Electorate: Mayo

Margin: Liberal 7.3%
Location: Outer Adelaide, South Australia

The candidates (ballot paper order)


Family First

Palmer United Party

Labor (bottom)

Australian Greens

Liberal (top)


Based around the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island, Mayo was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984 from territory which had mostly been covered by Barker, which was compensated for its losses by absorbing the Riverland from the abolished seat of Angas. All areas concerned are strongly conservative, with Labor never having held Mayo, Barker or Angas. It presently extends southwards from Kersbrook, 22 kilometres to the north-east of Adelaide, through Mount Barker and McLaren Vale to Goolwa at the mouth of the Murray River, and westwards to the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island.

Alexander Downer entered parliament as the seat’s inaugural member in 1984, his father Sir Alec Downer having been member for Angas from 1949 to 1963. The only threat to Downer’s hold on the seat over the next 24 years was the strength of the Australian Democrats in the Adelaide Hills, which became a live concern in 1998 when John Schumann, former lead singer of folk group Redgum (of “I Was Only Nineteen” fame), increased the Democrats vote from 12.4% to 22.4% to overtake the Labor candidate and fall 1.7% short of victory after the distribution of their preferences. The Democrats polled a more typical 14.8% in 2001, before collapsing to 1.8% in 2004. As well as bringing an end his 11-year career as Foreign Minister, the November 2007 election reduced Downer’s margin against Labor to single figures for the first time, following a swing of 6.5%. Downer stepped down from the front bench after the election defeat and announced his resignation from parliament the following July, initiating a by-election held in September.

The Liberal preselection was won by Jamie Briggs, who had worked in the Prime Minister’s Office as chief adviser on industrial relations, giving him a politically uncomfortable association with the unpopular WorkChoices policies. With the backing of Downer and John Howard, Briggs won the preselection vote in the seventh round by 157 to 111 over the party’s recently ousted state leader Iain Evans, who remains a senior figure in the state parliamentary party as member for Davenport. Among the preselection also-rans was housing mogul Bob Day, who reacted to his defeat by running as the candidate of Family First, for which he would eventually be elected a Senator in 2013. Labor did not contest the by-election, but Briggs was given a run for his money by Lynton Vonow of the Greens and independent Di Bell, a local anthropologist who had the backing of Nick Xenophon. With the Liberal vote falling from 51.1% to 41.3%, most of the non-Liberal vote split between the Greens (21.4%), Di Bell (16.3%) and Bob Day (11.4%). The distribution of preferences from Day and others left Vonow leading Bell 28.2% to 24.1% at the second-last count, with Briggs finishing 3.0% clear of Vonow after distribution of Bell’s preferences.

Briggs had no difficulties winning re-election in 2010, when he prevailed with a near-identical margin to Downer’s in 2007, or in 2010, when the margin returned to double-digit territory after a 5.2% swing. He won promotion to shadow parliamentary secretary in September 2012, emerging the beneficiary of the one minor reshuffle of the term occasioned by Senator Cory Bernardi’s resignation.

Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.

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