Balmain – NSW 2015

GRN 3.0% vs ALP

Incumbent MP
Jamie Parker, since 2011.

Inner Sydney. Balmain covers the entirety of Leichhardt local government area, including Balmain, Leichhardt, Lilyfield, Annandale and Rozelle, as well as Glebe and part of Ultimo in the City of Sydney.

Map of Balmain's 2011 and 2015 boundaries. 2011 boundaries marked as red lines, 2015 boundaries marked as white area. Click to enlarge.
Map of Balmain’s 2011 and 2015 boundaries. 2011 boundaries marked as red lines, 2015 boundaries marked as white area. Click to enlarge.

Balmain shifted east, gaining a small part of Ultimo from Sydney and losing Haberfield (the most Liberal part of the seat) to the new seat of Summer Hill.

While the Greens margin against the Liberal Party is 4.3%, I have estimated a margin against Labor of 3.0%, and it seems likely that the race will be between Greens and Labor in 2015.

Balmain has existed as an electoral district in various forms since 1880. In that time it has covered a variety of different areas all around the Balmain peninsula. The original seat was created as a single-member district in 1880.

Back in the 19th century, districts would gain extra MPs if the population in the area grew, instead of experiencing regular redistributions. Balmain quickly gained extra MLAs, gaining a second in 1882, a third in 1885 and a fourth in 1889. Ironically the four-seat district of 1889 bore a close resemblance to the modern seat’s boundaries.

In 1894, Balmain was abolished and replaced by the single-member districts of South Balmain, North Balmain, Leichhardt and Annandale.

In 1904, Balmain was re-created when Balmain Southand Balmain Northwere merged. It elected a Liberal MP in 1904, but in 1907 it was won by the ALP’s John Storey in 1907. He had previously held Balmain Northfrom 1901 to 1904.

The NSW Labor Party split in 1916 over conscription, with most of the Holman government, including William Holman itself, expelled. Storey became leader of the remnants of the ALP in 1917.

In the lead-up to the 1920 election the seat of Balmain was expanded to cover parts of the neighbouring seats of Annandale, Camperdown, Darling Harbour, Glebe and Rozelle, and became a five-member district elected by proportional representation.

At the 1920 election, the expanded Balmain elected four Labor members and one Nationalist. The ALP won a slim majority, and Storey became Premier. He served until his death in 1921.

Balmain elected three Labor and two Nationalist MPs in 1922, and again elected four Labor members in 1925.

The 1927 election saw a return to single-member districts, and Balmain reduced to a smaller single-member district. At that year’s election, the official Labor candidate, Harry Doran, was challenged by sitting Labor MLA HV Evatt, who had been elected as a member for the multi-member Balmain district in 1925. Evatt won re-election as an independent Labor candidate.

In 1930, Evatt was appointed to the High Court and didn’t contest Balmain. John Quirk, whose neighbouring seat of Rozelle had been abolished in the redistribution, was elected in Balmain for the ALP. Evatt later went on to serve as a federal MP, federal minister, and leader of the federal ALP from 1951 to 1960.

Quirk died in 1938, and the 1939 Balmain by-election was won by his wife Mary. She held the seat until 1950, when she ran as an independent after losing Labor preselection. She lost to official Labor candidate John McMahon.

McMahon served as a minister in the Labor government from 1959 until the government lost power in 1965, and he retired in 1968.

Roger Degen held Balmain for the ALP from 1968 until his retirement in 1984. That year the seat was won by Peter Crawford.

In 1988, Crawford lost Balmain to former Olympic swimmer Dawn Fraser, running as an independent and ending over 80 years of Labor domination in Balmain.

Fraser held the seat for one term. In 1991, Balmain was abolished, and Fraser was defeated in an attempt to win the new seat of Port Jackson.

Port Jackson was won in 1991 by Sandra Nori of the ALP. Nori held the seat until 2007. In 2003, Port Jackson was the main target for the Greens, with Jamie Parker reducing Nori’s margin to 7.3%.

In 2007, Port Jackson was again renamed Balmain, and shifted west to lose Ultimo, Pyrmont and Sydney CBD and gained Haberfield. Nori retired, and the ALP preselected City of Sydney councillor Verity Firth. Greens councillor Rochelle Porteous reduced the ALP margin to 3.8%.

In 2011, Firth lost Balmain to Greens candidate Jamie Parker. The Liberal candidate came first on primary votes, with Parker narrowly outpolling Firth and winning the seat on her preferences.


  • Patrick Fogarty (Cyclists Party)
  • Gordon Brown (No Land Tax)
  • Lyndon Gannon (Liberal)
  • Rhonda Avasalu (Christian Democratic Party)
  • Michelle Nielsen (Animal Justice Party)
  • Jamie Parker (Greens)
  • Verity Firth (Labor)

Balmain is a very marginal seat. At the last election, the final count was between Liberal and Greens, but it is expected that the Liberal candidate will drop into third place in 2015, which will mean the race will be between Greens and Labor. It is estimated that this race will be very close.

Jamie Parker will benefit from the personal vote that comes with being the incumbent MP in 2015, while Verity Firth’s profile is lower after four years out of office. Having said that, Firth is a strong candidate who will still maintain some personal vote, and may benefit from an improvement in Labor’s reputation. This seat could go either way.

2011 election result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing Redist
James Falk Liberal 14,860 32.6 +8.8 30.6
Jamie Parker Greens 14,019 30.7 +1.2 31.2
Verity Firth Labor 13,765 30.2 -9.1 30.0
Maire Sheehan Independent 1,375 3.0 +3.0 3.1
Jane Ward Independent 681 1.5 -1.6 1.5
Leeanne Gesling Christian Democrats 426 0.9 +0.9 0.9
Nicholas Folkes Independent 289 0.6 +0.6 0.6
Jon Shapiro Independent 223 0.5 +0.5 0.5
Others 1.7

2011 two-candidate-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Redist
Jamie Parker Greens 19,141 53.5 54.3
James Falk Liberal 16,664 46.5 45.7

2011 two-party-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing Redist
Verity Firth Labor 19,392 53.5 -14.3 54.7
James Falk Liberal 16,850 46.5 +14.3 45.3
Polling places in Balmain at the 2011 NSW state election. Balmain in green, Glebe in yellow, Leichhardt in blue. Click to enlarge.
Polling places in Balmain at the 2011 NSW state election. Balmain in green, Glebe in yellow, Leichhardt in blue. Click to enlarge.

Booth breakdown
Booths in Balmain have been split into three areas, named after the key suburbs of Balmain, Leichhardt and Glebe. Lilyfield and Annandale have been grouped with Leichhardt, Birchgrove and Rozelle have been grouped with Balmain, and Forest Lodge and Ultimo have been grouped with Glebe.

The Greens vote ranged from 27.7% in Glebe to 32.1% in Balmain.

The Liberal vote ranged from 26.1% in Glebe to 34.2% in Balmain.

Labor’s vote ranged from 27.3% in Balmain to 32.3% in Glebe.

Voter group GRN % ALP % LIB % Total votes % of votes
Leichhardt 31.4 31.5 30.2 13,812 31.8
Balmain 32.1 27.3 34.2 10,129 23.3
Glebe 27.7 32.3 26.1 7,759 17.9
Other votes 32.5 28.9 30.9 11,681 26.9
Greens primary votes in Balmain at the 2011 NSW state election.
Greens primary votes in Balmain at the 2011 NSW state election.
Liberal primary votes in Balmain at the 2011 NSW state election.
Liberal primary votes in Balmain at the 2011 NSW state election.
Labor primary votes in Balmain at the 2011 NSW state election.
Labor primary votes in Balmain at the 2011 NSW state election.


  1. This is one of the wealthiest electoral districts in the state… Why is it so left-leaning?

    If Parker loses Balmain, will this be the first time a Greens MP (state or federal) elected at a general election has lost their seat?

  2. My prediction: Labor have a fair chance of winning this back, although Parker is the incumbent. This, combined with this bit of Sydney being very Green-friendly, is the basis of my decision to list Balmain as a likely Green hold.

  3. I don’t see why many people who voted Green last time would go back to Labor this time. NSW Labor is still run by the Right despite the nominal Leftist Foley holding the leadership. Labor can’t pander to Balmain leftists while trying to win seats in the suburbs and the regions. Quite rightly, Labor goes where the votes and the seats are. That means abandoning Balmain and Newtown to the basket-weavers.

  4. I think there is generally more left-wing dissatisfaction with Labor when they’re in power than when they’re out.* Having a Liberal state government and – especially – a Liberal federal government is probably to Labor’s benefit. I suspect there were many voters last time who, realising Labor’s time was up, voted Greens because they could never bring themselves to vote Liberal.

    Balanced against that is the incumbency factor. For instance, Adam Bandt’s incumbency cancelled out the change in Liberal preference strategy. Has Jamie Parker entrenched himself similarly?

    (*I could be wrong. This impression isn’t based on any hard data.)

  5. I would like to bring up the Labor preselection. As a local resident, and not a member of any political party, I participated, and voted for Darcy Byrne. It was certainly a unique experience for me, voting in a Labor selection ballot!! As Mayor Byrne had a high profile and seemed to be positioning himself to run as the ALP candidate. I was really surprised when Verity Firth won so easily – maybe that displays my ignorance! I thought Byrne had a good chance of beating Parker, but having dumped Firth for Parker so emphatically four years ago, why would voters want to return the candidate pushed back into third place last time? Surely Parker would be happier facing off against someone he already defeated?

    I noticed that Verity Firth is not the only defeated ALP MP from 2011 to be running again: Steve Whan, David Harris, Jodi McKay and Paul Pearce are all back again, too!

  6. The Queensland state election showed previously defeated candidates can be returned with ease: especially if they were well regarded (as Firth was/is). Firth received 30.2% primary which was well above Labor primary for the upper house in the same seat (an appalling 21.50%), indicating a good personal vote. I suspect that the Green primary will barely budge whilst some of the Liberal vote will go to Labor. I therefore predict an ALP victory here.

  7. Labor doesn’t need Greens voters to switch to win Balmain – they just need Liberal voters to switch back to Labor, and not in massive numbers.

  8. I really don’t know here. Firth is a quality candidate and Parker, unsurprisingly given the makeup of the Assembly, hasn’t been able to build a huge profile, which makes me think it’s close to line ball.

    Sportsbet is offering $1.80 for Firth and $2.20 for Parker. On that, I think Parker is good value.

  9. Green retain. Verity Firth has not been able to hold onto her profile here. Libs will of course slip to third place. Jamie Parker on the other hand has the advantage of incumbency and stronger profile in Leichhardt LGA from being mayor. The redistribution would have helped. Loads of billboards on Victoria Road for The Greens, despite having an 11% swing against them in Leichhardt council elections they were still the top party, would expect they would have rebound from this position.

  10. The 2011 election was a rejection of a government, not of individual candidates. Nori, Whan and Pearce lost despite their strong local profiles. McKay was dudded by corrupt elements of her own party and is clearly a woman of great integrity. Harris I know less about, but the point remains. One doesn’t cease to be their party’s best candidate because the electoral tide went out. (How many times did Ben Chifley lose Macquarie?)

  11. With the loss of Haberfield, the Coalition will come 3rd here. With the addition of extra areas of Glebe, this will be a coin-flip between the Greens and the ALP, with the Greens having a slight lead.

  12. Chifley failed to win Macquarie in 1925, won it in 1928 and 1929, lost it in 1931, failed to win it back in 1934, wasn’t even the candidate in 1937 (the Lang man Luchetti was), won it back in 1940, retained it in 1943, 1946, 1949 and 1951.

  13. Not tough at all… Jamie Parker only has to keep his second spot to win

    Just as in a whole swag of Northern and North Shore suburbs, the Greens vote here is equal to or higher than Labors – their voters are rich. The difference of course is that the Liberal vote is so much lower – making it one of those 3-way seats that are so fascinating (and confusing – to some).

    Most of the boomer gentrifiers originally came from the North Shore. Now they’re moving into retirement and having made huge capital gains, are selling up to cashed-up investors.This year will be a test of how far the “natural” Liberal vote has risen, as their candidate is young and (unlike James Falk in 2011, who topped the primary vote) is nearly invisible – just “doing his bit” for the party, or whatever…

    As in Newtown, that “whatever” is the enjoyment Libs get out of watching Labor and Greens tear each other to shreds. It doesn’t matter to them who wins here, though they’d prefer a lame duck Greens MP to Verity Firth, symbol of Labor’s supposed “Community preselection renewal” – so their tactic may be to install Jamie Parker again. May even preference him… That makes a lot of sense, as they have been able to completely and utterly snub him and Balmain’s interests for four years.

    That said, there isn’t a shred of difference between Jamie Parker and Verity Firth, and both are running identical hard-line “border protection” campaigns (No newcomers allowed here, no new development in this electorate). Outside Rozelle Antique Markets or Orange Grove Organic Farmers Markets, that and other property value issues are the only topics the party toilers want to engage you on, or think you’ll care about. In this property-obsessed electorate, where people are wealthy enough to afford enough antiques and organic to fill the boot of their Audi SUVs to capacity, they are most likely right.

    Labor will most likely gain ground though, and Verity Firth may even come first, but it won’t be enough, never again… This is the last election anyone will (mistakenly) call Balmain “Labor heartland.”

  14. Re: David Walsh March 15 (“Has Jamie Parker entrenched himself?).

    The answer is no. Despite the plethora of billboards and bus stand advertising which has suddenly appeared all over the electorate (and there is a lot), up to now he has been nearly invisible. The comparison between him and Adam Bandt couldn’t be more stark.

    His party also let him down by giving him no responsibilities whatsoever that would allow some sort of profile beyond local MP. That may be a factional issue within the NSW Greens. But its not as if they have many MPs, so it’s odd that they have “wasted” the talents of one of them. (Or do they know something we don’t?)

    The Liberal government has also (perhaps on purpose) given him nothing he could claim as a “victory” – on Callan Park, the Greenway, White Bay – quite the opposite in fact. On his campaign brochure he lists the inner west light rail as “his”, but that was bi-partisan, begun under Labor, finished by the present government. And instead of additional light rail for Parramatta Rd (which he has been championing), we are getting a tolled motorway instead. (WestConnex).

    Few Balmain voters may be thinking like this, but their interests may be better served if the governing party (presumably Liberal) had a MP they wanted to protect.

  15. It’s been a very quiet campaign here, compared to 2011. Verity Firth hasn’t been on the radar for locals (I mean those of us not politically involved) for four years, but it is true that Jamie Parker has had a really low profile as well. And, yes, the Liberal candidate is invisible. Greens seem to have all the posters and billboards, while Labor seems to be winning the battle to fill my letterbox. PS Not all of us in Balmain are uber-wealthy Greens – some of us have long drives to work, and care a lot about roads and congestion! (Maybe that’s the Liberal-voting third?)

  16. Quite right GNav – especially those of us down on the “wrong” side of the City West Link!

    I finally saw some corflutes for Verity on Balmain Rd. I saw more of her and her people when she was campaigning for the community preselection against Darcy Byrne, then Labor’s Mayor of Leichhardt.

    Can’t fault that process, it was the right thing for Labor to do, but also can’t help but think their chances would have been better served with a genuine cleanskin like Darcy, rather than someone who was tarred with being a cabinet minister in the last government.

    Finally there were some Labor people at the markets last Saturday, forlornly across the road in a second tier spot. The Greens and the Climate Change Action group (who are “suggesting” a vote for you know who) had already taken all the best ones. They’ve been monopolising all street campaigning positions for weeks.

    I’m surprised the Liberals have been laying so low. I don’t blame their candidate for not attending the candidate’s forums though, no one goes to them except the very committed and very vocal. A complete waste of time. But eventually the Liberals will get this seat just by plugging away. Demography is running in their favour, but even this time, Greens and Labor voters must be tiring of the endless negativity of their parties’ “Just Say NO!” to everything position – especially on transport improvements for us.

  17. Verity’s corflutes and posters have finally gone up, quite a lot… They’re attached to pretty well every power pole on Norton St and Balmain Rd – despite Ausgrid’s warning about the illegality (and consequences) of attaching items to their property.

    I do hope the party enthusiasts are covered by Workplace insurance… They are, aren’ they? Climbing up ladders with electrical hazards above can’t be a job for the unwary – or uninsured! Surely…

    And public liability insurance? Unsecured ladders in public places? Cripes.

    A very strange discussion of those issue here: Chris Harris, NSW Greens Convenor, thinks his party has been singled out and “censored” by Ausgrid. Consequently, he is very angry:

    Denied all that free advertising space, Chris at least did do the right thing and shelled out (lots) to advertising agencies, graphic artists, product placement pros, qualified installers (with insurance cover), Buspack and all the outdoor billboard owners. Good on you Chris – creating paid local jobs. Sadly though as I walked past the cnr of Norton St and Marion St tonight and looked up, instead of seeing Jamie Parker grinning down at me as I have for the last month or so, there in 240pt type was another instruction: “EAT MORE BEEF”

  18. Yes, almost as soon as I wrote my previous comment, up the Labor posters went! Like Bob Atkins, I have to say that I saw more of Verity Firth during the preselection process than the actual campaign, but that might just be chance. Still three days out, but I will venture my prediction:

    Unlike Balmain in 2011 and Sydney in 2013, I don’t feel confident I know what the result will be. I think the Greens vote will be static (as in 2011): the federal election suggested that Greens votes have peaked or plateaued, but a sophomore surge for JP will cancel out a possible decline. There may even be a very small increase.

    Last time there was a 9 per cent shift from Labor to Liberal. There will be a correction, but how much? Perhaps 5 per cent? Even if it’s less than that, I think it’s safe to say Verity will win the primary vote, Greens 2nd, Liberal 3rd. So… gulp… my prediction is a Labor win based on a higher primary vote, with Liberal votes exhausting rather than providing any help to the Greens.

    Yes, my gut feeling (earlier comments) was that JP would be returned and VF rejected again, but the mathematics are making me come around to the idea that Verity will return!

  19. Hmm… My earlier (Grn) prediction is looking shakier.The candidates (online) preferences has done that, so too has the Libs non-campaign. The Libs have thrown away a lot of James Falk’s hard work (has left the party, I believe) did last time… Also, the Cyclists and the Vegans (Animal Libbers) are both exhausting their vote rather than feeding the Greens as expected. No wild card like the unexpected “independent” Marie Sheehan this time. And where is Jane Ward? This is the first election she has missed in my living memory.

    Parker can lose it!? Maybe… Though Climate Change Balmain/Rozelle, who have been v active are giving him the nod, despite being labelled a Labor plant. He also gains by having the anti-Greens Lib stronghold of Haberfield redistributed to Summer Hill.

    It may well be v close…

  20. I wonder what happened to Jane Ward/ Where will Maire Sheehan’s vote go? Could go either way. But I will say if Verity holds on demographics are not going to run into her favour here in the longer term.

  21. Parker will probably have to increase his primary vote to win this seat again. You’d think with the ALP primary vote likely to rebound somewhat and the liberal vote likely to be down a tad, Jamie Parker would get caught in the crossfire if his vote stays stagnant. A lot will depend on whether he has built up a personal following in the electorate like Adam Bandt has in Melbourne. Verity Fith, however, also has a high profile.

  22. Jane Ward is running as an ungrouped candidate in the upper house, her most quixotic tilt yet, and I suspect the fewest votes she will ever get too.

  23. Well, how about that? We all knew the Liberal vote would drop sharply (correction from 2011), but I thought more would go to Labor than the Greens. It seems as though a chunk of the Balmain electorate who voted Liberal in 2011 have decided Jamie Parker was their best bet this time around. Benefits of incumbency etc. (and all those posters and billboards on Victoria Rd)

    Seeing as I had a bet both ways (different predictions in different posts!) I will admit my final prediction was wrong, and go back to my earlier prediction that Balmain voters would not want to return the member they emphatically rejected in 2011.

    Now that Ms Firth has lost twice in a row, can Labor please stop referring to her as a “popular local member?” I noticed Carmel Tebbutt did it on the ABC last night, repeating the Labor mythology that always inserts the adjective “popular” in front of the name Verity.

    I had my doubts immediately after the 2011 election, but now I am starting to agree with some commentators on the 2011 Balmain thread who claimed Labor will never again win Balmain. Jamie Parker will be entrenched now, and demographic change might transform the Liberals into the main opponents of the Greens locally.

  24. Correct GNav… I shouldn’t have wavered from my earliest prediction either… -6.7% Libs, +7.3% to the Greens, only +2.3% Labor… Around the same number of people who voted Liberals in 2011 this time simply switched to the Greens.

    Lesson to the Greens should be obvious: Greens and Liberal voters are the same people. Go for them, they’re “your” future voters – everywhere.

    This election Labor threw everything they could into the Balmain campaign: the community preselection reform, a high profile candidate ( I won’t use the word “popular”, promise), a large (if late) advertising and corflute spree, generous street presence and booth manning… Labor people I spoke to were buoyant and confident, and still they lost.

    Lesson to Labor. You will never hold this “heartland” seat again… Move on. Before long it will be like so many other rich North Shore and Northern Beaches seats : Liberal vs Greens, with Labor in 3rd place.

  25. Just because the Liberal vote went down and the Greens vote went up, that doesn’t mean those are the same voters switching from Liberal to Green. While I’m sure there are a few of those, I’m sure there’s also plenty of Labor voters who switched to the Greens, and those were replaced by voters switching back from Liberal to Labor.

    Anyone who thinks “Greens and Liberal voters are the same people” hasn’t met any Greens voters.

    Balmain has some similarities to the north shore, but is very different – sure the Greens come second in some northern seats, but the make-up of those seats are very different – the Greens aren’t close to winning any of them, and most of their vote has come from Labor, not Liberal.

    If Liberal and Greens voters were linked in that way, you’d expect Greens voters to preference Liberals in decent numbers. In the federal seat of Sydney (which covers most of Balmain) in 2013, over 90% of Greens voters preferenced Labor over Liberal.

  26. Ben, with regards to your first paragraph, you are of course completely correct. While I believe there was a significant shift directly from Liberals to Greens, that cannot be proven, and it could be that many Liberals shifted back to Labor, while there was a similar-sized shift from Labor to Greens. (I’m sure this could be a fascinating research task for someone out there…)

    Also, the Cyclists and Animal Justice groups did not pick up all of the Sheehan / Shapiro / Ward vote from 2011 – I believe a lot of that would have shifted to Jamie Parker as well.

    I can only offer a terribly unscientific “gut feeling” that support for Verity stayed fairly static, while a segment of voters who went Liberal in 2011 but weren’t engaged by the Liberal non-campaign in 2015 decided to go with an incumbent who seemed friendly and non-threatening.

  27. I’m not sure why my interpretation gave you a rise Ben, and your speculation about my social life is inaccurate. Nor am I convinced by your theory of the apparently very fickle behaviour of Balmain voters.

    Demography and economic self-interest explains most voter behaviour (in my experience). The Greens have now won two of the wealthiest electorates in Sydney on the back of property-related NIMBY campaigns – the Bays Precinct and WestConnex.

    Pre-2011 Jamie Parker himself got a huge boosts in his long-held ambitions to be an MP by running a series of NIMBY campaigns. They were against student housing at Callan Park, a metro and its associated developments at Rozelle and the Cruise Terminal at White Bay. Those strategies can be repeated in other wealthy areas – taking Liberal voters with them.

    In the Northern Rivers CSG-affected regions, Labor increased its vote by 12%. Where did the Greens votes come from? The Nats, of course…

    The way forward for the Greens should be clear. I’m pretty convinced they know it.

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