Des Corcoran

James Desmond Corcoran AO (8 November 1928 – 3 January 2004) was an Australian politician, representing the South Australian Branch of the Australian Labor Party. He was the 37th Premier of South Australia, serving between 15 February 1979 and 18 September 1979. He also served as the 1st Deputy Premier of South Australia in 1968 and again from 1970 to 1979.

Des Corcoran

Des corcoran.jpeg
37th Premier of South Australia
Elections: 1979
In office
15 February 1979 – 18 September 1979
MonarchElizabeth II
GovernorSir Keith Seaman
DeputyHugh Hudson
Preceded byDon Dunstan
Succeeded byDavid Tonkin
31st Leader of the Opposition (SA)
In office
18 September 1979 – 2 October 1979
Preceded byDavid Tonkin
Succeeded byJohn Bannon
15th Australian Labor Party (SA) leader
In office
15 September 1979 – 2 October 1979
Preceded byDon Dunstan
Succeeded byJohn Bannon
Treasurer of South Australia
In office
15 February 1979 – 18 September 1979
PremierDes Corcoran
Preceded byDon Dunstan
Succeeded byJohn Bannon
Member of the South Australian Parliament
for Hartley
In office
17 September 1977 – 6 November 1982
Preceded byNew district
Succeeded byTerry Groom
Member of the South Australian Parliament
for Coles
In office
12 July 1975 – 17 September 1977
Preceded byLen King
Succeeded byJennifer Cashmore
Member of the South Australian Parliament
for Millicent
In office
3 March 1962 – 12 July 1975
Preceded byJim Corcoran
Succeeded byMurray Vandepeer
Personal details
James Desmond Corcoran

8 November 1928
Millicent, South Australia
Died3 January 2004 (aged 75)
Adelaide, South Australia
Political partyAustralian Labor Party (SA)

Early life

Born in Millicent, South Australia, Corcoran joined Labor in 1941. He enlisted in the Australian Army and fought in the Korean War (where he was mentioned in dispatches), as well as serving in Japan, Malaya and New Guinea.


Corcoran left the Army in 1961 and in 1962 was elected to the South Australian House of Assembly Electoral district of Millicent, succeeding his father, Jim Corcoran. Corcoran quickly impressed many within the Labor Party with his vigorous approach and his talent for administration. When the ALP won government in South Australia in 1965 for the first time in 32 years, Corcoran became Minister of Irrigation, Minister of Lands, and Minister of Repatriation. The new Premier, Frank Walsh, made Corcoran his chief political confidant. Like Walsh, Corcoran was a firm anti-communist and a devout Catholic. In fact, Walsh attempted to groom Corcoran as his successor, hoping to foil the ambitions of Deputy Leader Don Dunstan, whom Walsh resented and distrusted. Following the septuagenarian Walsh's retirement in 1967, Corcoran challenged Dunstan for the leadership, but lost by three votes. As a concession to Corcoran, Dunstan named him Deputy Leader, and created the post of Deputy Premier of South Australia for him as well. In Dunstan's 1967-68 Cabinet, Corcoran dropped the Repatriation portfolio in favor of Immigration.

Labor lost its majority at the 1968 election, mainly due to losing two marginal rural seats. Corcoran himself was nearly defeated in his own seat, winning by just one vote over his LCL rival Martin Cameron. Cameron protested and a by-election was held later that year, with Corcoran winning more comfortably, leaving the new Steele Hall LCL government to rely on the casting vote of Independent Speaker Tom Stott. Following the election, Corcoran became Deputy Opposition Leader under Dunstan; and upon Labor's victory at the 1970 election, he returned to the Deputy Premiership. He also served as Minister of Public Works and Minister of Marine and Harbours.

Over the next nine years, Dunstan and Corcoran made an unconventional but functional team. Corcoran privately opposed many of the social reforms Dunstan was implementing, such as liberalised abortion and homosexuality laws. In addition, Corcoran disliked Dunstan's glamorous image and fondness for the arts. A conservative dresser, Corcoran did not at all share Dunstan's enthusiasm for wearing casual clothes on public occasions. Nevertheless, the two men felt a wary respect for one another and managed to maintain a working relationship. Behind the scenes, Dunstan sometimes found Corcoran's plain-speaking style useful, in order to control others within the ALP. Meanwhile, Dunstan remained the public face of the Labor government over the next decade. When a redistribution made Millicent notionally Liberal, Corcoran transferred to the Adelaide-area seat of Coles. However, when a redistribution made that seat unwinnable before the 1977 election, Corcoran transferred to nearby Hartley.

By early 1979, Dunstan's health had deteriorated to the point that he could not continue in office, and he resigned on 15 February. Corcoran was elected his successor—thus finally achieving his dream of becoming Premier. He also served as Treasurer and Minister for Ethnic Affairs. Spurred by positive opinion polls, Corcoran called a snap election two years before it was due (without pre-informing the party apparatus) in the hope that he would gain a mandate of his own. The election campaign was plagued by problems; the state's main newspaper, The Advertiser, openly favoured the Liberal campaign. At the election, Labor suffered an 8% swing against it and lost to the Liberals under David Tonkin.

After the election, Corcoran soon resigned from the Labor leadership and was succeeded by the much younger John Bannon, whose urbane style and academic background brought him much closer to Dunstan than to Corcoran. In 1982 Bannon easily defeated Tonkin and led Labor back into government. Corcoran did not run in that election.


Corcoran died in 2004, aged 75, survived by his wife, Carmel, their eight children and twelve grandchildren.


  • Doherty, E., Heggen, B. & Pippos, C. "Former premier Corcoran dies", Sunday Mail, p 2, 4 January 2004.
  • Jory, R. "SA premier put his own mark on office", The Courier-Mail, p. 22, 2 February 2004.
  • Kelton, G. "Pragmatic man of the people not forgotten", The Advertiser, p. 18, 5 January 2004.

External links

Political offices
New title Deputy Premier of South Australia
Succeeded by
Hugh Hudson
Preceded by
Allan Rodda
Minister for Works
Succeeded by
John Wright
as Minister for Public Works
Preceded by
Don Dunstan
Premier of South Australia
Succeeded by
David Tonkin
Treasurer of South Australia
Parliament of South Australia
Preceded by
Jim Corcoran
Member for Millicent
Succeeded by
Murray Vandepeer
Preceded by
Len King
Member for Coles
Succeeded by
Jennifer Cashmore
New division Member for Hartley
Succeeded by
Terry Groom
Party political offices
Preceded by
Don Dunstan
Leader of the Australian Labor Party (South Australian Branch)
Succeeded by
John Bannon
1979 South Australian state election

State elections were held in South Australia on 15 September 1979. All 47 seats in the South Australian House of Assembly were up for election. The incumbent Australian Labor Party led by Premier of South Australia Des Corcoran was defeated by the Liberal Party of Australia led by Leader of the Opposition David Tonkin.

The Liberals originally won 25 seats, but a court decision overturned their win in Norwood. Labor won the Norwood by-election, which meant the Liberals held 24 seats, with Labor on 20 seats.

1979 in Australia

The following lists events that happened during 1979 in Australia.

Allan Rodda

William Allan Rodda (1917 - 27 May 2010) was an Australian politician who represented the South Australian House of Assembly seat of Victoria for the Liberal and Country League and Liberal Party from 1965 to 1985.Rodda was born in Tumby Bay. He served as a bomber pilot with the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II. Upon his return, he took a position administering the soldier settlement scheme at Penola, and later became a sheep farmer at Naracoorte. He was elected to the House of Assembly at the 1965 election, and promoted to Cabinet in the last months of the Hall ministry in 1970. He again served in Cabinet when his party regained power in 1979 under David Tonkin, most notably as Chief Secretary, which included responsibilities for police and prisons. His ministerial term saw him deal with a number of controversial issues, including introduction of random breath testing for South Australian drivers, changes to the operation of prisons in the state, and public concern around police corruption. He resigned from the ministry in 1982 and retired from parliament in 1985.

Australian Labor Party (South Australian Branch)

The Australian Labor Party (South Australian Branch), commonly known as South Australian Labor, is the South Australian Branch of the Australian Labor Party, originally formed in 1891 as the United Labor Party of South Australia. It is one of two major parties in the bicameral Parliament of South Australia, the other being the Liberal Party of Australia (SA Division).

Since the 1970 election, marking the beginning of democratic proportional representation (one vote, one value) and ending decades of pro-rural electoral malapportionment known as the Playmander, Labor have won 11 of the 15 elections. Spanning 16 years and 4 terms, Labor was last in government from the 2002 election until the 2018 election. Jay Weatherill led the Labor government since a 2011 leadership change from Mike Rann. During 2013 it became the longest-serving state Labor government in South Australian history, and in addition went on to win a fourth four-year term at the 2014 election.

Labor's most notable historic Premiers of South Australia include Thomas Price in the 1900s, Don Dunstan in the 1970s and John Bannon in the 1980s.

David Tonkin

Dr David Oliver Tonkin AO (20 July 1929 – 2 October 2000) was the 38th Premier of South Australia, serving from 18 September 1979 to 10 November 1982. He was elected to the House of Assembly seat of Bragg at the 1970 election, serving until 1983. He became the leader of the South Australian Division of the Liberal Party of Australia in 1975, replacing Bruce Eastick. Initially leading the party to defeat at the 1977 election against the Don Dunstan Labor government, his party won the 1979 election against the Des Corcoran Labor government. Following the 1980 Norwood by-election the Tonkin government was reduced to a one-seat majority. His government's policy approach combined economic conservatism with social progressivism. The Tonkin Liberal government was defeated after one term at the 1982 election by Labor led by John Bannon.

Deputy Premier of South Australia

The Deputy Premier of South Australia is the second-most senior officer in the Government of South Australia. The Deputy Premiership is a ministerial portfolio in the Cabinet of South Australia, and the Deputy Premier is appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Premier of South Australia.

The current Deputy Premier since 2018 is Vickie Chapman of the South Australian Division of the Liberal Party of Australia.

Electoral district of Coles

Coles was an electoral district of the House of Assembly in the Australian state of South Australia from 1970 to 2002. The district was based in the eastern suburbs of Adelaide.

Coles was first contested at the 1970 election and was won by Labor's Len King as a marginal seat. King increased the Labor two-party margin to a fairly safe 9.2 percentat the 1973 election.

King retired before the 1975 election and was succeeded by Deputy Premier Des Corcoran, who transferred to Coles after his majority in Millicent was redistributed away. Corcoran won, though the Labor margin was pared down to a marginal 4.2 percent from a swing of five percent.

A boundary redistribution ahead of the 1977 election pushed the seat into Liberal-friendly territory in the Adelaide Hills. On these boundaries, the Liberals now held it with a margin of 3.8 percent. Believing this made Coles impossible to hold, Corcoran moved to the newly created neighbouring seat of Hartley. Liberal candidate Jennifer Adamson won the seat for the Liberals at the 1977 election.

Adamson picked up a large swing in the 1979 election as the Liberals won government, but was nearly defeated at the 1982 election. A boundary redistribution ahead of the 1985 election consolidated the Liberal hold on the seat by pushing it further into the Adelaide Hills, increasing the Liberal two-party margin from a marginal 1.3 percent to a safe 9 percent. Adamson, who was later known as Jennifer Cashmore, held the seat without serious difficulty until handing it to Joan Hall, wife of former premier Steele Hall, in 1993.

Coles was abolished and renamed Morialta ahead of the 2002 election.

Electoral district of Hartley

Hartley is a single-member electoral district for the South Australian House of Assembly. It is named after John Anderson Hartley, the public servant responsible for creating much of South Australia's public education system. It is a 15.65 km² suburban electorate in Adelaide's northeast, taking in the suburbs of Campbelltown, Hectorville, Magill, Newton, Paradise and Tranmere.

Hartley was created at the electoral redistribution of 1976 as a marginal Labor seat, and was first contested at the 1977 state election by then Deputy Premier Des Corcoran, who had moved from the more marginal seat of Coles after a redistribution erased Labor's majority there. He was succeeded by Terry Groom. The 1991 redistribution erased Groom's majority and made the seat marginally Liberal. Believing this made Hartley unwinnable, Groom tried to gain preselection for a safer seat, only to be turned down. He resigned from the Labor Party and served out the rest of his term as an independent. The seat subsequently fell to Groom's 1989 challenger, Joe Scalzi at the 1993 election amid that year's massive Liberal landslide. Scalzi was nearly defeated at the 1997 election, in which his margin was reduced to a paper-thin 0.7 percent, making Hartley the Liberals' most marginal seat—a status that remained unchanged in 2002 as Labor won government. Scalzi was swept away amidst the landslide Labor victory at the 2006 election, conceding defeat to Labor's Grace Portolesi, and failed to regain the seat at the 2010 election. A redistribution saw Labor's majority reduced from an already-marginal 2.3 percent to a paper-thin 0.1 percent. Liberal Vincent Tarzia defeated Labor's Portolesi at the 2014 election.

Electoral district of Millicent

Millicent was an electoral district of the House of Assembly in the Australian state of South Australia from 1956 to 1977.Based on the town of Millicent, the seat was carved out of the south of the seat of Victoria. It was held by Labor as a marginal to safe seat until the 1975 election with the seat won by the Liberals as a fairly safe seat for one term until it was abolished, with the town of Millicent absorbed back into the seat of Victoria. Its best-known holder was Des Corcoran, who served as Deputy Premier under Don Dunstan.

A redistribution ahead of the 1975 election made Millicent notionally Liberal, prompting Corcoran to transfer to Coles. That move proved prescient, as Murray Vandepeer took the seat for the Liberals on a swing of 16.4 percent. Millicent was one of several country seats that saw large swings away from Labor at that election; others included Chaffey (13.5 percent) and Mount Gambier (15.5 percent).

The town of Millicent is currently located in the safe Liberal seat of MacKillop, which replaced Victoria in 1993. The two current Millicent booths totaling 3,000 voters are fairly safe and safe Liberal.

Electoral district of Morialta

Morialta is a single-member electoral district for the South Australian House of Assembly. It is a 356 km2 electorate stretching from the Adelaide Hills to the outer eastern and north-eastern suburbs of Adelaide, taking in the suburbs and localities of Ashton, Athelstone, Basket Range, Birdwood, Castambul, Cherryville, Cudlee Creek, Forest Range, Gumeracha, Highbury, Kenton Valley, Lenswood, Lobethal, Marble Hill, Montacute, Mount Torrens, Norton Summit, Rostrevor, Summertown, Teringie, Uraidla and Woodforde, as well as part of Chain of Ponds.

Morialta is a word derived from the Kaurna aboriginal word 'mariyatala', 'mari' meaning east and 'yertala' meaning flowing water. The land used by the Morialta Conservation Park was traditionally occupied by the Kaurna people. Morialta was the new name adopted in 2002 for the electoral district of Coles, which was first created at the 1970 election and represented over the years by several distinguished MPs, including former Dunstan Labor government Attorney General Len King, and former Premier Des Corcoran.

Morialta was won at the 2002 election by Liberal minister Joan Hall, the last member for Coles, on a margin of 4.1 percent, suffering a -2.4 percent swing. At the 2006 election, Hall was thought likely to again hold the seat with a reduced margin, but was defeated by Labor candidate Lindsay Simmons amidst Labor's statewide landslide, receiving a 12 percent two-party preferred swing to finish with a 7.9 percent margin. However, at the 2010 election the electorate there was a swing of 11.1 percent back to the Liberals, with candidate John Gardner defeating Simmons by a margin of 4.1 percent.

Electoral results for the district of Hartley

This is a list of electoral results for the Electoral district of Hartley in South Australian state elections.

Graham Maguire

Graham Ross Maguire (born 21 April 1945) is a former Australian politician. Born in Adelaide, South Australia, he was educated at the University of Adelaide and then the Australian National University in Canberra, becoming an economist. He was a ministerial advisor to South Australian Labor Premiers Don Dunstan, Des Corcoran and John Bannon. In 1983, he was elected to the Australian Senate as a Labor Senator for South Australia. He held the seat until his defeat in 1993.

Jim Corcoran (politician)

James Corcoran (1 October 1885 – 7 May 1965) was an Australian politician. He was the Labor member for Victoria in the South Australian House of Assembly from 1945 until his defeat in 1947, and again from 1953 until 1956, when he transferred to the nearby seat of Millicent. He retired in 1962 and handed the seat to his son, future Premier Des Corcoran.

Martin Cameron

Martin Bruce Cameron (born 24 August 1935), Australian politician, was a member of the Australian Senate and the South Australian Legislative Council.

In 1968 Cameron contested the safe Labor House of Assembly seat of Millicent for the Liberal and Country League (LCL) after objecting to the views of incumbent Des Corcoran on road transport control. Cameron gained a 13% swing but lost by one vote. Cameron challenged the result at the Court of Disputed Returns, which ordered a by-election. Corcoran comfortably won the by-election.

Early in 1969, Senator Keith Laught died suddenly and Cameron was nominated by Premier Steele Hall as his replacement. However, Cameron's time in the Senate was brief, for an election for the vacancy was held to coincide with the 1969 Federal Election in October and he was defeated by Labor's Don Cameron (no relation).

Cameron entered South Australia's Legislative Council in 1971 following the retirement of Sir Norman Jude. He became an important ally of Steele Hall (now Leader of the Opposition), representing the increasingly visible moderate forces within the party. Cameron often opposed his fellow LCL Legislative Councillors, due to his support for Universal Suffrage for that chamber.

This tension within the LCL led to the formation of the Liberal Movement the following year. Led by Hall and Robin Millhouse, the movement originally functioned as a faction within the LCL. Cameron was one of its most prominent supporters. After the 1973 Election, the LCL (led at this stage by Bruce Eastick) expelled the Liberal Movement. Although some Liberal Movement members, such as future Premiers David Tonkin and Dean Brown, decided to remain in the LCL, Cameron left with Hall and Millhouse. Cameron was the only Liberal Movement member of the Legislative Council until the 1975 Election when he was joined by John Carnie.

However the Liberal Movement was vastly outpolled by the LCL (renamed the Liberal Party in 1974), and there was a push from within both parties for reunification. In 1976 Cameron and Hall rejoined the Liberal Party, while Millhouse initially formed the New LM before helping found the Australian Democrats.

Despite not serving in the Tonkin ministry, Cameron assumed the position of Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council after the election of the John Bannon Labor government at the 1982 Elections. He held this position until his retirement from politics in 1990.

Following his retirement from the Council, Cameron served a term as president of the South Australian branch of the Liberal Party. Later, he became a vocal supporter of the 'yes' case in the 1999 republic referendum.

Members of the South Australian House of Assembly, 1968–1970

This is a list of members of the South Australian House of Assembly from 1968 to 1970, as elected at the 1968 state election:

1 The narrow re-election of the Labor member for Millicent, Des Corcoran, was overturned by the Court of Disputed Returns on 28 May 1968. Corcoran won the resulting by-election on 22 June 1968.

Members of the South Australian House of Assembly, 1975–1977

This is a list of members of the South Australian House of Assembly from 1975 to 1977, as elected at the 1975 state election:

1 The Country Party renamed itself to the National Country Party during the course of this term..

2 The Liberal Movement voted to rejoin the Liberal Party in May 1976, with one of its two MHAs, David Boundy, following suit. The second MHA, Robin Millhouse, who had fiercely opposed the merger, immediately founded a new party, the New LM, and served as its sole representative in the House of Assembly.

Members of the South Australian House of Assembly, 1977–1979

This is a list of members of the South Australian House of Assembly from 1977 to 1979, as elected at the 1977 state election:

1 The Labor member for Norwood and outgoing Premier of South Australia, Don Dunstan, resigned due to ill health on 15 February 1979. Labor candidate Greg Crafter won the resulting by-election on 10 March 1979.

South Australian House of Assembly

The House of Assembly, or lower house, is one of the two chambers of the Parliament of South Australia. The other is the Legislative Council. It sits in Parliament House in the state capital, Adelaide.

West Lakes, South Australia

West Lakes is a suburb of Adelaide, the state capital of South Australia, Australia. It lies within the City of Charles Sturt. It contains the Westfield West Lakes Shopping Centre and the Riverside Golf Course. It also contains Delfin Island, a residential island within Boating Lake.

West Lakes has an irregular shape and shares borders with Port Adelaide, Queenstown, Royal Park, Seaton, Grange, Tennyson and West Lakes Shore.

The counted population on the night of the 2001 census was 5,940, and in 2011 was recorded as 5,730.

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