THE POLL BLUDGER
South Australian House of Assembly Election 2006

HARTLEY
Liberal 2.1%

RegionEastern Suburbs
FederalSturt
CandidatesJosh Reynolds (Democrats)
Tim Cousins (Dignity for Disabled)
Grace Portolesi (Labor)
Joe Scalzi (Liberal)
Michelle Wauchope (Greens)
Lisa Hood (Family First)

Hartley is located a few miles east of the city, from Kensington Gardens north to Campbelltown. Booth results reveal a clear north-south divide, with Labor majorities in Campbelltown, Felixstow and Hectorville more than cancelled out by a Liberal two-party vote of 66.4 per cent in the large Kensington Gardens booth. The redistribution has had a substantial effect on the seat through a swap of territory with Morialta, to which it loses 1919 votes in Paradise while gaining 1370 in Magill (it also picks up a small number of voters around the Lutheran Aged Care facility from Norwood). This was done in an effort to meet torturous requirements for electoral "fairness", with the State Electoral Office calculating they had added 0.7 per cent to the Liberal margin. This wasn't enough for the Liberals, who submitted that there should also have been a transfer with the safe seat of Bragg.

Hartley had a fairly good record as a bellwether until 2002, having changed hands upon the election of the Bannon government in 1982 and at the Liberal landslide of 1993. The last Labor member was Terry Groom, who quit the Labor Party in 1991 after the failure of his bid to jump ship to Napier following an unfavourable redistribution. He nonetheless continued to serve in Lynn Arnold's cabinet and unsuccessfully contested Napier as an independent at the 1993 election. Hartley was a focus of intense interest leading into the 2002 election, at which it was the key seat that would decide whether Labor would get a majority in the event of a uniform swing. Labor candidate Quentin Black, who had been narrowly defeated on his first attempt in 1997, finished election night with a lead of 119 votes, but predictably fell behind when pre-polls and postals were counted. Labor complained of irregularities and considered a legal challenge, but lost their enthusiasm after a deal with Peter Lewis put them in government.

Liberal member Joe Scalzi (left), who stands five feet four, came to the seat in 1993 from a career as a high school teacher. He has been a fairly low-key figure since entering politics, taking until April 2004 to reach the position of parliamentary secretary for training. As an ally of Vickie Chapman, he is unlikely to be promoted further if Iain Evans assumes the leadership after the election, as most expect. His Labor opponent is fellow Italian Grace Portolesi (right), who works as chief-of-staff for Jay Weatherill, Left faction heavy and member for Cheltenham. Scalzi recently waxed indignant when Mike Rann praised Portolesi as being from a "good Italian family", demanding that Rann apologise to the "multicultural community" for no good reason the Poll Bludger can see.

A Sunday Mail poll of 500 voters on November 7 had the Liberals with surprisingly solid leads of 47 per cent to 37 per cent on the primary vote and 53-47 on two-party preferred.

Going into the last election, the Liberals were desperately worried about the electoral impact of the previous government's unpopular decision to sell Payneham Civic Centre to merchant banker JP Morgan as an investment centre site. The issue has not gone away: as Christian Kerr puts it in the City Messenger, "three years and almost $4 million in government incentives later the bank announced they would close the operation".

Two days out from the election, The Advertiser published another poll that went against the general expectation that this should be one of a number of seats to fall to Labor. It had Liberal leading 36 per cent to 32 per cent on the primary vote, with the undecided vote up from 11 per cent to 14 per cent on the previous Advertiser poll from November. Due to the high Family First vote of 6 per cent, Labor did not close the gap on preferences, trailing 48.5-51.5 on two-party preferred. It should be noted that the booths south of Magill Road, which serve a more middle-class and white-bread area than the ethnically mixed north, are renowned for resisting broader Labor swings at both state and federal elections.

ASSESSMENT: LABOR GAIN

The 6.7 per cent swing in Hartley was at the lower end of the Adelaide scale, but it was more than enough to make the difference in this finely poised marginal seat. The two-party swing was slightly higher than might have been expected from the primary vote figures, which had Labor up 6.0 per cent to 45.0 per cent and Liberal down 4.1 per cent to 39.5 per cent, due to a reversal of the donkey vote from 2002, a higher vote for the Greens (from 4.2 per cent to 6.7 per cent) and a lower vote for Family First (from 4.6 per cent to 4.2 per cent – one of only two electorates where their vote fell). As anticipated, the northern booths appeared to swing more readily than those in the south. There was a swing of 6.9 per cent in the main northern booth, Hectorville North, while the aforementioned Kensington Gardens booth south of Magill Road shifted only 3.3 per cent.

OUTCOME: LABOR GAIN (4.6%)