Seat of the week: Calare

Seat of the Week’s recent sweep through the Nationals seats of interior New South Wales brings us to Calare, held for the party since 2007 by John Cobb.

Held for the Nationals since 2007 by John Cobb, the electorate of Calare has covered a repeatedly shifting area of New South Wales to the west of Sydney since its creation in 1906. The recently published draft redistribution proposes that the electorate maintain Litghow, Bathurst and Orange while losing Parkes and Forbes to Riverina in the west, accounting for around 17,000 voters, while gaining Mudgee and surrounding territory from Parkes (20,000 voters) and Hunter (2000 voters) in the north. This cuts 1.3% from a still ample Nationals margin of 14.3%. The electorate was dramatically changed at successive redistributions before the 2007 and 2010 elections, the first of which transferred Bathurst and Lithgow to Macquarie and extended Calare out through Parkes and Bourke to the Queensland border, reflecting knock-on effects from the abolition of Gwydir in the state’s north. This was largely reversed by the 2010 redistribution, which cost the seat its thinly populated interior territory and concentrated it on the population centres of Lithgow, Bathurst, Orange and Parkes.




Labor’s competitiveness in Calare has largely come down to its inclusion or exclusion of Bathurst and Lithgow, both of which have traditionally been strong for Labor, although the former has been trending conservative in recent times. The two cities were in the electorate from 1977 to 2007, having previously been in Macquarie since 1913, which was usually held by Labor throughout that time. Calare was in conservative hands from 1946 to 1983, passing from the Liberals to the Country Party at a by-election held when sitting member John Howse retired in 1960. On the more favourable boundaries for Labor that followed the 1977 redistribution, the seat was gained for them on the third attempt by David Simmons in 1983, who retained it through the Hawke-Keating years before retiring in 1996. The Nationals’ expectation that the seat would then fall into their lap was frustrated when local television news presenter Peter Andren ran as an independent, outpolling Labor on the primary vote and defeating the Nationals candidate by 13.3% after preferences.

Andren easily retained the seat throughout the Howard years, then announced his intention to run for the Senate when redistribution essentially cut his seat in two at the 2007 election. However, he was compelled to withdraw after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, from which he died shortly before the election. The seat was subsequently won for the Nationals by John Cobb, who since 2001 had been the member for Parkes, which was then bequeathed to Nationals newcomer Mark Coulton. Cobb progressed from parliamentary secretary status after the 2004 election to the junior ministry in July 2005 and then to shadow cabinet after the 2007 election defeat, holding the agriculture portfolio from September 2008. But when the portfolio was instead allocated to Barnaby Joyce after the 2013 election victory, with Cobb only offered a parliamentary secretary role in its place, he opted to go to the back bench.

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.

2 comments on “Seat of the week: Calare”

  1. Lower level of unionisation in workforce, emblematic of most emerging towns in rural NSW. Lithgow slowly doing same, will shift significantly further once energy privitisation is complete and iron fisted rule of ETU is ameliorated.

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