9 billion in the Reserve Bank. A pity, really, because this was to be his big smart-arse moment in the MYEFO – his Chrissie present to himself and the Liberal Party.

    But it gets worse.

    According to Keane et al, Hockey’s stuff-up is just as well because Abbott seemed to be saying that the
    $9 billion was to be used by the Reserve Bank to drive down our dollar.

    The Coalition Economics Team is, once again, putting the frighteners into the bankers and the big end of town.

  4. Root wuz robbed in the first innings. The Aussies have already wasted one of their second innings referrals trying to repeat the dose. But Root is chuntering along nicely. Carberry has played well in the series without converting and is due for a double century.

    Looking good for us Contrarians.

  5. Guardian –


    • This is the first time ever that a team has been set 500+ to win win three successive Test matches.

    • Alastair Cook has become the first player ever to be dismissed for a golden duck in his 100th Test.

    • In the final over of the Australia innings, James Anderson went for a Test-record-equalling 28 runs.

    • Australia have scored seven centuries in this series. England? Zip.

    Basically, it’s not been going particularly well for the tourists.

  6. Matthias Cormann snuck out the final budget figures for 2012-13 last week when everyone was focussed on Holden.

    The Australian Government fiscal balance for the year ended 30 June 2013 was a deficit of $27.9 billion.

    If Joe has blown it out to $40-50 billion its his decisions that did it.

  7. [Thanks. So how does that work as when I log in I log in through Crikey]
    I come straight to PB. I imagine most folk here do the same.
    Come via Crikey.
    Transfer to PB.
    ‘Bookmark/favourite’ PB.
    Enter PB directly, do not pass Crikey [you could lose $200].

  8. But…..Abbott has a degree in economics……two, actually, because that Rhodes Scholarship Masters he was given was in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. One would think he’d have a few clues on matters economic, but he’s as dumb as a box of rocks.

    He must have paid someone to do his uni assignments and exams.

  9. BW –

    [Turnbull is a gutless power-hungry charlatan who is good at two things:

    (1) being charming, pleasant and humorous
    (2) being policy-free when it comes to his personal power hunger. ]

    Yes. I’ve been saying similar for sometime, he is just another tory nasty when its all said and done.

    Too many fooled by him – but if he became leader or PM he would be a formidable opponent for Labor, but unlikely at this stage anyway the tories will have him.

  10. [Turnbull is a gutless power-hungry charlatan who is good at two things]
    So he’s just like Abbott, only good at two things?

  11. Catherine Deveny put Arndt well and truly in her place about an article the latter wrote about JG being an unsuitable role model for young women: I can’t link but the rebuttal is a pearler:

    “Dear Uptight White Honkie”

    You just have to read it 🙂

  12. Apparently there are calls for Turnbull to move to the backbench given his outspoken views on SSM.

    Well, where does the Monkey sit on the issue?

    Will Abbott allow a conscience vote or sack Turnbull?

  13. The Arndts have a history of bad judgement. Her father, Professor Heinz Arndt, resigned from the Labor Party in 1972 because Gough Whitlam intended to recognise China.

  14. [It seems that Abbott doesn’t have a basic grasp of why exactly he’s blowing a $9 billion hole in his own foot]

    There, that looks better.

  15. Why would anyone bother reading anything Bettina Arndt churns out? The woman is a hypocrite as well as being an absolute fool.

    Long, long ago, Ms Arndt ran Forum magazine, in which she advocated sexual freedom, sex anyway you wanted it with anyone you liked, male, female, whatever. Nothing was too extreme for Ms Arndt. And she didn’t think you needed to be married. In fact, she even took up with a married man.

    Here’s a Loon Pond piece on Ms Arndt, from 2010, if you want to read more.

    Ms Arndt eventually married but her husband died after only a few years. She remarried, moved to the US, found religion and changed her tune. Now she preaches about the need to be happily married and encourages women to be submissive wives. Ms Arndt’s second marriage ended in divorce in 2007.

  16. z

    That is not news.

    The construction phase, along with its various tax right-offs which so afflicted our revenue during the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years*, is winding down.

    The profits phase – aka the phase in which profits are transferred o/s – is about to begin.

    *And don’t they seem so far away! Almost mythic in their ancientness.

  17. Well, that was a thought bubble that escaped.

    Was that the same family that investigated Aboriginal conditions on Victoria River Downs in the 1940’s and provided a Report to the government of the day which basically indicated that there was a negative population growth rate? In other words, the death rate exceeded the birth rate and they were dying out?

  18. [“The principle of universities being state-institutions has been a legal fiction for some time because states provide very little money towards the running of universities,” Mr Carr said.

    But he also raised concerns about the consequences of relieving the NSW government of billions of dollars worth of unfunded obligations for superannuation schemes run by the university sector.

    “That will have knock-on implications for all other jurisdictions,” Mr Carr said.
    “It would clearly impact on the Commonwealth’s global borrowing requirements. We already have the impression that this is a government where the sky’s the limit when it comes to the debt ceiling.”]

    Read more:

  19. Given the economic outlook I am beginning to be glad Labor lost the election. May have avoided being in the middle of a perfect storm

  20. [Politician of the year: Tony Abbott

    Well, he did it. He wobbled occasionally, and seemed briefly fazed when Rudd was restored at the last minute, but he held on to achieve a huge victory for his party and return it to power after just six years in opposition. Abbott remained disciplined and focused throughout, always keeping his eyes on the prize, and always displaying a ruthless pragmatism. For an opposition leader who had devoted his entire leadership to ferociously opposing virtually everything proposed by Labor, he ended up going to the election with a host of unity tickets — on Gonski, on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, on the budget, on the GST, on the need for an NBN — all with the intention of shutting down whatever political advantages Labor held over the Coalition. He was never going to take the risk of repeating the mistake of his one-time boss, John Hewson, and losing an unloseable election through ideological rigidity.

    The results of this approach have been demonstrated since the election, with cynical backflips, the “discovery” that policies are much more costly than expected and a visible frustration that events refuse to conform to Coalition demands. As a consequence, the Abbott government has already suffered a serious decline in public support. Be that as it may, however, Abbott has consistently demonstrated a capacity to adapt his political tactics to changing circumstances. It is likely he will return in 2014 a more adept and effective leader. As the last four years have displayed, he’s too good a politician not too.]
    Bernard Keane

  21. Keane could be right. He is cunning as a politician (or, at least, his advisors are) and he should not be completely written off, despite his terrible start.

    Just remember: acknowledging somebody’s political skills does not necessarily mean you actually think they’re doing a good job governing.

  22. Tony Abbott did not get to become Prime Minister by being a bad politician. What a lot of people would like Bernard Keane to say is that Abbott is bereft of talents of any sort, notwithstanding that this is a half-witted opinion at best. Since he has taken on the job of identifying an “Australian politician of the year”, it would irredeemably stupid of Keane to name anyone other than the person who led his party during the course of the year to a sweeping electoral victory, and to justify that choice with reference to his undeniable political accomplishments. What is obvious, or should be obvious, to any fool is that it does not follow that Keane likes Tony Abbott. He very clearly does not.

  23. [Given the economic outlook I am beginning to be glad Labor lost the election. May have avoided being in the middle of a perfect storm]

    No election is a good one to lose, but you are right. The high Aussie dollar is being demonised as the new satan, and it will take dollar slayer Abbott to fix it… except the high dollar has been great for consumers of imports (every Australian) it has kept prices down and inflation non-existent.

    So moving to next year, lower dollar, high fuel prices, inflation causing interest rate increases and Joe having to explain why, if he ever gets out of blaming anyone but himself.

  24. Mr Abbott has had a few minor misteps, but his new government shows competence, savy and a steady hand after the turblent Labor years. There have been a few fast deliveries in the region, but Abbott has gently batted good singles, a few fours and a six to keep the Coalition at the crease.

    A friendlier Senate in 2014 will see Abbott to continue to score good runs and smooth over some minor issues, which will see a return to surplus government and generous assistance for those in need, as well as a freer, fairer and more flexible workplace.

    The first 100 days on balance have been good for Abbott and better than those Howard or Rudd even enjoyed. Abbott is a conviction and retail politician and will likely be with us for a few more terms.

    *with due apologies to Keane and cricket tragics.

  25. [Just remember: acknowledging somebody’s political skills does not necessarily mean you actually think they’re doing a good job governing.]
    Refusing to acknowledge Abbott’s political rat cunning is a Laborite institution. Some of them probably still claim his rise to LOTO was a godsend for the ALP.

    He’s the worst possible combo: good at politics, bad at principled leadership. Just what you don’t need slithering around the PM’s office.

  26. Form Bill

    [Today marks 100 days under the Abbott Government. Unfortunately we’ve seen nothing but broken promises from Tony Abbott, so I wanted to write to you and give you the facts when it comes to his record.

    And the reality is this – Tony Abbott told Australians one thing before the election and is doing the complete opposite now he’s in power. Here are just some of his broken promises so far:
    • Removed the debt ceiling despite saying more debt is not the answer
    • Back flipped on schools despite promising that no school would be worse off
    • Sent Holden offshore despite promising 1 million new jobs
    So when you’re with family and friends these holidays, share the facts with them about the Abbott Government. The Abbott Government just isn’t up to scratch, but if we all talk to our friends and family we can get the truth out.

    He told us that there would be no surprises and no excuses, but you and I know they are a Government of nasty surprises and pathetic excuses.

    Bill Shorten
    Leader of the Opposition]

  27. [Mr Abbott has had a few minor misteps, but his new government shows competence, savy and a steady hand after the turblent Labor years.]
    This is like something hilarious one would find in a Christmas cracker.

  28. Abbott was very good at being opposition leader against Gillard and Rudd, except during the negotiation after the 2010 election, but his skills have not so far translated into being politically good at being PM. The polls have shown this. Abbott did a politically okay job at being a minister under Howard but Howard was leading and he did a politically better job in his first few months as PM than Abbott. Abbott does not seem to be a statesperson.

  29. Adaptation is easy in opposition.

    Indeed. One person’s ‘adaptable’ is another’s lack of conviction/wishy-washy/backflipping/lack-of-narrative take your pick.

    Abbott was the beneficiary of ‘adaptable’ being a positive in opposition. In government he is finding, and will find more as time goes on, that people will be less forgiving of adaptability that doesn’t appear to stem from sound public policy logic.

    But Keane is right – Abbott and the LNP are likely to come back in the new year with a new tack. To expect that Abbott is finished after 100 days, no matter how bad those 100 days have been, is to underestimate him (again).

  30. [
    Posted Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Given the economic outlook I am beginning to be glad Labor lost the election. May have avoided being in the middle of a perfect storm
    The question is, would Labor be making as big a mess? Labor would still have the NBN to soak up labour; they would still have the mining tax to support the budget after the mining investment phase ended. The carbon trading scheme would still be encouraging investment in clean energy alternatives (I know of one wind farm that has been cancelled since the clowns came to town), Labor would not have pissed of Indonesia or China and they probable would have done something to keep Holden in place a little longer.
    In short Labor got us through the GFC, the Liberals are plunging us into a recession we don’t have to have as the rest of the world recovers.

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