Margin: Liberal 11.0%
Region: Southern Suburbs
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Davenport is located at the outer inland edge of the metropolitan area south of the city, from Bedford Park east to Hawthorndene and the undeveloped hills districts of Belair and Upper Sturt beyond. The redistribution has added 2600 voters in Flagstaff Hill at the southern end from Fisher and transferred 1400 in the southern parts of Panorama, Pasadena and St Marys to Waite in the north, cutting 0.8% from the Liberal margin. The electorate was created with the redistribution that gave effect to electoral reform in 1970, and has never been held by Labor. The area it covers partly coincides with the old Adelaide Hills heartland of the Australian Democrats, who came within 5% of victory at the 1997 election. The member since 1993 has been Iain Evans, who succeeded his father Stan Evans both in the seat and as a figurehead in the factional Right. Stan Evans came to the seat in memorable circumstances at the 1985 election, when he ran as an independent Liberal and unseated future Premier Dean Brown. Evans had held the neighbouring seat of Fisher for the Liberals since 1970, before unsuccessfully challenging Brown for preselection after redistribution rendered Fisher marginal by pushing it deep into the suburbs. Brown’s defeat thwarted his ambition to challenge John Olsen for the party leadership after the election, although the rivalry between the two was far from over.
Iain Evans’ arrival in parliament coincided with the Liberals’ landslide win at the 1993 election, and he rose to cabinet a term later as Police, Industry, Trade and Environment Minister. Some in the Right favoured him to succeed John Olsen when he was obliged to resign over the Motorola affair in October 2001, but a factional compromise saw the position instead go to Rob Kerin, who remained party leader for a full term in opposition after the 2002 election defeat. This period was marked by rivalry between Iain Evans and moderate rival Vickie Chapman as the two positioned themselves to succeed the floundering Kerin. Evans’ faction emerged the stronger after the 2006 election defeat, and he assumed the leadership with Chapman as deputy in a unity ticket which greatly upset the latter’s more implacable foes on the Right.
Evans lasted barely a year in the job, falling victim to mediocre poll ratings, a vaguely defined failure to cut through, a feud with state party president Christopher Moriarty, and ultimately generations-old factional rivalries. Chapman agreed to throw her weight behind Martin Hamilton-Smith in April 2007 on the condition he maintain her as deputy, allowing Hamilton-Smith to defeat Evans in a party room ballot by 13 votes to 10. After being demoted in a reshuffle in February 2008, Evans sought federal preselection to succeed Alexander Downer in Mayo, but was defeated by Jamie Briggs. Evans and his faction emerged as key backers of Isobel Redmond when she assumed the leadership in July 2009, and after the 2010 election Redmond informed her deputy, Steven Griffiths, that she wanted him to make way for Evans. This proved a strategic error on Redmond’s part, as Martin Hamilton-Smith put himself forward as a rival candidate and won the party room ballot by 10 votes to eight, gaining support from moderate opponents of Evans aligned with Christopher Pyne and Vicike Chapman. When an infuriated Redmond promptly moved for another ballot, Evans agreed to leave the field clear for Mitch Williams.
Evans nonetheless emerged from the fracas in the role of Shadow Treasurer, and contentiously maintained the position when Stephen Marshall became deputy leader after Redmond narrowly survived a leadership challenge in November 2012, despite the position traditionally being offered to the deputy and Marshall stating his desire to assume it. He once again nominated for the deputy position when Redmond made way for Marshall the following February, but Vickie Chapman defeated him by the familiar margin of 10 votes to eight amid grumbling from the Right that moderates had achieved a clean sweep. Evans nonetheless maintained the Shadow Treasurer position, Marshall being concerned to placate the Right after moderates secured both the leadership and deputy positions, while losing the additional porfolios of state development and employment which he had briefly picked up in the wake of the November leadership vote.
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.