Margin: Labor 1.7%
Region: Inner Southern Suburbs
Outgoing member: Patrick Conlon (Labor)
Click here for electoral boundaries map
To be vacated at the election by former senior front-bencher Patrick Conlon, Elder covers suburbs in Adelaide’s inner south from Warradale and Oaklands Park through Marion to Melrose Park. The redistribution has made a number of changes, the cumulative effect of which is to shave an already modest Labor margin of 3.6% to 1.7%. The most substantial of these is the transfer of the south-eastern portion of the electorate to Waite, accounting for 3300 voters in St Marys, Pasadena and southern Daw Park, while in the north it loses Clarence Gardens and southern Plympton Park to Ashford (2200 voters). The countervailing gains are the remainder of Daw Park along with Colonel Light Gardens in the east, gained from Waite (1900 voters); Warradale in the west, formerly in Morphett (2400 voters); and the southern half of Marion in the south, from Mitchell (1500 voters).
Elder was notionally a Labor seat when it was created at the 1993 election, but not to such an extent that Labor was able to hold back the tide in the context of a result that left them unrepresented south of the Torrens. Liberal member David Wade lasted a single term before falling victim to the great correction of 1997, which in Elder manifested in a 6.1% swing. Labor only slightly consolidated its hold in 2002, but as with so many other Adelaide seats it swung resoundingly to Labor in 2006 before swinging back with equal force in 2010, in this case by 11.3%.
Patrick Conlon came to the seat in 1997 from a background as an official with the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union and staffer to former Senator and Left faction heavyweight Nick Bolkus. He was the Left’s preferred candidate to take over the deputy leadership when Annette Hurley failed in her bid to win Light at the 2002 election, but the position instead went to Kevin Foley of the Right. He parted company with the faction temporarily in mid-2004 after Bolkus failed to manoeuvre him into his Senate seat, and then permanently after the 2010 election. However, he consistently remained a senior figure within cabinet, and was spoken of as a possible contender for the deputy leadership at the tail end of the Rann-Foley era.
Conlon announced his intention to bow out at the coming election in September 2012, and stepped down from cabinet the following January. Shortly after he ruffled feathers by taking up a three-day-a-week position with law firm Minter Ellison. The preselection to succeed him, which was delayed until after the September federal election, was won by Annabel Digance, the unsuccessful federal candidate for Boothby in 2007 and 2010. Also widely mentioned as a possible contender was Mary-Lou Corcoran, daughter of former Premier Des Corcoran, former mayor of Victor Harbor and unsuccessful candidate for Finniss in 2006 and 2010, who had reportedly been persuaded to move from Victor Harbor to Edwardstown with a view to taking the seat. Shortly after the nod was instead given to Digance, Corcoran was suspended from her position in the Premier’s Office after being accused of leaking party strategy documents.
The Liberal candidate is Carolyn Habib, a 32-year-old Marion councillor and youth worker. Former state party director Bev Barber, who unsuccessfully sought to fill the Senate vacancy created by Mary Jo Fisher’s resignation, had also been mentioned as an aspirant.
In the final week of the campaign, Carolyn Habib accused Labor of a “thinly veiled racist attack” over leaflets it has disseminated headed “can you trust Habib?”, which tenuously attack her over rate increases at the City of Marion. Steven Marshall responded that there was “no room for racism in South Australian politics”, and even federal Attorney-General has weighed in that the pamphlet was “overtly racist”. While the phrases “thinly veiled” and especially “overtly” may be off the mark, it was interesting to observe, as did Sarah Martin of The Australian, that the distinctive typeface used in the heading was last seen in the Rudd government’s “you won’t be settled in Australia” advertisements. Nonetheless, conservative Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi won points for intellectual consistency for demurring from the party line, asking “how it’s racist to use someone’s surname”.
Labor has promised to spend $30 million establishing a resources precinct at the site of the old Mitsubishi plant at Tonsley Park, which will consolidate drill core library facilities where rock samples are stored at locations around the state. The Liberals, who have been kept well supplied by leaks from Treasury during the campaign, were promptly able to point to a business plan which questioned whether the sale of the existing sites would bring in the money budgeted for, and raised concerns about contamination at one site in Thebarton.
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.