Spence – Australia 2019

ALP 17.1%

Incumbent MP
Nick Champion, member for Wakefield since 2007.

Northern fringe of Adelaide. Wakefield covers the towns of Elizabeth, Gawler and Salisbury on the northern outskirts of Adelaide. In addition to the entirety of the Gawler and Playford council areas, it covers northern parts of the Salisbury council area and small parts of the Barossa and Light council areas (those parts immediately to the north and east of Gawler.

Spence is a new name for the seat of Wakefield. The seat shifted south, losing its rural northern fringe to the neighbouring seats of Grey and Barker. Spence then took in a substantial part of the abolished seat of Port Adelaide, including Burton, Bolivar and the remainder of Salisbury. It also took in Salisbury South from Makin. These changes increased the Labor margin from 11% to 17.1%.

Spence is a new name for the seat of Wakefield, which was an original South Australian electorate, having been created in 1903 at the first election with single-member electorates in South Australia. The seat was almost always been held by conservative parties. Prior to the 2007 election, the ALP had only won the seat two times.

The seat was first won in 1903 by Frederick Holder. Holder had previously been Premier of South Australia and had won an at-large seat in the House of Representatives in 1901 and had been elected as the first Speaker of the House of Representatives. Holder served as an independent and as Speaker up until July 1909, when he died while presiding over a raucous session of the House of Representatives.

The ensuing by-election was won by the Commonwealth Liberal Party’s Richard Foster, who had previously served as a minister in state governments before losing his seat in 1906. Foster held the seat continuously until the 1928 election, when he was defeated by Country Party candidate Maurice Collins. Collins was defeated at the 1929 election, and the party has never won Wakefield since.

The seat was won in 1929 by Nationalist Charles Hawker, who went on to serve as a minister in Joseph Lyons’ first government before resigning from the ministry in protest against high ministerial salaries during the Depression. Hawker died in a plane crash in 1938.

The ALP’s Sidney McHugh won the seat in the following by-election. McHugh was a former state MP, and lost the seat to UAP candidate John Duncan-Hughes in 1940 before returning to state politics. Duncan-Hughes had previously held the seat of Boothby before losing it in 1928, and then had served as a UAP Senator from 1932 to 1938.

Duncan-Hughes lost to ALP candidate Albert Smith in 1943. Smith was defeated by Philip McBride (LIB) in 1946. McBride had previously held the seat of Grey and then served in the Senate, and had served in Menzies’ first ministry while in the Senate.

McBride served as a minister when the Liberal Party gained power in 1949, first as Minister for the Interior and then as Minister for Defence from 1950 until his retirement in 1958.

Bert Kelly won the seat in 1958, and was a prominent proponent of free trade at a time when it was a minority view. He served as a minister from 1967 until 1969 but his advancement was limited by his free trade advocacy.

The redistribution before the 1977 election abolished the seat of Angas and the sitting member for Angas, Geoffrey Giles, challenged Kelly for Liberal preselection and won Wakefield. Giles had held Angas since 1964, when he won a by-election triggered by the death of Alexander Downer Sr.

Giles retired in 1983, and was succeeded by Neil Andrew. Andrew had a largely undistinguished career until after the 1998 election, when he was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives.

A redistribution before the 2004 election made Wakefield a notional Labor seat, and Andrew retired. Despite the unfavourable redistribution the Liberal Party’s David Fawcett retained the seat. Fawcett held the seat for one term before losing it to the ALP’s Nick Champion in 2007.

Champion was re-elected in 2010, 2013 and 2016.


  • Nick Champion (Labor)
  • Kathleen Bourne (Liberal)
  • Ron Fiedler (United Australia)
  • Daniel Jury (Greens)
  • Rita Kuhlmann (Animal Justice)
  • Nathan Herbert (Independent)
  • Assessment
    Spence is the safest Labor seat in South Australia.

    2016 result

    Nick Champion Labor 38,19739.8-1.745.1
    Kathleen Bourne Liberal 25,29926.4-11.520.7
    Richard InwoodNick Xenophon Team19,59220.4+20.420.0
    Marilyn PhillipsFamily First5,3965.6-0.46.0
    Craig Vanstone Greens 4,1024.3-0.94.6
    John BoltonIndependent2,7282.8+2.82.2
    Ralph AndersonChristian Democratic Party6190.6+0.70.7

    2016 two-party-preferred result

    Nick Champion Labor 58,49461.0+7.667.1
    Kathleen Bourne Liberal 37,43939.0-7.632.9

    Booth breakdown

    Booths have been divided into three parts: central, north-east and south-west.

    The ALP won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in all three areas, with a small 54.7% majority in the north-east Gawler area, and larger majorities of over 70% in the centre and south-west.

    The Nick Xenophon Team came third, with a primary vote ranging from 18.9% in the centre to 21.2% in the north-east.

    Voter groupNXT prim %ALP 2PP %Total votes% of votes
    Other votes21.362.514,4058.5

    Election results in Spence at the 2016 federal election
    Toggle between two-party-preferred votes and Nick Xenophon Team primary votes.

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    1. Combined, the 2003 and 2017 redistributions improved Labor’s position in Wakefield/Spence by over 22%.

    2. Spence is now the same as the pre-2004 Bonython. The commissioners then decided to keep the older Wakefield name – I think Bonython was only added in 1949. This time they decided to scrap it for no pressing reason.

    3. I was also surprised by the discarding of the Wakefield name. The AEC went to such trouble to retain the name in 2003 – they basically renamed another seat – only to hastily toss it aside this time around.

      Perhaps they didn’t like having a Wakefield division that didn’t cover Wakefield LGA; though these sort of anomalies have rarely bothered them before.

      More likely the naming policies have changed in recent years, even if the formal guidelines haven’t. Spence is certainly a worthy name for the electorate.

    4. Kathleen Bourne is again running for this seat (formerly Wakefield).

      Like Kingston and Makin, Spence is totally out of reach for the Liberals.


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