Balmain – NSW 2019

GRN 4.7% 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.

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. Parker was re-elected in 2015.


Balmain is a marginal seat and could certainly be in play. A lot may depend on who Labor runs in the election, as more high-profile Labor candidates have tended to do better against the Greens. Jamie Parker is well established now, and will still be the favourite if he runs again.

2015 result

Jamie Parker Greens 17,55637.4+6.3
Verity Firth Labor 14,93031.8+1.9
Lyndon Gannon Liberal 11,68224.9-5.8
Patrick FogartyCyclists9512.0+2.0
Michelle NielsenAnimal Justice9131.9+1.9
Gordon BrownNo Land Tax5271.1+1.1
Rhonda AvasaluChristian Democrats3930.8-0.1

2015 two-candidate-preferred result

Jamie Parker Greens 20,01954.7
Verity Firth Labor 16,55745.3

2015 two-party-preferred result

Verity Firth Labor 25,84065.8+11.1
Lyndon Gannon Liberal 13,45634.2-11.1

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 won a majority of the two-candidate-preferred vote in all three areas, ranging from 52.7% in Glebe to 57.4% in Balmain.

The Liberal Party came third, with a vote ranging from 20.1% in Glebe to 28.7% in Balmain.

Voter groupLIB prim %GRN 2CP %Total votes% of votes
Other votes27.255.611,75125.0

Election results in Balmain at the 2015 NSW state election
Toggle between two-candidate-preferred votes (Greens vs Labor) and Liberal primary votes.

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  1. Libs gave an open preference ticket in these ALP vs GRN seats last time didn’t they? Very high exhaustion rate here and in Newtown and Summer Hill.

    OPV definitely seems like a leg up to the Greens in these kind of seats, I reckon they need ~5% less primary vote to win than they do in similar seats in other states or federally.

    I wouldn’t recommend the Greens continue OPV though if given the choice. Overall “the left” (ALP + GRN) is better off with CPV, they trip over each-others feet in seats like Lismore and Coogee in OPV.

  2. This seat could be won by the ALP, with the right candidate…

    Though Balmain has gentrified beyond all recognition from the days when it was regarded as a Labor bastion way back in the 70s and 80s. Back then It was the birthplace of the NSW Greens too – the same elderly faction now fighting to retain control of that troubled party while all sorts of bullying, bad behaviour and factional scandals swirl around inside it. I’m not sure how much its bad press will affect the vote for Jamie Parker (he’s mostly stayed out of the fray, and out of sight generally), but the the odour surrounding the NSW Greens is sure to cost them something here.

    It appears that the Libs are running pretty much dead too. That’s by design – as always they’ll be happy to have a non-Labor MP they can safely ignore in place, and a low Liberal OPV vote will help Parker. And instead of preselecting someone with a high profile who could win – the ALP decided to tick gender box once more. Elly Howse may well be a very nice person, but she is an unknown, is inexperienced, very young, and I believe, doesn’t even live in the electorate.

    The Inner West Council’s mayor, Labor’s Darcy Byrne has high enough media profile (much more so than the near invisible Parker) and is popular enough to take this seat easily. He’s sat at Albo feet for long enough to learn a thing or two about the dark art of politics too, but he’s a “pale, male and stale,” as everyone is now sneering at anyone who doesn’t rate high enough on the diversity scorecard… He himself decided not to stand for preselection, probably after assessing the pre-selection processes built into his party. Publicly he’s stated that he’d rather continue running the much larger and economically important council than sit ineffectually on the opposition backbench.

    A wise choice, I reckon… My tip, a (possibly narrower than last time) Greens win.

  3. The Liberal candidate ran for Council last time around, and has a small business on Darling Street, so he’s not as unknown as the 2015 Liberal candidate. Who knows, he might even do better! I’d never heard of the ALP candidate until the leaflets and posters started. The key take-away for me from the ALP leaflet was the one about cancelling the Western Harbour tunnel project. Is that really a vote winner? I can’t be the only voter in Balmain who drives to work and appreciates improved transport infrastructure, can I? Anyway, inertia and incumbency will lead to another reasonably comfortable win for Jamie Parker.

  4. Picked up some HTVs today… The Greens are directing preferences to Labor (after Animal Justice and KSO), but stop at 4. Labor is being generous to their worst enemy, and giving a no 2 to the Greens before AJP and KSO. And they also stop at 4, no one likes the SA mob (a bunch of grumpy old “get off my patch” conservatives, imho – not sure why Ben included them as “left” in another post)

    Libs are doing 1 only for their guy…

    But very nice to see a bit of “diversity” at last in Balmain’s very whitbread lot… The Libs’ Ben Zhang candidate is a “buddhist” and traditional Chinese medicine practitioner who owns a business on Darling St. He’d probably do a lot better a bit further west (actually you only have to travel across the Iron Cove Bridge). Gentrified Balmain is a pretty “whitebread” place itself.

  5. GNav – you’re not the only one, the Inner West Council did a survey on the WestConnex (the toll road they’re officially opposed to) and found that 50% of their own residents actually supported it, or at least “somewhat supported” it. That result (along with lots of other stats) came as a press release to the media room I work in, but to my knowledge, it wasn’t reported by anyone.

    I doubt there was a conscience effort to bury the figure, probably just wasn’t considered newsworthy. It certainly did go against the accepted narrative though – we’re constantly told everyone in the inner west “hates” the WestConnex. The press actually prefers to focus on the negatives and conflicts, and will always find someone annoyed enough to be quoted and photographed with their arms crossed, looking grumpy… Obviously they’re not the same people who own cars and drive anywhere themselves. Or have Transurban shares in their super portfolios. (The company is a fund favourite). Mostly they just chose not to acknowledge their own role in the process.

    The Greens say they can stop it (they can’t, the WestConnex has already had all the approvals it needs) and Labor says it will not built the WHT (and it probably won’t). I honestly don’t know if voters are as focussed on either project as the candidates and two parties are though… They seem to think (especially the Greens) they’re the only thing Balmain residents will be voting on. If that is the case, they may be in for a surprise.

    (Just to be clear, I’m not a supporter of road tunnel. We need metros – the more the merrier)

  6. Just voted prepoll at Broadway St Barnabus. Unexpectedly quiet – Broadway itself was chockers. Two Labor volunteers and two Greens handing out HTV. No-one else. No Liberal or AJP corflutes or A-frames.

  7. I would say despite all of the rubbish in today’s Herald about Labor being confident it can pick up here, it should be a close Green retain as Jamie Parker has pretty much now consolidated popular support for this seat. If Labor was serious of picking up this seat they would have possibly chosen a better-recognized candidate but it is probably too little too late.

  8. “Rubbish in the Herald” (part 2)

    I read two stories in Saturday’s SMH, one them a “marginal seats” wrap-up which included two brief pars on Balmain. It just said that the electorate was “strengthening” for Labor, the source being an unnamed “senior Greens” who claimed the party’s well documented troubles had meant there are “significantly fewer people willing to help out” (working the booths). There is a follow-up in todays CBD column (Mar 18, p10) saying much the same thing, citing no sources, just “we hear” ( that’s ok, it’s a gossip column). It claimed the party’s fortunes had slumped to the point that it had been forced to ship volunteers in from Ballina, and its authors felt so confident of Parker’s demise they cited in passing his pre-Greens occupation as a “Horny Goat Weed marketer” – something I thought everyone (even journos with long memories) had forgotten.

    The other story in the SMH’s New Review section said the exact opposite. It was an Op-ed written by Paddy Manning, a Greens insider spuiking his upcoming book on the party. Its headline was “Greens voters oblivious to party airing dirty laundry.” It didn’t specifically mention Balmain, but did quote Newtown’s Jenny Leong working the station at nearby Petersham saying that no one was really bothered… And that was the only source for the headline and his conclusion: A self-interested candidate saying, “Nothing to see here!”

  9. So I won’t be relying on the Herald for my predictions… Having previously tipped Greens retain with reduced margin, I’ll stick to the that for now… I did stop and chat to Elly Howse (the Herald’s CBD mis-spelt her name as “Ellie”) outside Leichhardt town hall the other day, and she did seem super confident.. It was lunchtime, there were equal number Labor and Greens people mulling about (no Libs or anyone else). The Greens appeared quite unenergised, or at least the worker I talked to was. Who know if they were from Ballina as the Herald says, but were all quite elderly.

    If Labor does win, Darcy Byrne will be kicking himself for not trying….

  10. The population changes of relatively wealthy people moving here who don’t vote liberal but don’t want to vote labor.. will under most circumstances cause this seat to remain green held

  11. I will go out on a limb with absolutely no basis to do so other than to say I have met Elly once and predict an upset labor win. Will probably end up with as much egg on my face as Senator Anning when there is a swing to the greens but happy to go out on a limb this once.

    PS: assaulting politicians – regardless of how unsavoury one considerers their views – is never on. The way to give them a good thrashing is at the ballot box of the next election……

  12. Not so much of a limb, pollster, I’m wavering too after meeting Elly… The Inner West Courier today quotes some pundit they found (“politics expert Dr Stewart Jackson”) saying Balmain could “go down to the wire” (couldn’t they find a more original phrase?). But maybe the Greens are worried. They’ve spent big on their usual huge billboards (no one else can afford that) all over the inner west, but this time have also forgotten their long standing hatred for News Ltd, and are now happily contributing to its coffers. Rate card rates for them too I bet! And those IWCourier front page ads are premium-priced…

  13. I live and work in this electorate and walk to/from the office every day along most of the length of Darling Street. I’ve seen Elly Howse handing out maybe twice a week over the last month, and haven’t seen Jamie Parker & team once. The Greens letterbox material in the last 2 weeks has been scarce and looks to be printed on a home inkjet printer. Barring the billboards, they don’t seem to have anywhere near the resources we’ve seen them spend in the last state and federal campaigns. Will be tight for sure.

  14. Looks like I am not the only one impressed with Elly Howse. Big ask to turn a majority in 3 out of 23 booths into a majority across the seat.

  15. I met Elly Howse one morning this week at the ferry wharf. She was by herself (not a good look!) and handing out an old leaflet we received ages ago in the letterbox. Made me think the ALP weren’t confident or trying very hard. But… I’m told that later that morning there were half a dozen Labor helpers with her (maybe they slept in!) and yesterday we got in the letterbox the “anonymous” (Sussex St in very tiny letters) leaflet attacking the Greens over their infighting, so maybe my first impression was wrong. I’ve seen Greens workers and Jamie Parker out and about as well – still think JP will retain.

  16. Green hold, and should be for as long as Parker is MP, Labor win their next big landslide, or the Liberals win their next big landslide.

  17. I see haw difficult it is to comment. You should try living in Styles Street Leichhardt. It is like a car park most days out our front door which is less than 2 metres away. Hopefully Westconnex will address this. If that’s not enough we had neighbors asking us to cut back our hedge which helps with noise & pollution. Wake up Sydney look after your residents everyone is self centred & I know you don’t care.

  18. Well, I called the result correctly, but I didn’t anticipate such a strong swing to the Greens. Jamie Parker is well-entrenched now, the seat is his as long as he wishes to remain.

  19. Ditto GNav, I was right too, but didn’t expect to be THAT right… One thing for sure, once the Greens win these affluent “Liberals with bicycles” seats they are there for good (see also Newtown, Ballina, Melbourne).

    But why the big swing? To tell the truth, I dunno… There are hardly any Asian voters in this wealthy white enclave, but it is an area that endlessly calls itself “progressive.” Many would have been genuinely offended by Michael Daley’s racism – enough to give Labor a miss this time around anyway – especially as they were running someone no one had ever heard of. But instead of actually voting for an Asian, they chose a middle-aged white bloke. Why? Because they knew his face from posters he hasn’t changed since 2011? Because he said he’ll stop the WestConnex? (As if!) Who knows…

    The Libs ran a Chinese natural health practitioner, but instead of benefiting from Daley as they did in Kogarah, here they suffered a -5% swing. Maybe he doesn’t have a PhD.

  20. Anyone who believed the nonsense rumour about the Greens having trouble having volunteers to hand out on the day needs to have a good hard look at themselves.


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