Seat of the week: Barton

This week we visit yet another endangered Labor seat in Sydney which the party is unaccustomed to losing.

Barton has covered Kogarah and surrounding areas on the north shore of the Georges River since its creation in 1922, currently extending north through Rockdale to Earlwood and Kingsgrove. Past members for Barton include Herbert “Doc” Evatt, who won the seat from the United Australia Party in 1940 and held it until 1958, when he moved to Hunter after close shaves in 1951 (when World War II hero Nancy Wake, running for the Liberals, came within 243 votes of victory) and 1955 (when Evatt prevailed by 226 votes). The seat nonetheless stayed with Labor until the 1966 disaster, subsequently changing hands along with government in 1975 and 1983. Gary Punch held the seat for generally narrow margins in the 1980s, but put enough fat on the margin in 1993 that his successor Robert McClelland survived the 1996 landslide.

A member of the NSW Right, McClelland held a series of senior portfolios after entering the shadow ministry in 1998 and served as Attorney-General since the election of the Rudd government. McClelland emerged as an important part of the Kevin Rudd camp during Julia Gillard’s prime ministership, an association going back to Rudd’s ascendancy over Kim Beazley in December 2006. An oblique reference by McClelland to the AWU affair in June 2012 was invoked as validating the subsequent blizzard of media interest in the matter, and was generally seen as a deliberate effort to undermine her. He had been dropped from the ministry after Rudd’s failed leadership bid the previous February, which followed two months from his demotion to emergency management and housing.

McClelland announced in January 2013 that he would bow out at the election, causing concern to Labor that the NSW government might seek to precipitate a by-election by offering him a position on the state’s Industrial Relations Commission. Reports in mid-2011 suggested McClelland was being advised to step aside to avoid a preselection stoush. It was thought the seat might provide an entry for former Premier Morris Iemma, who told the media he would not be interested if it involved “backstabbing friends”. The Iemma for Barton idea was again raised in October 2012 by Bob Carr, who speculating on the possibility that McClelland might decide to retire. When that duly came to pass in January 2013, Iemma did not emerge as a starter for the seat, encouraging the conclusion that he was not fancying Labor’s electoral prospects.

Labor will instead take the field with Steve McMahon, chief executive of the NSW Trainers Association (as in thoroughbred horses) and former mayor of Hurstville. McMahon won a local preselection ballot with 128 preselection votes against 101 for Shane O’Brien, Rockdale mayor and NSW Public Service Association assistant secretary, a former adviser to Tony Burke. McMahon reportedly had backing from Morris Iemma and state upper house MP Shaoquett Moselmane, key to votes from the Lebanese Muslim community, leading O’Brien to complain that his own support had come instead from “free-thinking individuals”. O’Brien’s opponents accused him of being a sore loser who had himself had courted the Macedonian and Greek vote. Moselmane had himself been a nominee early in the process but he quickly withdrew, amid suggestions he was merely seeking leverage to shore up his position on the upper house ticket.

The Liberal candidate is Nick Varvaris, accountant and mayor of Kogarah.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

1,124 comments on “Seat of the week: Barton”

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  1. confessions
    [I feel for her family, it must be awfully distressing to see that so soon after she passed away.]
    Her family would have long ago been inured to the hatred held by millions for her.

  2. sprocket:

    I predicted he picked the wrong person in Emmo to have a twitter spat with. When will PvO learn!

    Less is more, Peter!

  3. Yeah, the gleeful reaction to Thatcher’s death really isn’t a good look. The “Ding Dong” chart hacking thing was tolerable but the sight of these people holding a celebration in the streets on the day of her funeral is extremely unedifying. It certainly calls for a more somber and thoughtful response instead of clowns on unicycles, oh-so-serious student ‘revolutionaries’ and dreadlocked hippies traipsing around decapitating effigies.

    That said they certainly have the right to make foolish spectacles of themselves. I have read reports of some Tories over there saying the police should ‘enforce respect’ on the streets as if it’s their job!

  4. I’ve not followed the Gonski debate much, but had come to much the same conclusion as Mr Crean, that the government, if it wanted to get any political mileage from its plans for school funding, would have to go beyond just using a code word that meant nothing to many people.

    But I just saw an interview with the PM on one of the news programs tonight, and it brought back many memories of the 2010 campaign. Have we ever had a Prime Minister who spent so much time speaking like one of her bureaucrats? “Injections of x %”. “Indexed by y.z % over so many years”. Not exact quotes, but listening to her and calling out “bingo” when she comes out with a statistic like that is an illuminating enterprise. The newsreaders’ clear and straightforward descriptions of what Gonski entails constituted a more compelling case than the PM’s contribution.

  5. The good thing about our form of democracy is that people are reasonably free to make idiots of themselves and the authorities are powerless to stop them acting like idiots. Wouldn’t want it any other way.

  6. I’m sure a few people can agree with this.

    [As Grace Dent says in her perspicacious article in the Independent today, ‘I question how, in 2013, one female with power during the 1980s appears to now be carrying the can for thousands of decisions made by thousands of men. Or how in today’s enlightened age the attributes of powerful men – an eye for detail, doggedness, abundant energy, an ease with making unpopular choices – are still seen in women as evidence of a malevolent robot or a witch.’

  7. [The newsreaders’ clear and straightforward descriptions of what Gonski entails]
    They haven’t a clue.

  8. [I feel for her family, it must be awfully distressing to see that so soon after she passed away.]

    Her family consists of two children from whom she has been estranged for decades.

  9. This is as good as anything to indicate the irrational depths to which US support for Israel has sunk. We should not be in lock-step with the US on Israel policy at all.

    [“Barbara Boxer, AIPAC seek to codify Israel’s right to discriminate against Americans

    A bill introduced by the California Democrat would uniquely exempt Israel from long-standing requirements imposed on all other nations”]

  10. [Or how in today’s enlightened age the attributes of powerful men – an eye for detail, doggedness, abundant energy, an ease with making unpopular choices – are still seen in women as evidence of a malevolent robot or a witch.’ ]

    No-one has said that. Even her worst enemies admitted her political skills. The point is the policies she used those skills to implement.

  11. Thatcher was the most divisive figure in British politics, whose policies caused much hardship and misery to so many decent hard-working people. She just did not care.

    Her family is entitled to be accorded respect in their loss.

    Thatcher is not entitled to anything.

  12. confessions@1047. The anti-Thatcher stuff seems largely to come from a bunch of middle class would-be Bolsheviks who blame her for the shattering of their dreams of a socialist utopia back in the 1980s.

    Thatcher showed that the socialist “gains” of nationalization could be reversed by privatization. And she was resolutely and resoundingly anti-socialist in her rhetoric, and yet the broad mass of the British people supported her and voted for her (hint to lefties: most people in developed countries, even working class people, don’t want socialism).

    And then the Soviet Union broke up and the Berlin Wall came down.

    And when Labour finally got back in, they didn’t reverse many of Thatcher’s reforms.

    So she shattered the dreams of the would-be Bolsheviks of the UK and they haven’t forgiven her for it.

    I hope, if there is an afterlife, that she is sitting there with Dennis pissing herself laughing at the pathetic vindictive wankers.

  13. [Her family consists of two children from whom she has been estranged for decades.]

    Even more reason to feel for them at this time.

  14. [That makes it all ok then Psephos ]

    No, I agree it’s distasteful and silly. But it’s bunk to say these demos will distress Mark and Carol Thatcher, who are both very hard-boiled.

  15. On Thatcher. Its the right wing people calling for respect who are the hypocrites. They are the ones who wanted to erect a statue next to Churchhill.
    They are the ones that wanted a public spectacle funeral ceremony after the special sitting of Parliament.

    The Tories still dividing while polishing the turd. You do a public spectacle then you get the public doing spectacle. Good or bad.

  16. guytaur@1073: so the fact that a few overenthusiastic fans went over the top and inappropriately ranked her alongside Churchill gives a bunch of no-hopers an excuse to dance around rejoicing that she’s dead like she was Hitler or Pol Pot?

    History will judge her as a good PM who made strong, needed reforms, although she sometimes went a bit too far.

    I’ll ask you, like I’m asking all the lefties I know, what was wrong with her shutting down the inefficient, highly subsidized, loss-making coal mines? Cowl mines are bad, aren’t they?

  17. meher baba

    [yet the broad mass of the British people supported her and voted for her]
    Crap. Conservatives 1979 43.9% , 1983 42.4% , 1987 42.2% .She was saved by a split in the left. Not to mention the like of Foot. To put it in to perspective the Conservatives under Alec Douglas-Home lost the 1964 election with 43.4% of the vote.

  18. Thatcher spent last Xmas alone with her housekeeper. Mark lives in South Africa and Carol in Switzerland. They’ve both neglected her for years. She’s never had any close friends. The brutal truth is that apart from Dennis no-one much cared for her personally, mainly because she was a domineering bully. Mark is a low-life spiv who has made a shonky fortune trading on his surname. So I don’t have much sympathy for any of them really.

  19. baba

    I am talking about the hypocrisy of the right. They could easily have taken another path. They decided to do the public route. They knew how divisive her policies were.

    They knew about things like the petition on the Ding Dong song before deciding on a public service.

    Remember the Queen had some problems with the handling.

    If Australia had tried to do the same for the death of Sir John Kerr a similar reaction would probably happen.

    I am talking reality and the hypocrisy of those of the right. No public ceremony there would be no need for police to enforce “respect”

  20. Heath -who?
    Callaghan and Wilson forgotten even by the pollsters – a great pity -Wilson’s first term was a period of hope for a civil British society.

  21. [what was wrong with her shutting down the inefficient, highly subsidized, loss-making coal mines?]

    I was still a kid during Thatcher’s reign, but I’d hazard a guess that in true Tory fashion, her govt failed to implement measures to ensure people left unemployed by mine closures were reskilled so they could transition to other industries?

  22. Thatcher went to some lengths to ensure her family was given the only non royal hereditary title since 1965. It says a lot about her persona and politics

  23. I gather meher you admired thatcher.

    the guardian have been running a blog
    for people to comment

    none of us have walked in their shoes

    unless of course you lived in the uk at the time

  24. [Mark lives in South Africa and Carol in Switzerland. They’ve both neglected her for years. She’s never had any close friends.]

    Carol was shown on the news tonight uttering something suitably bland about the protesters.

    I feel sorry for her and her brother, even more so knowing that Thatcher really did die alone. If I was to learn that my mother had died alone and hated, I’d feel awful. Even more so if I were estranged from her.

  25. If anyone is interested, go to the and see Labor MP Glenda Jackson deliver her ‘tribute’ to Thatcher.

  26. feeney

    Saw it and thought it was a great speech but she also delivered it with dignity and what a strong cut through voice she has.

  27. I would suggest
    meher you have a look at the u tube

    Glenda Jackson
    now there is another great labor lady I would suggest her speech will be written in history
    and remembered , she lived In that time,
    so I suppose she knows something about the history

    I leaned a lot from her speach

  28. my say

    Now is not the time to be attacking someone’s Mother and Grandmother.

    There will come a time for all of that but the time is not now!

  29. mysay@1082: I think Thatcher did some good things. I’m sure that, as a person, she would have been hard to like (although I know someone – who is far more left-wing than me – who spent a day with her long before she became PM who was enormously impressed with her.

    She was a divisive figure, and this fact has influenced the reaction by some to her death.

    I personally am not outraged by their reaction. I see them as a bit pathetic: Thatcher left politics well over two decades ago. Get with the program!!

  30. [Psephos
    Posted Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Permalink
    a result that would deliver a devastating electoral defeat if repeated on September 14.

    Actually it would deliver a 4% swing and a loss of 14 seats. That would be a clear defeat but hardly “devastating.”]

    As I’ve said before I will be doing hand stands if the loss can be limited to about a dozen seats, which should prevent Abbott from completely destroying the government’s admirable legislative program.

    But I would have thought a 46-54 outcome would mean a much larger loss than fourteen seats.

  31. confessions

    [Thatcher really did die alone.]
    From this story she had at least one devoted person by her side over the last decade and to the end.
    [Kate with Thatcher till end

    As Margaret Thatcher weakened, a New Zealander read to her, kept her mind going and cared for her until the end……….”She was God’s gift to Margaret Thatcher,” said Lady Carla Powell, the Italian wife of the former prime minister’s trusted Downing Street private secretary, Lord Powell, of her New Zealand carer.
    ….As a trained private nurse, she worked fulltime for the former prime minister and served as her cook, her dresser and, most importantly, devoted friend and companion. Kate spent Christmases with the Iron Lady, cooking the turkey before they sat down to watch the Queen’s broadcast]

  32. Poroti@1076: under those circumstances, Thatcher’s 40+ per cent of the vote in three duccessive elections was a veritable serires of landslides. She won massive majorities in terms of seats in the House. If all those voters who “wasted” their votes on other parties had truly not wanted s Thatcher government, they would surely have voted Labour. Thatcher’s massive wins meant that she had the backing of the majority.

    You sound like the Libersl lovers I know claiming that Gillard “lost” the 2010 election.


    [One of the country’s last-remaining deep pits is to close, as the beleaguered industry shrinks still further…

    But the woes of Maltby and Saw Mill are only the latest in an industry that appears to have been in terminal decline since it produce 292 million tonnes of coal in 1913.

    By the time it was nationalised in 1947, coal industry output had already declined to 200 million tonnes a year – from 1,038 mines – as the beginning of production of North Sea gas in the 1960s provided power producers with an alternative source of energy. By 1983, just before a further raft of pit closures prompted the miners’ strikes, production was down to 120.8 million tonnes at 308 mines.

    Last year, the industry, which was reprivatised in 1994, produced just 17.8 million tonnes of coal at 52 mines and employed just 6,419 people – a monumental decline from the 470,000 workers in the industry in 1947.

    The decline looks set to continue, as the UK seeks to comply with EU legislation, introduced in 2001 and designed to reduce carbon emissions. This states that coal-fired stations built before 1987 – a particularly dirty source of energy – must either be modified with costly, modern emissions control equipment, or operate only for a total of 20,000 hours between 2008 and 2015, when they must come out of service completely. As a result, a series of coal-fired power plants will close early, significantly reducing customers for UK coal miners.

    Furthermore, as power producers seek to reduce their carbon emission, they are moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy in a development that will further hit demand for coal.]

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