Calare – Election 2010

NAT 3.5%

Incumbent MP
John Cobb, 2007. Previously Member for Parkes 2001-2007.

Central West NSW. Calare covers the towns of Bathurst, Lithgow, Blayney, Orange, Oberon, Parkes and Forbes, as well as other areas around those towns.

Calare was radically redrawn between the 2004 and 2007 elections, and most of these changes were reversed for the 2010 election.

The 2007 boundaries took in Cowra and Grenfell to the south of the 2010 boundaries, as well as a large part of western NSW, including Wilcannia, Bourke, Brewarrina and Narromine. The 2010 redistribution saw the seat expand to cover Bathurst, Lithgow and Oberon and surrounding areas, previously included in Macquarie.

The redistribution reduced the margin for the Nationals from 12% to 3.5%.

Calare was first created for the 1906 election, replacing the abolished seat of Canobolas. The seat has been held by all political parties over the last century.

The seat was first won by Thomas Brown (ALP) in 1906. Brown had previously held Canobolas since 1901, and he held the seat until he was defeated in 1913 by Henry Pigott of the Commonwealth Liberal Party. He held the seat for the Liberals and the Nationalists until he was defeated by Thomas Lavelle (ALP) in 1919.

Lavelle was defeated in 1922 by Major General Neville Howse, who won the seat for the Nationalists. Pigott had also contested the seat unsuccessfully for the new Country Party. Howse won a Victoria Cross during the Boer War and went on to serve as a senior officer in the First World War.

Howse served as a minister in the Stanley Bruce government before losing his seat in 1929 to George Gibbons (ALP), who was defeated by Harold Thorby of the Country Party at the next election. Thorby had previously been a state minister and went on to serve as a minister in Joseph Lyons’ federal government.

Thorby was defeated by John Breen (ALP) in 1940, and Breen held the seat until his defeat in 1946 by John Howse (LIB), the son of the former member for the seat Neville Howse.

Howse junior held the seat until his resignation in 1960. John England of the Country Party won the seat in the following by-election, and held it until the 1975 election. The seat was then won by Sandy Mackenzie.

Sandy Mackenzie lost the seat to David Simmons (ALP) in 1983. Simmons served as a federal minister from 1989 to 1993, and retired at the 1996 election.

The seat was won in 1996 by former television journalist Peter Andren, running as an independent. Andren won the seat on a 29% primary vote in 1996, with the ALP, Nationals and Liberals all polling less. Andren won 63% of the two-party preferred vote against the Nationals.

Andren set out an independent path, pursuing progressive politics while promoting regional interests. He was re-elected in 1998, 2001 and 2004 with over 70% of the two-party preferred vote.

The 2007 election saw the seat of Calare effectively abolished in its existing form, and Andren announced plans to run for the Senate in New South Wales. However, he was diagnosed with cancer and cancelled his plans to run for the Senate and decided to retire. Andren died of cancer in early November 2007, and the seat was won by John Cobb (NAT), then a junior minister in the Howard government and Member for Parkes.


  • Jessyka Norsworthy (Christian Democratic Party)
  • Paul Blanch (Independent)
  • Kevin Duffy (Labor) – Mayor of Cabonne
  • Karen Romano (Independent)
  • Jeremy Buckingham (Greens) – Orange City councillor
  • John Cobb (Nationals) – Member for Calare since 2007, previously Member for Parkes 2001-2007.
  • Macgregor Ross (Independent)

Political situation
A margin of 3.5% appears very winnable for the ALP in 2010. While Calare is definitely part of western NSW, it has a history of being held by the ALP during the Hawke/Keating government. If the ALP finds a strong candidate and can improve their performance in areas like Orange which were contained in the safer Calare in 2007, this seat could change hands.

The seat also has a long history of independent representation, with Andren holding it for eleven years, and the overlapping state district of Dubbo has been held by independents since 1999. If a strong independent candidate stands they may either win the seat or decide the result on their preferences.

2007 result

John CobbNAT39,94148.48+10.06
Michael AllenALP20,26624.60+4.76
Gavin PriestleyIND19,03523.10+23.10
Jeremy BuckinghamGRN2,3512.85+0.17
David John SimpsonCEC7940.96+0.13

2007 two-candidate-preferred result

John CobbNAT51,12462.05+0.64
Michael AllenALP31,26337.95-0.64

Results do not take into consideration effects of the redistribution.

Booth breakdown
Eight local government areas cover the seat of Calare. I have divided the vote between those eight LGAs. I have also included special votes cast in both Calare and Macquarie. In addition to showing the Greens primary vote and Labor/Nationals two-party preferred vote, I have also included the vote for independent Gavin Priestley. Priestley polled 23% of the vote in Calare, including over 20% in all regions of the new seat of Calare that were included in the old seat, with the exception of the Forbes area. The local government areas of Lithgow and Oberon, and most of Bathurst Regional Council, were in the seat of Macquarie in 2007, therefore Priestley received no votes in that part of the seat.

The ALP won in Bathurst and Lithgow, in the eastern part of the seat. The Nationals won in Blayney and Oberon, in the south-east of the seat, by a margin of less than 10%, and won in Orange by a similar margin. Unlike Bathurst, Lithgow and other LGAs, the Orange LGA only covers the urban area of Orange, while the nearby areas are contained in Cabonne LGA.

The Nationals won in Cabonne, Parkes and Forbes by much larger margins, with 63-66% of the vote.

Polling booths in Calare. Lithgow in light blue, Oberon in red, Bathurst in orange, Blayney in yellow, Orange in bright green, Cabonne in purple, Forbes in dark blue, Parkes in light green.
Voter groupGRN %IND %*NAT 2CP %Total votes% of ordinary votes
Other votes – Macquarie10.7045.0718,490
Other votes – Calare3.5122.0765.0616,441

*Votes received by independent Gavin Priestley in Calare. Vote in Bathurst only covers that part of Bathurst LGA then covered by Calare.

Polling booths in Calare, showing results of the 2007 election. Local government boundaries shown in blue.
Polling booths in Calare, showing results of the 2007 election in Orange, Blayney, Bathurst and Oberon (left to right).
Polling booths in Calare, showing results of the 2007 election in Orange.
Polling booths in Calare, showing results of the 2007 election in Bathurst.
Polling booths in Calare, showing results of the 2007 election in Lithgow.
Polling booths in Calare, showing results of the 2007 election in Parkes and Forbes.


  1. Awesome Ben. Shame about Green numbers, altjhough with the redistribution the Greens should go close to double digits in 2010. I certainly expect Labor to put considerable resources into the campaign to win a marginal seat off the Nationals John Cobb who is seen as a plodder. Talk is that Labor will preselect Kevin Duffy, the mayor of Cabonne LGA. Gavin Priestley was elected to Orange City council in 2008 and is expected to run again and once again draw upon the considerable support that Peter Andren garnered for Independents.Great work.

  2. I wouldn’t think Priestley would improve on his 2007 vote, but perhaps he may if he’s gaining a name for himself on council.

    There were interesting results in the Bathurst and Lithgow booths last time, which were in Macquarie. The only independent on the ballot paper, Tim Williams, a young bloke from Springwood with not overly-impressive credentials, gained over 10% in a number of booths (whilst only getting a handful of votes in his home town). He was the biggest surprise of candidates who topped 4% and got public funding anywhere last election. His archived website is here for anyone interested:

  3. All of my electoral stats are packed up as having just moved house so I can’t answer this question. The question is where is Labor under performing in Calare relative to 83-96 when they held it fairly easily? The Bathurst vote looks a bit low

  4. I don’t know, but I’d suggest that Labor ‘under-performed’ in the parts of the seat that come from the 2007 Calare. On 2007 boundaries Calare was a safe National seat, and Labor probably would have played extra-dead to help the Indy get up.

    In contrast, Macquarie was a marginal seat which Labor would have put alot of effort in to win.

  5. In a related story about this region, Nationals MP for the state seat of Orange, Russell Turner, has announced his retirement at the next election.

    This helps avoid confusion, since the other Nationals MP with the same surname, John Turner (Myall Lakes), also announced his upcoming retirement a few weeks ago.

  6. Interesting comment from Jeremy Buckingham about Cobb being a plodder – not sure what that makes buckingham who managed a miserly 3.65% in his home town of Orange where he is councillor who is constantly in the news. A huge 1.65% in Forbes. This bloke is so full of his own self importance he is deluding himself. Surely no-one can take him seriously.

    Cobb must be doing something right to win what was a safe Labor Seat and then an Independent seat for twenty odd years before he won it.

  7. Well Buckingham got 11.44% of the vote in the last council election, so a fair few people must think he’s doing a good job. As for Cobb, the area he has represented, formerly Parkes, and the old boundaries of Calare, has never been a safe Labor seat, and he hasn’t won a seat covering an area that was held by independents for ‘twenty-odd years’. This will be the first election where he contests a seat covering the area previously represented by Andren.

  8. Found my old electoral stats in 1987 in Bathurst Central Labor had 55% of the primary vote but in 2007 they had only 42%, an example of how Labor’s rural vote has declined in the old working-class Labor strongholds, Calare has gone opposite direction to Page and Richmond similar story in Macquarie.

  9. Calare has roughly the same boundaries. as when Labor held it in the Hawke/ Keating yrs and very similar to the area that the late Peter Andren represented. Orange < Bathurst Lithgow
    PLUS EXTRA ….. Could be Alp , INd or NAT depending on the cut up. of preferences one to watch on the night

  10. Thanks for that Geoff, once again a very insightful comment. Mick, it should be noted that the 2010 Calare now has Parkes and Forbes which were not in the 2004 and previous incarnations. This should give Cobb an extra few percent – perhaps even the extra few percent he needs

  11. An interesting pair of independents here. First, Paul Blanch – – , who was the 2004 Lib candidate for Calare is standing as an independent. Second is Karen Romano, wife of defeated Nat preselection candidate Sam Romano and disenfranchised National.

    Labor would barely have campaigned in much of the redistributed Calare, and I have no idea if it’s on their ‘hit list’ in 2010, but with a split in the conservative vote they may just ben an outside shot.

  12. Interesting. I’m just reading that as well. Signs are the Nats will be ok in Cowper, but this seat may be more at risk as I’d always suspected.

    Also noting that Jeremy Buckingham will be the Greens candidate again.

  13. My prediction: The impact of the independents in potentially breaking up the Nats vote and creating a leakage to Labor will be key, and makes this hard to call. Does anyone know if they are directing preferences anywhere?

    In the absence of further information I’ll say Cobb to hold on with maybe a slight swing to Labor.

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