Balmain – NSW 2023

GRN 10.0% 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.

No change.

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 more comfortably re-elected in 2015 and 2019.

Sitting Greens MP Jamie Parker is not running for re-election.

Balmain was reasonably safe for the sitting member. It’s an open question how much of his margin is a personal vote as opposed to a more general support for the Greens.

2019 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Jamie Parker Greens 21,065 42.7 +5.3
Elly Howse Labor 14,227 28.9 -2.9
Wenjie (Ben) Zhang Liberal 9,875 20.0 -4.9
Emilia Leonetti Keep Sydney Open 2,268 4.6 +4.6
Anita Finlayson Animal Justice 1,103 2.2 +0.3
Angela Dunnett Sustainable Australia 761 1.5 +1.5
Informal 781 1.6

2019 two-candidate-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Jamie Parker Greens 24,074 60.0 +5.3
Elly Howse Labor 16,037 40.0 -5.3

2019 two-party-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Elly Howse Labor 28,127 70.5 +4.7
Wenjie (Ben) Zhang Liberal 11,795 29.5 -4.7

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 60.7% in Leichhardt to 61.8% in Balmain.

The Liberal Party came third, with a vote ranging from 17.3% in Glebe to 22.1% in Balmain.

Voter group LIB prim GRN 2CP Total votes % of votes
Leichhardt 18.7 60.7 12,223 24.8
Balmain 22.1 61.8 9,795 19.9
Glebe 17.3 60.9 7,706 15.6
Other votes 22.1 59.0 10,675 21.7
Pre-poll 19.6 57.6 8,900 18.1

Election results in Balmain at the 2019 NSW state election
Toggle between two-candidate-preferred votes (Greens vs Labor), two-party-preferred votes and primary votes for the Greens, Labor and the Liberal Party.

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  1. I’d say the big 2PP and PV swings to Labor in Balmain were partly attributable to the statewide popularity of Minns and the Labor brand – it’s like a rising tide lifting all boats. This could explain why Labor scored huge swings in Miranda and Terrigal (which they are close in) as well as safe Liberal seats that they were never gonna win (e.g. Castle Hill, Hornsby).

    It made sense for Labor to have broad appeal across middle-ring, outer-suburban and regional electorates where there was next to no competition from the Greens, except maybe in Lismore. As @Adda alluded to, the antagonism between the Greens and Labor helped Labor win a swag of seats where it counted.

    Locally, there were unique factors: Albo’s presence and Jamie Parker’s departure. What appears is that Labor scooped up ex-KSO and ex-AJP voters or minimised their votes going to the Greens, which they probably preferenced in 2019.

  2. “What do people think was the effect of Labor’s (pathetic) lies about “Vote Greens Risk Perrottet” messaging in terms of psephological values? I earlier found a clip of Tim Ayres saying this lie in the Senate chamber (Which Ben Raue and Andrew Bartlett called out).”


    They did exactly the same thing in Griffith at the recent federal election. The desperate claim that time was that if Labor didn’t get to 76 seats then Morrison would remain PM, which of course was completely false. It’s like they expected everyone to forget that the Gillard gov didn’t have a majority. Screenshot:

  3. “Bizarre? It was listed on the ABC website as seats in doubt yesterday. Labor’s objective is to win seats for Labor what’s so bizarre about that?”


    They could have directed the resources they wasted on Balmain to other seats held by the Coalition, then perhaps they wouldn’t be in the situation they are now wondering if they are going to reach a majority or not. Balmain was not held by the government and the Greens had clearly stated that they were willing to work with Labor and ruled out working with the Coalition. I’m not suggesting that Labor shouldn’t contest Balmain at all, they are perfectly entitled to do that, but the huge effort they put into it this time looks like it could really come back to bite them now that the Libs are clawing back ground in the late counting.

  4. “Greens cannibalize the Labor vote. Its likely costed Labor majority government”


    You say that as if it’s a bad thing! It’s really not.

    Greens voters aren’t Labor voters. You don’t own that vote, only the individual owns their vote and they are entitled to do whatever they want with it.

  5. In the overall context of the election, Balmain doesn’t matter much. But for the ALP to win elections it needs voters in Western Sydney. One way to do that is actually have a bit of a go in a Green electorate or two, try to tie the Greens to the Libs (relatively easy if the Libs have a Turnbull or Kean) and hope that resonates enough with your outer suburban voters. I doubt they were truly going after Balmain – although it does play an outsize role in how Labor thinks of itself.

  6. @Mostly Labor Voter

    I think all this Balmain campaign did was damage Labor long-term in the area (the effects I doubt will come until a bit later but WILL eventually happen). Labor got a swing this time to them, but I believe it permanently alienated (*) the 41% Primary and 52% 2pp that remained with the Greens this time. TBH the Greens should really tap into the fact that Labor lied in this area, and brand them as untrustworthy. It should be enough to keep Labor from controlling a hypothetical deamalgamated Leichhardt Council 2025 because a ((very) simplified) calculation would only need the Greens to repeat what they got this time in State Balmain (easy given *) to keep Labor out of council control/mayor there. (We will assume Glebe area voters aren’t much different to Leichhardt/Balmain voters for simplicity. Probably true anyway from the map)

    It would be harder for the Greens to do this strategy in areas overlapping Griffith like Greenslopes and Bulimba because at the point of Labor exclusion, Greens only had 36% (Assume this is the percentage that got permanently alienated by Labor in this case). Even if Labor loses even more ground to the Greens, taking enough (admittedly lots) Liberal votes can make the Greens lose via a 2pp between Labor and the Greens. Once they are an incumbent (e.g. Max/Amy/Jonno), they follow a different rule I think.

  7. My interpretation of the ‘Risk Perrottet’ line is that it was probably effective, or at least it’s the most effective line of attack open to Labor in progressive electorates. As John said Labor simply won’t risk having a good-faith contest of ideas in nominally Greens-friendly electorates. Obviously they’ve tried similar tactics at the federal election, particular in Brisbane, and it didn’t work nearly so well for them there. The difference of course is that the Greens have an effective campaign machine in inner-city Brisbane to counter Labor misinformation campaigns. In Sydney, it’s patchy at best.

    People can quibble over primary vs 2cp vote if they like, the reality is that we have preferential voting, and the only lesson Labor will learn from this campaign is that they can win in Greens-held electorates. They don’t care if the necessary tactics are inherently mendacious.

  8. “and the only lesson Labor will learn from this campaign is that they can win in Greens-held electorates”


    Learning the lessons of victory by tasting defeat? Well I suppose that’s one way to look at it…

    Balmain was meant to be this big test for the Greens to see if we could hold a seat after a retirement. It was being billed as such all campaign by Labor and the media. I think now that the ABC has called it, it’s pretty safe to say that we passed the test.

    Kobi Shetty claimed victory a few hours ago via FB:

  9. The booth results are interesting here seems to show a class divide with the areas with best water views around Balmain East and Birchgrove being best for the Greens but Labor picked up a swing in more Inland Annandale and Leichardt.

  10. Bear in mind that lines up with the wards of the two candidates. The Greens candidate represents Balmain, while the Labor candidate represents Leichhardt. I think it’s far more likely to be that than some class divide.

  11. Good point Ben, I did not pick that up. i thought differences in property prices may have accounted for difference in voting patterns.

  12. Freya Leach was a great Liberal candidate. She’s young and can appeal to young people with more moderate views, plus she has an active social media presence, etc, while at the same time being staunchly pro-Israel and anti-Hamas and she voted No to the Voice. The problem is she ran in Balmain, a seat the Liberals have never won (and a seat it never will win).

    She could run for the Legislative Council or the Senate, or perhaps she could contest the nearby federal seat of Reid, or of course she could contest the key seat of Strathfield (which is usually a marginal Labor seat but is certainly winnable for the Liberals). I doubt she’d contest Drummoyne despite it being the safest option since Stephanie Di Pasqua’s also young and a good local member so she won’t resign any time soon. But Freya’s definitely someone I’d like to see elected to Parliament, she just needs the right seat to contest.

    Any thoughts?

  13. Moderate? Freya Leach? Really? Everything I’ve ever heard about her suggests she isn’t moderate at all, right down to her status as the head of the University of Sydney’s Conservative Club.

  14. @Wilson she is considered “centre-right” at least, according to the Sydney Morning Herald:

    Anyway, she does appear to be pro-climate action: (it’s in a photo caption somewhere, not trying to give attention to TikTok trolls or the DailyMail, which is not a reliable source for most things)

  15. Also I don’t think saying “let’s show young people a real recession” is gonna play well in any seat other than any with an extremely large older population. (Also ignoring that anyone at the ripe old age of 18 has lived through two major recessions already)

  16. freya leach lost votes for the liberals in balmain, there’s no evidence she ‘appeals to young voters’ in any sense whatsoever, which isn’t surprising to me given she has no demonstrable talent other than staging a handful of idiotic stunts that elevated her voice above the cacophony of idiotic right-wing punditry for all of about two minutes, mostly to remind the few people who cared that she is indeed still an annoying attention-seeking idiot. i dunno if she’s even still good at that, because the counter-protest she organized for israel last week struggled to crack double digits attendance as palestine supporters have been turning out in their thousands every single weekend for months on end. so please run her again. in fact parachute her into as many marginal contests as you like, with as many gen-z voters as possible.

  17. I’m a young moderate voter, and everything I’ve heard about Leach (including her own words) terrifies me. Being young and far-right and a muppet doesn’t change the fact that you’re far-right and a muppet.

  18. Freya Leach filmed herself ripping Pro-Palestine Posters during 0-Week at Sydney Uni. She is very pro-Israel as stated above. However, nearly all moderate Liberals such as Dave Sharma, Katie Allen, Kellie Sloane, Paul Fletcher are Pro-Israel as well. I am not which seat she will run in. However, I dont think she can run in a seat like Werriwa with such a position. She appeared on Sky after Dark recently link below.

  19. While I agree with her position. She cannot position herself as a moderate nor can she position herself as someone who can win marginal Labor territory for the Liberals by ripping posters. I agree Israel is the victim here but you don’t see me ripping posters or shouting inflammatory remarks at rallies. Free speech is free speech but you can only go so far.

    And appearing on Sky News is a sin in itself. Peda Credlin is a fascist and a disgrace to this country and any politician with a brain would not appear on her show.

    Bolt is no better either.

  20. Agree Nicholas and Daniel, you can still be pro Israel like Dave sharma and the other politicians and also mature as I recall those public figures argued their points in a clearly articulated manner and didn’t resort to childish acts like freya leach.


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