Margin: Liberal 7.6%
Region: Port Augusta/Outback
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DAN VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN
Stuart is a vast electorate incorporating the greater part of eastern South Australia, including Lake Eyre and most of the New South Wales border, plus more populous territory in the hinterland of the state’s south-east. Population decline has abated somewhat over the past decade, and it has been left untouched by the latest redistribution. By far its largest population centre is Port Augusta, part of a short coastal stretch at the end of the Spencer Gulf. There remains a sharp divide between voting behaviour in Port Augusta and the solidly conservative remainder, although the city has been drifting away from Labor since the late 1980s. Stuart was held for the Liberals prior to the 2010 election by Graham Gunn, who had an uninterrupted parliamentary career going back to 1970, before passing on to its present incumbent, Dan van Holst Pellekaan.
Stuart’s history goes back to the abolition of multi-member electorates in 1938, but it was more heavily dominated by Port Augusta particularly in the days of rural vote weighting, and accordingly held by Labor without interruption until its temporary abolition in 1993. Electoral reform in the early 1970s expanded it to include Port Pirie, which was transferred to the new seat of Frome where it has since remained. Port Augusta meanwhile was absorbed within Eyre, which covered most of South Australia’s land mass. The name of Stuart was revived with the abolition of Eyre at the 1997 election, the new incarnation of the seat consisting of Port Augusta and the eastern end of the state’s empty interior. Graham Gunn was the member for Eyre from 1970 until its abolition, and then found himself on less secure ground in contesting a seat that contained Port Augusta. He nonetheless held Stuart by narrow margins at three successive elections, of 1.5% in 1997, 1.3% in 2002 and 0.6% in 2007. He did particularly well to retain the seat in 2006, the 1.5% swing to Labor being the smallest of the election, although this partly reflected a gulf between the metropolitan (9.3%) and non-metropolitan (2.8%) swings, as well as a correction after the majority of One Nation’s 7.4% went Labor’s way as preferences in 2002.
The 2010 election saw a 7.2% swing to new Liberal candidate Dan van Holst Pellekaan, a Southern Flinders Tourism officer and former national basketball player. Van Holst Pellekaan was elevated to the front bench in December 2011 in regional development and sport and recreation, and won promotion to police, correctional services and mineral resources development in the reshuffle that followed Martin Hamilton-Smith’s unsuccessful challenge to Isobel Redmond in October 2012. He was among four rural MPs who were decisive in enabling Redmond to survive by one vote, reportedly being the last to decide in her favour. When Steven Marshall ascended to the leadership the following February he maintained police and correctional services, but was relegated to the outer shadow ministry under a front bench restructure that created a streamlined eight-member shadow cabinet.
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.