Libs hope for a successor to Pyne

South Australia’s Sturt electorate is in the spotlight because long-standing Liberal MP Christopher Pyne is retiring after 26 years.

The Liberal candidate for Sturt is James Stevens. Stevens,35, has been described as a ‘moderate’.

He was president of the Young Liberals in South Australia and was previously chief of staff for Premier Steven Marshall before stepping down to run in the 2019 election.

Cressida O’Hanlon is the Labor candidate, and if elected will be the first female member for Sturt. O’Hanlon was previously a family mediator and a small business owner.

Paul Boundy is the Greens candidate. Boundy has a background in engineering, environmental management and grassroots campaigning. His priorities include the environment, vulnerable groups and ending big business influence on politics.

There are also minor parties and independents running, including Harbinda Roberts from the Animal Justice Party, Hedley Harding from the United Australia Party, Colin Thomas from the Child Protection Party, Angela Fulco from the Australian Progressives, and independent Nick Larcombe.

It is likely the preference votes for the Animal Justice Party, Child Protection Party, Australian Progressives and Larcombe will mainly flow to Labor, while the United Australia Party’s will likely flow to the Liberal Party.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has labelled the Sturt and Boothby electorates priority seats, essential to their election strategy.

With a Liberal margin of 5.4 per cent, Sturt has been a key Liberal seat for many years. If lost, it would demonstrate loss of support for the party overall, and any hopes to win much more marginal seats, such as Boothby which has a margin of 2.7 per cent, would be non-existent. After the election, the seat could become marginal.

Sturt residents have said infrastructure, education and taxes are important issues, with many hoping the Federal Government will improve roads to ease traffic congestion, specifically on Magill Rd and Portrush Rd.

Sturt residents want the government to expand public schools in the eastern suburbs as many children are denied entry to schools in their zone due to them being at or over capacity.

Sturt is 97 sq. km and is mostly filled with residential homes and retail shopping. Some pockets of the electorate are commercial and industrial areas, along with a number of educational institutions such as a few private schools and a university campus.

It has light industry, including the University of South Australia Magill campus and viticulture at Penfolds Winery in Magill.

There are also some industrial areas, including a section of the suburb of Newton, particularly the side streets between Gorge Rd and Graves St, which include businesses like meat manufacturers, construction suppliers and hydroponics.

The electorate is an inner metropolitan area, made up of well-established suburbs such as Burnside, Campbell Town, Magill and parts of Rostrevor.

In mid-2018, the Sturt electorate experienced significant redistribution due to the decision by the Electorate Commissioner to decrease South Australia’s seats in the House of Representatives from 11 to 10.

The Redistribution Committee determined that Magill, Uraidla, Summertown and the remainder of Rostrevor would be redistributed to the division of Sturt. The committee also ruled the suburbs of Norwood, Payneham, Felixstow, St Peters, Marden and Toorak Gardens would be moved into the division of Sturt.

The redistribution has added 18,528 new electors to the electorate. The demographic makeup of the suburbs redistributed into Sturt is very similar to the previous parts of the electorate, according to the latest census.

Since its creation, Sturt has almost always been held by the Liberal Party. Apart from two terms, when the electorate was held by Labor, the dynasty of the Wilson family held the seat until current MP Christopher Pyne. Keith Wilson was the first elected MP for Sturt in 1949 and was eventually succeeded by his son Ian.

Ian Wilson held the seat until Christopher Pyne won preselection and was elected in 1993. Since then Pyne has been re-elected a further eight times.

Prior to the 2016 federal election, Liberals held a two-party preferred vote of 60.08 per cent which was reduced to 55.89 per cent. The primary vote in 2016 was 44.4 per cent Liberal and 23.3 per cent Labor. The seat is more vulnerable to a change of party due to Pyne’s retirement.

According to the 2016 Census, the population of Sturt was 149,164, with 52 per cent to 48 per cent female/male split, and a median age of 41. The median age of Sturt is similar to surrounding areas (Boothby’s median age is 42) and is slightly higher than the national median age of 38.

In terms of employment, the largest percentage of people in Sturt (4.6 per cent) work in hospitals, with 3 per cent working in aged care services. Health policies are likely to be an important factor in more than 5000 people’s voting choices.

Families in Sturt earn an estimated average income $69,056 a year, and the unemployment rate matches the national rate of 6.9 per cent, but is lower than the state unemployment rate of 7.5 per cent.

Sturt is named after explorer Captain Charles Napier Sturt (1795-1869). As part of the European exploration of the continent, Sturt started from Sydney and ended in Adelaide. He also served on Norfolk Island as commandant of the garrison and worked as a public servant in South Australia.