Margin: Labor 9.1%
Region: Inner Northern Suburbs
Federal: Adelaide/Port Adelaide
Click here for electoral boundaries map
Known as Ross Smith until the 2002 election, Enfield covers suburbs to the north of Regency Road about four kilometres north of the city, from Mansfield Park east through the Regency Park industrial area to Clearview and Broadview. Regency Park marks a divide between an area of overwhelming strength for Labor in the electorate’s western end, and a more modestly Labor-leaning area to the east. There is also an extension south of Regency Road at the eastern end of the electorate which takes in southern Broadview and northern Collinswood, an area marked by higher incomes and electorally more of a piece with Adelaide. The redistribution has made two modest changes to the electorate, adding the suburb of Manningham and its 900 voters from Torrens in the south-east of the electorate, and transferring 1800 voters in Woodville Gardens, northern Kilkenny and southern Ferryden Park to Croydon. The changes have reduced the Labor margin from 10.5% to 9.1%.
Napier and Ross Smith have a collective existence going back to 1956, in which time there have been four Labor members: Jack Jennings until 1977; John Bannon from 1977 to 1993, including his stint as Premier from 1982 to 1992; Ralph Clarke from 1993 to 2002; and John Rau thereafter. Clarke became deputy leader a year after his election, but soon emerged a casualty of the collapse of his Centre Left faction. An alliance struck between the Right and the Bolkus Left after the 1997 election saw him dumped as deputy leader in favour of the Right’s Annette Hurley, who despite factional deals only won the caucus ballot over Clarke by 15 votes to 14. A particularly brazen branch-stacking operation over the following year inspired Clarke to take legal action against his own party, resulting in a series of landmark legal victories which established the right of courts to intervene in internal party matters.
A secret ballot of de-stacked local branches indicated 60 out of 74 members with voting rights supported Clarke, but the state executive intervened to install John Rau, a former Centre Left member who had switched to the Right. Before the 2002 election, Clarke and another Centre Left colleague, Senator Chris Schacht (himself recently demoted to the lethal third place on the Senate ticket), claimed Mike Rann had moved to have Rau dumped and Clarke reinstated. Clarke attempted to hold the seat as an independent, but went into the election burdened by domestic violence allegations (charges were terminated in 1999 due to “credibility problems” with the evidence) from former partner Edith Pringle, who ran as an upper house candidate under the banner “You Can’t Beat a Woman”. Clarke fell short after narrowly failing to pip the Liberal candidate into third place, trailing 26.5% to 28.6% at the critical point in the count. Between the Labor swing and the recovery of the Clarke vote, the 2006 election saw Rau’s primary vote increase by 24.0%.
Rau came to parliament from a background as a barrister and adviser to Hawke Government ministers Mick Young, Michael Tate and Neal Blewett. He had earlier become the first Labor candidate to fail to win the federal seat of Hindmarsh since 1917 when he ran there in 1993, the seat having been made marginal by an unfavourable redistribution. Rau hit the ground running upon entering parliament, building a high profile through crusades over parliamentary reform, workplace training, motor scooters, unruly public housing tenants and dubious practices in the real estate industry. However, he was for a long time overlooked for promotion, The Advertiser reporting that his reform drives had been at odds with the government’s law and order agenda. When the July 2008 reshuffle failed to change the cabinet line-up, The Advertiser reported talk he had been threatening to quit in protest if a more lucrative option came his way.
Rau’s career trajectory finally turned upward when he entered cabinet after the 2010 election, succeeding Michael Atkinson as Attorney-General and Justice Minister and further gaining the tourism portfolio. By this time he had emerged as a leading figure of the Right, causing him to win the position of deputy leader when Kevin Foley vacated the position in February 2011. The Right’s traditional ascendancy was such that he might ordinarily have expected to go one better when Mike Rann moved on, such being the favoured scenario of Rann himself. However, as Rann’s leadership tottered through 2011, it was clear that Jay Weatherill was far the favoured choice of the public, an opinion poll conducted in the middle of the year showing 40% favouring Weatherill against 27% for Rann and only 11% for Rau.
Right heavyweights accordingly determined to fall in behind Weatherill, and put it to Rann that the time had come to make way for him. When Rann finally agreed to do so in October, he complained the greatest casualty of the Right chieftains’ move was Rau, whom they had asked me to mentor. In the reshuffle which followed Rann’s departure, Rau exchanged the justice and tourism portfolios for planning, and he further gained industrial relations in the January 2013 reshuffle. He further took over police and correctional services from Michael O’Brien in January 2014 after the latter bowed out of politics in what proved to be a doomed bid to make his seat available to Don Farrell.
The Liberal candidate is Scott Roberts, a 33-year-old banker and Prospect councillor.
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.