Seat of the week: Barker

A conservative rural seat since the dawn of federation, Barker is under new management after Tony Pasin defeated incumbent Patrick Secker for Liberal preselection ahead of the 2013 election.

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%.

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.

3,554 comments on “Seat of the week: Barker”

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  1. Cory Bernardi, Minister for Bigotry, rails against women’s rights, and almost anyone who is not a christian, respectable, anglo-saxon professional (CRAP), in his new book, “Cory Goes Bananas”
    [One of Tony Abbott’s backbenchers has accused some women of using abortion as “an abhorrent form of birth control” and labelled those who advocate pro-choice as “pro-death.”

    Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has made the comments in his new book, The Conservative Revolution, in which he also calls for more flexible industrial relations laws, including a return to individual workplace agreements whereby penalty rates can be negotiated away.

    Senator Bernardi also rails against non-traditional families, surrogacy and euthanasia and calls on fellow conservatives to help to reverse the trends in social acceptance of changing attitudes.]

    Well if anyone was wondering whether here was anything left fighting for in politics, Cory reminds us there are still people out there who would prefer to destroy 100 years of social progress if we let them. Cory would prefer to turn Australia into a replica of Chile under Pinochet.

  2. Bernardi’s back to the 18th century book, reviewed by Latika. You will note the repetition of the “infamous” label, which was only the media blowing up the final joke made by Julia and ignoring the essence of the speech.

    [In her infamous “blue ties” speech, delivered shortly before she was dumped as prime minister, Julia Gillard warned that “men in blue ties” would seek to make abortion rights their “plaything” if the Coalition won office.]

  3. The Antarctic story running hot in Murdoch rags is pure “Pub Test”.

    It appeals to all the smartarses who would rather mock their enemies than debate them.

    The Oz, today, is currently running a generally negative story, basically asserting that the passengers on the ship have frivolously caused a lot of trouble, put others in danger, may be the focus of an international incident between the US and China and generally behaved like spoilt brats.

    US drawn into pack ice rescue saga

    The Antarctic stranding and rescue, which will potentially cost ship owners and governments several millions of dollars, has been reported around the world.

    The stranding has also caused major disruption to a highly anticipated Chinese Antarctic program and frustrated the work of French and Australian scientists.

    After the passengers were plucked to safety, debate started on whether there should be greater restrictions on Antarctic tourism.

    Australian Marine Safety Authority general manager John Young has said tourist ventures should be allowed but lessons from the Shokaliskiy stranding may inform future protocols.

    It has been revealed that the Shokalskiy had only five days of supplies left when the passengers were evacuated on Thursday.

    French Polar Institute director Yves Frenot told AFP the “pseudo-scientific expedition” had drained resources from the French, Chinese and Australian scientific missions in Antarctica.

    “Those Warmists, they’re just bad news all ’round.”

    At a barbecue I attended over the weekend, the host mentioned the story in a bad light. He’d cottoned onto the “irony” angle – “Warmists On Ice!” – and applied Barbecue Stopper tactics to it.

    It was his place, his food, his beer and his pool, so no-one really wanted to start a big argument about Global Warming, and how ice in one place can be a symptom of warming in another.

    I invited him to walk three metres and look inside his precious mega freezer, where he would find a warm compressor, running on electricity, and warm refrigeration coils supporting sub-zero temperatures inside the chamber of the freezer as a kind of illustration of how heat applied in one area can incite cold somewhere else in the same system, but he’d made his Barbecue Stopper point and wasn’t going to be diverted from it.

    “Who wants to holiday in Antarctica anyway? When there are beautiful beaches to swim at? Wankers!”


    Hey, it was someone’s 40th birthday. Let’s not argue politics. Suddenly incontrovertible science is just another political shitfight, and we don’t discuss politics over pizza and snags.


    The Oz story today cites the Wall St. Journal as a source. The other day I saw a clip from Fox News, mocking the tourists as well. It seems Murdoch is running a multinational Barbecue Stopper, using the kind of twisted logic that appeals to those who have given up on rational thought and just want to score a cheap laugh in-between beers.

    It’s a disgrace, of course, but we are being “governed” by a bunch of frat-boy level reactionary politicians who honed their people skills in the corridors of St. John’s College and the dormitories of exclusive boarding schools.

    Global Warming has morphed from a scientific issue to a political one, and hence all the phoney political rules apply. It’s just another proxy battle between Left and Right.

    “Balance” is one of the main weapons used. That’s “Balance” as in “Fair And Balanced”.

    It’s difficult for a journalist keen to keep his or her job, or to stay on the Press Release drip-feed, to report on Global Warming without, at some stage in the story or article, acknowledging that some people disagree with the “theory”.

    The ABC here in Australia is particularly prone to this strategy. Abbott, in making Global Warming “political” has forced the ABC to present – po-faced – the “alternative” line: that “some people say” it’s just a figment of some tit-sucking scientist’s imagination, and a convenient vehicle for “The Left” to suck more taxes out of beleaguered battlers, struggling with Cost Of Living increases.

    As worldwide temperature records are broken, year by year now, providing – if nothing else, and at the very least – pause for thought on whether Global Warming is a current, and not just a future reality, every excuse under the sun is being trotted out to put off the day when finally we have to face up to the fact that the world is slowly cooking itself to death.

    That “Serious” newspapers, such as The Australian and the Wall St. Journal are running (and inspiring) the same line that my half-drunk barbecue host was running, using the same socio-political pressure – it’s impolite to argue with your host, as it’s impertinent for the ABC to give “unbalanced” coverage – is a terrible shame.

    The end result of more delay, as we in Australia – one of the worst offenders in the CO2 pollution stakes – wind back our Climate Change response to virtually tokenistic level, can only be bad.

    But it doesn’t seem to worry those to whom governance is a week-by-week (if not day-by-day) battle to win the polls long enough to complete the real agenda of handing over a nation’s treasure to their mates.

  4. Why is AGW scepticism a conservative attitude? It wouldn’t be about fear of losing power and profits, would it?

    [Thousands of people have lost power and about 200 have seen their homes flooded over the past few weeks, putting David Cameron under pressure over cuts to the Environment Agency’s budget.

    . . .

    However, Labour accused Owen Paterson, the Conservative environment secretary of ignoring the increased risk of flooding because he is sceptical about climate change science.

    Maria Eagle, the shadow environment secretary, said Paterson had questions to answer about why he was allowing cuts at the Environment Agency that could affect Britain’s ability to deal with severe weather incidents.]

  5. The most interesting thing about that story on how Abbott came to their 1 million job estimates are the words “a coalition insider said”.

    Who’s leaking and why?

  6. In stunning news today the ACCC has urged the Abbott Government to privatize the ACCC.

    There is absolutely no need for taxpayers to subsidise huge salaries for ACCC workers, announced the ACCC.

    The work done by the ACCC can easily done through competitive tendering by multi-national companies based in Switzerland and India with huge cost savings to Australia.

  7. Guytaur,

    Bernardi is a side show.

    His comments are highly unlikely to influence the voting patterns of people in WA some months hence.

    You really do get over excited, don’t you.

  8. guytaur,

    Bernardi has been spouting variations of the same rubbish for years. Are you telling me the Libs smashing victory in September was due to a negative reaction to his burblings.

    You really have NFI.

  9. I read the link, thanks BK, and was struck by:

    […a Coalition insider says….]

    Oh dear, there are some rats in the ranks.
    Then I saw the GG had beaten me to it.
    Oh well, its worth repeating cos this leak by this COALition insider is worth emphasizing.

    Its purely negative in intent.
    Straight out termite.

    The source is simply anti-Abbott and co, there is no policy issue here, we all know ‘1 million jobs’ is just a slogan so to deliberately bring that to the attention of the public serves no purpose other than leadership rocking the boat.
    Someone, among others maybe, is not a happy chappy.
    Its gotta be a chap doesn’t it, just on the numbers.
    Mal Rainman Turnbull, jolly Joe?

  10. GG

    You really have no idea. These matters count with women voters dismissing them as known variations does not cut it.

    Ask the women on this blog.

  11. guytaur
    Not sure that the Bernardi rubbish will change the minds of conservative voters. I think it will merely cement the antipathy towards the Libs amongst the rest.

  12. Can we please get over the “oh! random violence! this means our society is going down the gurgler…’ stuff?

    I’m not advocating street violence, of course, and am all in favour of steps to reduce it – but let’s not pretend that it is a modern phenomena, or buy into the ‘law and order’ crisis that governments do like to create.

    Street violence has been around probably as long as there has been streets.

    One of my family connections was killed in the 1970s by a gang looking for a thrill kill – his chest was pierced by the stilettos worn by one of the women involved. My brother in law was assaulted for no reason, walking home from the pub in a small country town over thirty years ago.

    There are countless novels on Australian life which describe street violence quite casually, as a fact of life.

    C.J. Dennis’s “The Sentimental Bloke’ (and several other of his poems) portray street violence as a way of life —

    [They scraps in ole Verona wiv the’r swords,
    An’ never give a bloke a stray dog’s chance,
    An’ that’s Romance.
    But when they deals it out wiv bricks an’ boots
    In Little Lon., they’re low, degraded broots.]

    Yes, street violence is a problem. Yes, it should be tackled. Yes, it’s dangerous to walk down the streets of Kings Cross at night (when hasn’t it been?) — but hundreds of people do it every night without ill effects.

    I’m not against discussion of the issues – I’m just against exaggerating them, or using them to suggest that they’re an indication of the decay of society.

  13. guytaur,

    Bernardi is talking to his base. It might be small, it might be rusted ons only. But, it is significant and influential. There are plenty of people that agree with what Bernardi is spouting. It’s just you are unlikely to hear from them in mainstream media because these views are not particularly fashionable.

    Anyway you proclaiming that a minor politician will influence an election in another State where he is even less well known in a few months time is simply laughable.

    You need a Bex and a good lie down.

  14. lizzie

    the irony is that conservatives should be the very people pushing for change in this area – conservatism is not meant to be a blind rejection of anything that threatens a status quo. Traditional conservatives place great emphasis on necessary change, supported by evidence and backed by experts.

    What we are seeing is not conservatism in action – Sean is not conservative, for example – but reactionaries.

    Reading articles on Bernardi’s book this morning, you can see his thinking is more aligned with that of the Taliban than that of conservatives.

  15. lizzie

    Senator Bernadi putting abortion on the table can only lose the LNP votes not gain them.

    The only way for Abbott to change this perception is to publicly oppose abortion himself.

  16. guytaur

    [The only way for Abbott to change this perception is to publicly oppose abortion himself.]

    You mean he’ll tell the truth for once? 😀

  17. Re Socrates @3: I don’t understand why we allow right wing politicians, clergy and others who oppose a woman’s right to choose abortion or contraception to get away with calling themselves ‘pro-life’ and those who disagree with them ‘pro death’ or similar.

    So, they they would insist a child once conceived (or even not yet conceived) be brought into the world in spite of the mother’s wishes or readiness to raise a child. However, they mostly oppose public spending on measures that would improve the start that the unborn child would have in life, including health care, welfare support and public education. In the USA They favour gun ownership. They are usually strongly in favour of the death penalty and very hawkish in matters of war and peace.

    Indeed, concern for life in the womb seems to be inversely proportional to concern for life once the child is born. These crazy white guys are anti-life, not pro-life.

  18. “@latikambourke: Lib Senator Cory Bernadi tells @BreakfastNews there needs to be an investigation into ‘ways’ & ‘measures’ to ‘assist’ in reducing abortions”

  19. guytaur,

    Bernardi is not interested in swinging voters. He’s interested in propagating his views and consolidating his support among conservative Christians. His views will also resonate with Muslims and other religious groups that oppose abortion.

    As for Abbott, he’ll simply say the LNP is a broad church with views from a cross section of the community. Isn’t that a wonderful thing that all views are canvassed instead of having PC prescriptions on what can be said and thought. Finally, there are no current plans to change any of the laws around this issue.

    And, then he moves on. Everyone’s a winner.

  20. One very devout Catholic woman I know was shocked to realise that two operations undergone by members of her family would have been described as abortions in Medicare statistics.

    In one case, the baby died in utero at seven months, in the other, scans showed that the baby was alive but had no brain function.

    Changed her thinking about ‘the scourge of abortion’ – or at least, about the random quoting of Medicare numbers.

  21. The truth is the best and effective measure to reduce abortions is sex education and contraception like condoms.

    No pregnancy no abortion.

  22. Abbotts comment on abortion

    ‘The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.’

    Not that far from Bernardi’s

  23. Ah, Guytaur reverts to the politics of stating the bleeding obvious.

    He’s clearly now on comfortable ground.

  24. Another Abbott quote.

    [To a pregnant 14-year-old struggling to grasp what’s happening, for example, example, a senior student with a whole life mapped out or a mother already failing to cope under difficult circumstances, abortion is the easy way out. It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations.]

  25. “@AlboMP: Chatting to @ABC24 at 9am about the extraordinary conservative agenda outlined by Abbott confidante Cory Bernardi in his new book”

  26. [It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations.]

    Yes, some people run away when confronted by an unwanted pregnancy….

  27. BB

    As worldwide temperature records are broken, year by year now, providing – if nothing else, and at the very least – pause for thought on whether Global Warming is a current, and not just a future reality, every excuse under the sun is being trotted out to put off the day when finally we have to face up to the fact that the world is slowly cooking itself to death.

    They sound like drug addicts, don’t they ?

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