|Blue and red numbers respectively indicate booths with two-party majorities for Liberal and Labor. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.|
Barker encompasses South Australia along the Victorian border from Mount Gambier north to the Riverland and its population centres of Renmark, Loxton, Berri and Waikerie, extending westwards to the mouth of the Murray River and the towns of Angaston and Murray Bridge 75 kilometres to the east of Adelaide. It has existed since South Australia was first divided into single-member electorates in 1903, at all times encompassing the state’s south-eastern corner including Mount Gambier, Bordertown and Keith. From there it has generally extended either westwards to the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island or, as at present, northwards to the Riverland. The former territories were lost when Mayo was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984, but recovered from 1993 to 2004 as Mayo was drawn into Adelaide’s outskirts. The Riverland was accommodated by Angas prior to its abolition in 1977, and by Wakefield from 1993 to 2004. Barker’s present dimensions were established when South Australia’s representation was cut from twelve seats to eleven at the 2004 election, causing Barker to take back the Riverland from a radically redrawn Wakefield, while Mayo recovered the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island.
The areas covered by Barker presently and in the past have long been safe for the conservatives, the Riverland last having had Labor representation when Albert Smith held Wakefield for a term after the 1943 landslide. Barker has never been in Labor hands, nor come close to doing so since territory in southern Adelaide was ceded to the new seat of Kingston in 1949. Archie Cameron held the seat for the Country Party from 1934 to 1940, having been effectively granted it after helping facilitate a merger of the state’s conservative forces as the Liberal Country League while serving as the Country Party’s state parliamentary leader. Cameron succeeded Earle Page as federal parliamentary leader in 1939 but was deposed after the election the following year, causing him to quit the party and align himself with the United Australia Party and then the Liberal Party, which has held Barker ever since. He was succeeded in Barker on his retirement in 1956 by Jim Forbes, who was in turn succeeded in 1975 by James Porter.
Porter was defeated for preselection in 1990 by Ian McLachlan, a former high-profile National Farmers Federation president whom some were touting as a future prime minister. He would instead serve only a single term as a cabinet minister, holding the defence portfolio in the first term of the Howard government, before retiring at the 1998 election. McLachlan’s successor was Patrick Secker, who led a generally low-profile parliamentary career before being unseated for preselection before the 2013 election. Despite endorsement from Tony Abbott and moderate factional powerbroker Christopher Pyne, Secker reportedly lost a local ballot to Mount Gambier lawyer Tony Pasin by 164 votes to 78, with a further 40 recorded for Millicent real estate agent and Wattle Range councillor Ben Treloar. Pasin picked up a 3.5% swing at the election and holds the seat with a margin of 16.5%.