Barton – Australia 2013

ALP 6.9%

Incumbent MP
Robert McClelland, since 1996.

St George district of Sydney and inner south-western suburbs. Barton covers the entirety of the City of Rockdale, as well as eastern parts of Kogarah council area, a small part of Hurstville council area and southeastern parts of the City of Canterbury. Main suburbs include Rockdale, Kogarah, Ramsgate, Sans Souci, Brighton-le-Sands, Bexley, Arncliffe, Kingsgrove, Earlwood and parts of Beverly Hills.

Barton was created for the 1922 election, and has always covered parts of the St George district. The seat was traditionally a marginal seat between the ALP and the major conservative party, although this has changed over the last twenty years.

The seat was originally a notionally Nationalist seat, but was won in 1922 by ALP candidate Frederick McDonald, who defeated Hector Lamond, the sitting Nationalist Member for Illawarra since 1917. The seat of Illawarra had been abolished before the 1922 election.

McDonald lost to Nationalist candidate Thomas Ley at the 1925 election by a bare 60 votes. McDonald challenged the result in court, before he disappeared in mysterious circumstances. It is believed that Ley was responsible for McDonald’s presumed murder.

Ley, who had been a state MP for Hurstville 1917-20 and St George 1920-25, held the seat for one term before losing to ALP candidate James Tully in 1928. Ley went on to move back to England and in 1945 was convicted of killing a barman who he suspected of having an affair with his mistress, and ended up spending the rest of his life in an insane asylum. While it was never proven, he was suspected in the death of McDonald and Hyman Goldstein, who was a rival of Ley’s and state member for Coogee when he fell to his death in 1927.

Tully held the seat for the ALP with a massive margin in 1929. In 1931 Tully was challenged by John Eldridge, the sitting member for the neighbouring seat of Martin. Eldridge had been an ALP member but had joined Jack Lang’s breakaway party. Both Tully and Eldridge lost to UAP candidate Albert Lane.

Lane was reelected in 1934 and 1937, but never by comfortable margins. In 1940, he was defeated by former High Court judge H.V. Evatt, who retired from the judiciary at the age of 46 to run for federal politics. He was elected with a massive majority, which he maintained at the 1943 and 1946 elections.

Evatt served as a minister in the Curtin and Chifley governments, including as Minister for External Affairs. He played a significant role in the creation of the United Nations and served as President of the UN General Assembly in 1948-9.

Evatt held the seat at the 1949 election, when the Liberal Party defeated the Chifley Labor government, and Evatt became Leader of the Opposition. Evatt held Barton by slim margins in 1949, 1951, 1954 and 1955 elections, and moved to the safer seat of Hunter at the 1958 election, which was his last as Labor leader, retiring in 1960.

ALP candidate Leonard Reynolds won Barton in 1958, never holding it by large margins. He lost the seat to Liberal candidate William Arthur in 1966, but won it back in 1969. Reynolds held the seat until his retirement in 1975.

In 1975 the seat was won by James Bradfield (LIB), who held the seat for the entirety of the Fraser government, losing to ALP candidate Gary Punch in 1983.

Punch joined the Hawke ministry in 1988 before resigning from Cabinet in 1989 at protest over decisions about Sydney Airport. He returned to the ministry after the 1993 election, when he increased his margin to 9.4%.

Punch retired in 1996, and was succeeded by Robert McClelland. McClelland joined the ALP Shadow Ministry in 1998, and became Attorney-General upon the election of the Rudd government in 2007. McClelland was demoted from Attorney-General in late 2011 and then dropped from the ministry in early 2012.


  • Edward Caruana (Palmer United Party)
  • Nick Varvaris (Liberal)
  • Michael Nagi (Independent)
  • Perry Theo (One Nation)
  • Steve McMahon (Labor)
  • Kylie French (Christian Democratic Party)
  • Jackie Brooker (Greens)
  • Rod Wyse (Katter’s Australian Party)

Barton has traditionally been a strong area for Labor, and would have been considered safe. However after an 8.1% swing in 2010, the loss of the sitting member, and an expected swing to the Liberal Party in NSW, the ALP will be fighting hard to hold on. The change to Kevin Rudd may have secured this seat for Labor.

2010 result

Robert McClellandALP38,14948.48-8.80
John La MelaLIB31,99840.67+9.76
Simone FrancisGRN8,53610.85+2.61

2010 two-candidate-preferred result

Robert McClellandALP44,74256.86-8.08
John La MelaLIB33,94143.14+8.08
Polling places in Barton at the 2010 federal election. Central in green, North East in yellow, North West in blue, West in red. Click to enlarge.
Polling places in Barton at the 2010 federal election. Central in green, North East in yellow, North West in blue, West in red. Click to enlarge.

Booth breakdown
Booths have been divided into four areas:

  • Central – Brighton-Le-Sands, Carlton, Kogarah, Rockdale
  • North East – Arncliffe, Earlwood
  • North West – Beverly Hills, Bexley, Kingsgrove
  • South – Ramsgate, Sans Souci

The ALP won a majority in three areas, varying from 56.9% in the north-west to 60.2% in the centre. The Liberal Party won a 53.3% majority in the south.

The Greens vote varied from 8.2% in the south to 12.7% in the north-east.

Voter groupGRN %ALP 2PP %Total votes% of votes
North West10.0656.8816,94021.53
North East12.7459.0314,62718.59
Other votes12.7056.8015,30419.45
Two-party-preferred votes in Barton at the 2010 federal election.
Two-party-preferred votes in Barton at the 2010 federal election.
Greens primary votes in Barton at the 2010 federal election.
Greens primary votes in Barton at the 2010 federal election.


  1. McClelland’s retirement will cause Labor a deathly blow, the Liberal’s have been campaigning well here with their candidate. Suspect a bigger than average swing.

  2. Indeed. Varvaris is a respected Mayor who’s been there for 5 years, and regardless of political persuasion, voters will be familiar with him. Labor candidate Steve MacMahon was unfortunate enough to be Mayor of a neighbouring council which was tainted by allegations of corruption. While I personally do not like the idea of an Abbott government, I would favour Varvaris over MacMahon on a local level. I expect the Liberals to win this seat.

  3. The Rockdale side of Barton out to Brighton-Le-Sands has swung to the Liberal Party, especially off the back of the last election. The ALP will need to hold their vote heading north up this seat. I would be putting money on this seat to fall with Robert McClellend retiring.

  4. This seat looks like falling out of Labor hands for the first time since Bob Hawke became PM in 1983.

  5. Now that the election is nearing I’m sensing this seat will safely return the new Labor candidate Steve McMahon. He has been campaigning hard from what I can see, and certainly has Kevin Rudd’s personal support. Still expect a swing to the Liberal Party here but doubt it will be enough.

  6. Here’s the order of candidates on the ballot according to the local paper:

    1. Caruana, Edward (Palmer United Party)
    2. Varvaris, Nickolas (Liberal Party)
    3. Nagi, Michael (Independent)
    4. Theo, Perry (One Nation)
    5. McMahon Steve (Labor Party)
    6. French, Kylie Mary (Christian Democratic Party, Fred Nile Group)
    7. Brooker, Jackie (The Greens)
    8. Wyse, Rodney Tim (Katter’s Australian Party)

  7. Lib candidate a total unknown in this area, he seems just another rich guy looking afraid rich interests – whereas the well known, well respected and well liked Steve McMahon even has the support of the far-right wing propagandist Alan Jones!!
    Should be another good Labor win.

  8. FYI xXx – the Liberal candidate, Nickolas Varvaris, is the mayor of Kogarah LGA and has been for six years, so he has a high profile in the community. I think it will be a tight race with a narrow Labor victory (aided and abetted by that massive Liberals sign at The Five Ways in Rockdale that they must be paying an arm and a leg for).

  9. Barton Galaxy 20/08/2013 Sample 575 ALP 2PP 52%

    A probably Labor hold, albeit, this is within the margin of error. One thing that cannot be dismissed is the loss of the very popular local member, Rob McClelland, who was respected on both sides of the parliament. I think Labor will hold, but this goes with other seats like; Kingsford Smith, Werriwa, and McMahon, where one of these four will probably fall on current trends.

  10. It will be a whole lot harder for Labor to win now that influential Rockdale councillor Michael Nagi is on the ballot paper as an independent. Nagi controls a large proportion of the ethnic vote, especially in areas such as Arncliffe and Turrella. (I’ve heard from a good source that AEC officials have advised all candidates not to have women handing out at polling booths in these areas, due to the high Muslim population.) Nagi will be directing preferences to the Liberals.

  11. Nagi ran as an independent for the state seat of Rockdale and won 3359 votes (7.4%). If he wins a similar number of votes in the larger Federal electorate, it would represent about 4%.

    Nagi said that he won’t direct preferences – presumably issuing a split ticket HTV. If Nagi takes primary votes mainly from Labor and his preferences split roughly evenly, that could take 1-2% off Labor’s 2PP. Alternatively, if Nagi voters were Labor voters last time, maybe most of their preferences will go back to Labor.

  12. There is a bit of conjecture above whether Nagi will be directing preferences. Does anyone really know? It could conceivably come down to this.

  13. I thought he was, but I’m happy to be corrected on that. If he is not directing preferences, I still think a lot of them will flow to the Liberals. He tends to vote with the Liberals on Rockdale Council.

  14. Prediction: Had this as a Liberal gain when Gillard was PM, now I think Labor hang on. Above average swing here, McClelland’s retirement will hurt the ALP here despite a big swing in 2010.

  15. I don’t think this will go either, but there will be one seat, somewhere, that goes that no-one really expects. Always is, particularly with a reasonably large swing on in NSW.

  16. I can see what you’re saying, and I do think the Barton/Kingsford-Smith/Werriwa/McMahons of the world will be one to watch. But I am making a clear call one way or another, and most of these will err on the side of caution.

  17. You’re right DB there is always one. I would have said it was Griffith this election but that’s become so mainstream now it appears Rudd winning would be the surprise. No, my candidates are Hunter and Newcastle, with Chifley also a slight upset possibility,,,,slight. Ben would turn in his grave though.

  18. Kogarah and Rockdale are generally safe ALP area. Kogarah turned blue under Varvaris in the Local council at the last election, with massive swings. Will be interesting if the swing is repeated, but likely to be a little too far

  19. This seat is still too close to call, although Labor has its nose in front. Labor appears to have been largely saved by NSW Labor MLC and Barton local Shaoquett Moselmane. Popular independent candidate Michael Nagi, influential in the ethnic suburbs of Turrella, Arncliffe and Banksia (colloquially known as Nagi-land), was directing preferences to the Liberal Party on his HTV. Nagi preferences would get Varvaris over the line had it not been for Moselmane contacting voters in Nagi-land, where he is a very well respected member of the community, and informing them of the Nagi/Varvaris preference deal. I understand this caused large numbers of traditionally left-leaning Nagi-land voters to disregard the Nagi HTV and direct their own preferences to Labor. If Steve MacMahon wins he will almost solely have Shaoquett Moselmane to thank.

  20. It’s also interesting to note that the Greens vote in Barton is half of the 2010 result, despite the close proximity of this electorate to the Green heartland of Grayndler.

  21. Ben, Fri 13/09: “Barton – The Liberal lead has widened to 895 votes in Barton. Labor was leading by 42 on Tuesday. Most absentee and postal votes have been counted, which both favour Liberal, but no prepoll votes. It’s likely the Liberals will win.”

    Varvaris’s lead has dropped from 895 to 628 with todays AEC update but that still looks like a LIb win. However, the AEC still has it listed as a close seat.

  22. The Liberal Party would be very pleased with their result in Barton. It swung much more heavily to them then neighbouring Banks which they poured a lot more resources into. Steve McMahon was also seen as the renewal Labor needed in their ranks making it a doubly pleasing win for the Libs.

Comments are closed.