Seat of the week: Boothby

Another trip through a South Australian federal electorate to mark the looming state election – this time the southern coastal suburbs seat of Boothby, a nut Labor is never quite able to crack.

Blue and red 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 southern Adelaide electorate of Boothby covers coastal suburbs from Brighton south to Marino, extending inland to the edge of the coastal plain at Myrtle Bank and the hills at Belair, Eden Hills, Bellevue Heights and Flagstaff Hill. The seat’s Liberal lean is softened by the area around the defunct Tonsley Park Mitsubishi plant, the only part of the electorate with below average incomes and above average ethnic diversity. It has existed without interruption since South Australia was first divided into electorates in 1903, at which time it was landlocked and extended north into the eastern suburbs. Coastal areas were acquired when the neighbouring electorate of Hawker was abolished in 1993.

Boothby was held by Labor for the first eight years of its existence, and it remained a contested seat until the Menzies government came to power in 1949. This began a long-term trend to the Liberals which peaked in the 1970s, when margins were consistently in double digits. The seat’s member from 1981 until 1996 was Steele Hall, former Premier and figurehead of the early 1970s breakaway Liberal Movement. A trend to Labor became evident after the election of the Howard government in 1996, with successive swings recorded over the next five elections. The swing that occurred amid the otherwise poor result of the 2004 election was particularly encouraging for Labor, and raised their hopes at both the 2007 and 2010 elections. On the former occasion, Right powerbrokers recruited what they imagined to be a star candidate in Nicole Cornes, a minor Adelaide celebrity and wife of local football legend Graham Cornes. However, Cornes was damaged by a series of disastrous and heavily publicised media performances, and was only able to manage a swing of 2.4% compared with a statewide result of 6.8%. Perhaps reflecting a suppressed vote for Labor, the seat swung 2.2% in their favour at the 2010 election, compared with a statewide result of 0.8%. However, that still Labor 0.8% short of a win they had desperately hoped for to buttress losses in Queensland and New South Wales. With the seat off Labor’s target list in 2013, Southcott enjoyed a comfortable victory on the back of a 6.5% swing, which was 1.0% above the statewide par. Labor’s candidate in both 2010 and 2013 was Annabel Digance, who is now running in the seat of Elder for the March 15 state election.

Boothby has been held since 1996 by Andrew Southcott, who first won preselection at the age of 26 ahead of Robert Hill, the leading factional moderate in the Senate. The Right had reportedly built up strength in local branches with a view to unseating its bitter rival Steele Hall, and turned its guns on Hill as a “surrogate” when denied by Hall’s retirement. Unlike Hill, who went on to become government leader in the Senate, Southcott has led a fairly low-key parliamentary career, taking until after the 2007 election defeat to win promotion to Shadow Minister for Employment Participation, Apprenticeships and Training. After standing by Malcolm Turnbull in the December 2009 leadership vote, Southcott was demoted by a victorious Tony Abbott to parliamentary secretary, a position he has retained in government. Southcott’s preselection at the 2010 election was challenged by former state party president Chris Moriarty, following disquiet in the party over his fundraising record. However, Moriarty was heavily defeated, his challenge reported losing steam when Kevin Rudd’s first bid to return to the Labor leadership came to a head in February 2012.

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.

1,687 comments on “Seat of the week: Boothby”

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  1. davidwh
    [Can’t remember when it fell below 40%]

    Well, lock in February 24, 2014.

    Wonder what the Lib vote is, and wonder what the Nat vote is? Which one of the famous Coalition brought the number down?

    I mean, after all, most of the years since Federation Labor has beaten either RW party hands down.

  2. [1645: Feb 21-23]
    That explains it – all the Lib voters, including my huge extended family, were over in Sochi watching the double luge with Roy & HG commentary. They’ll be back after a bit more skiing and apres ski for the next poll.

  3. It’s not really boats just the fact the government appears not to be in control of anything and just stumbling from one mess to the next.

  4. [It’s not really boats just the fact the government appears not to be in control of anything and just stumbling from one mess to the next.]

    Ummmm…davidwh….i think that was the narrative from the last parliament, not this one?? 🙂

  5. zoid

    Yes. However pensions could cause a big demographic shift like that as thats the age group Abbott has most of his support from.

  6. [It’s not really boats just the fact the government appears not to be in control of anything and just stumbling from one mess to the next.]


  7. Sorry guys, that must be fake. I’ve been told umpteem times that Liberals rise and Labor falls in the polls on the mention of boats.

  8. Interlesting!

    And they had a bad day in Senate Estimates today as well.

    (I notice the ABC has got bugger all up even now on today’s Senate going ons.)

  9. Fess the context is this Gov is seriously on the nose. They are banking on better economic times ahead as cover for the decisions to date. They had better get a move on coz its just over two years to the next election. The clock is well and truly ticking.

  10. And flying a lot of half-baked ideas from the IPA in lieu of an actual agenda.

    It doesnt impress the punters. The eejits probably think they’re ‘managing the agenda’, catching opponents on the hop.

    But it just looks like a shambles.

  11. [Agreed.]

    Actually on second thoughts I retract.

    The polls are too volatile at present to ascribe any particular meaning to them.

  12. I love it that Julie Bishop is rapidly losing whatever looks she had.

    A short timeline shows the early furrow, between the brow. Some few weeks ago.

    Since then her face is showing a careworn, puzzled and almost defeated look.

    It’s tough wearing bullshit, Julie.

    I have no sympathy.

  13. [Boats.
    Cuts sinking in.
    Piracy Crackdown.
    GP Fee.
    WA Election re-run.

    Could be a number of reasons.]

    Or the dodgy chief of staff “resigning” after the website fiasco.

  14. 1654

    Why would the WA Senate election being voided cost the government support in the polls? They were not in power during the elections and the Liberal Party has received little coverage (in terms of their comments, submissions to the court etc.) in the news coverage about the election.

    I would not think that heads rolling at the AEC about the missing votes would cost the government support in the polls.

  15. I demand better pundits on PB.

    Actually, I demand William hurry up and finish working out his calculus of poll decomposition so that we might have nice graphs that tell us exactly what issues the polls reflect.

  16. What seems to be clear is that boats aren’t the LNP lifesaver they once were. I suspect the voting public are recognizing boats are a truly wicked problem. Jobs, medicare, penalty rates on the other hand are far more visceral and closer to home.

  17. The polls are too volatile at present to ascribe any particular meaning to them.

    This. Well, paying too much attention to any individual poll and doing a Shanahan and “explaining” every nuance of its movement is a fool’s errand.

    I’m with Gorilla – with Nielsen at one end and Newspoll the other the most likely state of play is somewhere around 51/49 to the ALP.

  18. [Since then her face is showing a careworn, puzzled and almost defeated look.]

    I think the realization that she has been promoted sooooooooo far above her competence, and that more and more people realize this is starting to sink in.

  19. Calm down. It was a long weekend somewhere, wasn’t it?

    You know, the poor old bastards who are stuck home, manning the phones, are Labor voters.

    And the rich bastards are out skiing somewhere, either water or snow.

    That has to be it.

    Had nothing to do with the time lag between all those job loss announcements with SPC, Holden, Toyota, alumina plants, refineries.

    All the green power initiatives quashed by shonky medicos and Energy Company CEOs.

    The NBN’s getting castrated by Abbott’s lackey Turnbull.

    Nothing to to with the “transparent and open government promised” turning into an opaque colour of indeterminate nature.

    Nothing to do with an asylum seeker killed on Manus. And another one shot in the buttocks. And another 60-odd injured. While all the guards are well.

    Nothing to do with the dickhead Hockey looking like a laughing stock against IMF pressie Lagarde, for all the more sophisticated.

    And so on, and so forth.

    Yep, davidwh, a trainwreck. But since when has that ever stopped the Coalition from getting an over 40% primary?


    Rupert’s playing. He’s got nothing else to do, other than rattle round in his new apartment with a youngish masseuse apparently, to distract us from the News Ltd Corp getting thrashed at the Old Bailey.

    Next week it will all return to normal. The Coalition will be back in the 40s, the status quo will be just that. And all will be well with the world.

  20. Clive Palmer and his loathing for Murdoch
    It was noticeable on qanda tonight that on several occasions Palmer attacked Murdoch and The Australian… and also derided a quote from the Australian in a comment
    on ganda
    His Tweets in recent times… show he just hates Murdoch,and the Oz which portrays him as clown…bad news for Abbott as any plans he had to honour his debt to Murdoch are dead in the water

    Clive will be a problem for Abbott .who.. I think is in bed with Murdoch on all occasions

    Murdoch has had many political critics,like Whitlam and others in the past ..,but Palmer’s hatred for him will make Abbott’s attempt to get his support in the Senate very difficult indeed

  21. William – talk about having to teach you to suck eggs. You gotta put down your glass and write “New Thread” in green hyperlink, remember?

  22. Deblonay

    Have not seen the troubling program.

    But would like to see what the troublesome Clive will do in the Senate.

    Another note. Xenophon is sponsoring a Legislative candidate in South Australia.

    Any one I have chatted to will vote XO candidate with no thought whatsoever.

    As a Boothby/Bright citizen, I am alarmed.

  23. More poblems for Abbott re suggestions for budget austerity

    Abbott Audit Committee wi table its suggestions in March…
    As these things usually go …there are bound to be some suggestion in the document that will shock people and which the media will take up with gleed.

    Now the Govt will ignore most of them,,,but it is in the nature of such a Committee to make a name for itself by making some extreme suggestions..and the dumber voters often can’t tell the difference between a policy.. and a suggestion

    very worrying for Abbott is the media takes up unpopular suggestions…like cuts in pensions or medical benefits etc and on the ene of the WA poll

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