Margin: Liberal 28.5%
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Won for the Liberals at the 2010 after 13 years as the state’s only Nationals-held seat, Chaffey covers the area immediately west of the border with New South Wales and Victoria, including the Riverland towns of Waikerie, Loxton, Berri and Renmark. The redistribution has considerably expanded the electorate geographically, adding an area from Karoonda east to Pinnaroo at the southern end, but the area only accounts for 2200 voters.
Chaffey was created in 1938 and held by conservatives until Arthur Curran’s win for Labor in 1962, a crucial result in the context of the heavily malapportioned parliament of the time which helped set Labor up for its long-delayed victory in 1965. Conversely, Curran’s loss to Liberal candidate Peter Arnold in 1968 election was sufficient to send Labor under Don Dunstan back into opposition, despite winning 52.0% of the statewide primary vote. The new Liberal Premier, Steele Hall, responded to the enusing controversy over the result by introducing electoral reform that directly led to his government’s defeat at the 1970 election, at which Curran recovered Chaffey for Labor. The seat was lost to Labor for good when Peter Arnold recovered it for the Liberals in 1973.
Arnold was succeeded upon his retirement in 1993 by Kent Andrew, who went on to lose the seat at the 1997 election when Nationals candidate Karlene Maywald polled 37.1% of the primary vote to Andrew’s 41.7%, ultimately prevailing by 2.6% after distribution of Labor preferences. Maywald was a brewer and maltster who had come to prominence through her campaign against the Keating government’s beer tax regime, and ran against the Brown-Olsen government over its reluctance to proceed with a private sector greyhound racetrack in Waikerie. She emerged from the election as one of three conservative cross-benchers propping up a Liberal government that had been reduced to minority status, securing a number of concessions including passage of Teletrak legislation. Andrew ran again as Liberal candidate at the 2002 election, but Maywald was comfortably re-elected.
Maywald was reportedly emboldened by her electoral successor to consider trying her hand at the federal seat of Barker in 2004, a prospect that did not please a Rann government that had formed a good relationship with her and did not relish the prospect of Chaffey returning to the Liberals at a by-election. Rann’s solution was to offer Maywald a cabinet post which she assumed in July 2004, with responsibilities including a new River Murray portfolio. The 2006 election saw Maywald easily re-elected with 53.2% of the primary vote, and Labor winning a clear parliamentary majority that negated its need to maintain cross-bench support. Mike Rann nonetheless insisted that Maywald retain her position her cabinet, to the annoyance of aspirational Labor MPs.
Maywald’s political fortunes declined after the 2006 election, losing favour with locals as her ministerial position obliged her to defend the government on water issues, and becoming a target of criticism for The Advertiser. The 2010 election saw Maywald lose over 15% of the vote to the Liberals, whose candidate was South Australian Murray Irrigators Association chair Tim Whetstone. Whetstone outpolled Maywald by 44.7% to 36.5% on the primary vote, prevailing by 3.8% after preferences. He was promoted to parliamentary secretary to the Opposition Leader in the reshuffle held after Steven Marshall became leader in February 2013.
All post-redistribution margins are as calculated by Jenni Newton-Farrelly of the South Australian Parliamentary Library. Corrections, complaints and feedback to William Bowe at pollbludger-at-bigpond-dot-com. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.