Margin: Labor 7.5%
Location: Inner Adelaide, South Australia
In a nutshell: The Liberals generally win Adelaide only during bleak periods for Labor, with present incumbent Kate Ellis building up a solid margin on the back of strong performances for Labor in South Australia over the last two elections.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
The electorate of Adelaide has existed without fundamental change since South Australia was first divided into electorates in 1903, currently extending from the city centre to the Labor strongholds of Prospect, Enfield and Brompton to the north of the city and an electorally mixed bag of areas to the east and south. There are sources of Liberal strength in Walkerville to the north-east of the city, Toorak Gardens to the west and Malvern to the south.
Labor first won Adelaide in 1908, and usually held the seat over the next 80 years. The Liberals ended a 19-year drought when they gained the seat at a 1988 by-election caused by the resignation of Chris Hurford, their candidate Michael Pratt emerging victorious from an 8.4% swing. Bob Catley recovered the seat for Labor at the 1990 election, but an unfavourable redistribution together with a swing fuelled by hostility to the state government delivered it to Liberal candidate Trish Worth in 1993. Worth’s margin never rose above 3.5% in her 11 years as member, and she survived by just 343 votes in 2001.
Labor finally toppled Worth in 2004 as inner-city seats across the land bucked a national shift to the Coalition, with 27-year-old Kate Ellis emerging victorious off a 1.9% swing. Consistent with statewide trends, there was a substantial 7.2% swing to Labor in 2007 followed by little change in 2010, when the Liberals recorded a swing of 0.8%. The latest redistribution has garnished 0.2% from the Labor margin by adding 1600 voters in Vale Park, bringing the electorate into line with a municipal boundary.
Kate Ellis is associated with the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, the mainstay of the “Catholic Right”, and its powerful state figurehead, Senator Don Farrell. After serving her apprenticeship as an adviser to state Industry Minister Rory McEwen and Treasurer Kevin Foley, Ellis won preselection following a three-way factional deal that secured Hindmarsh for Steve Georganas of the “soft Left” and Makin for Dana Wortley of the “hard Left” (who nevertheless lost the preselection to Tony Zappia, but was compensated with a Senate seat).
Ellis was elevated to the position of Youth and Sport Minister after the 2007 election victory at the age of 30, making her Labor’s youngest ever minister, the previous record holder being Paul Keating at 31. She was reassigned after the 2010 election to employment participation, childcare and the status of women. In common with the rest of her faction, Ellis emerged as a strong supporter of Julia Gillard’s leadership during Kevin Rudd’s leadership challenges of 2012 and 2013. Shortly before the first challenge in February 2012, she told Adelaide radio that Rudd had approached her and other SDA figures at a hotel to ask how they could reconcile their “conservative brand of Catholicism” with “a childless, atheist ex-communist as Labor leader”.
The Liberal candidate is Carmen Garcia, director of Multicultural Youth SA and a daughter of Filipino migrants.
A Galaxy automated phone poll of 550 respondents conducted in the second last week of the campaign had Kate Ellis leading 54-46, suggesting a Liberal swing of 3.5%.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.