The Poll Bludger
Margin: Liberal 16.5%
Region: Eastern Rural, South Australia
In a nutshell: A conservative rural seat since the dawn of federation, Barker has been held for the Liberals by Tony Pasin since he deposed Patrick Secker for preselection before the 2013 election.
Candidates in ballot paper order
Barker encompasses the south-eastern corner of South Australia, from Mount Gambier north to the Riverland and its population centres of Renmark, Loxton, Berri and Waikerie, and westwards to the mouth of the Murray River and the towns of Angaston and Murray Bridge, 75 kilometres east of Adelaide. Labor has never held the seat, nor come close to doing so since territory in southern Adelaide was ceded to the new seat of Kingston in 1949. The current Liberal member is Tony Pasin, who defeated Patrick Secker for preselection ahead of the 2013 election.
The electorate has been anchored to the state’s corner since South Australia was first divided into single-member electorates in 1903, and has at all times accommodated Mount Gambier, Bordertown and Keith. From there it has generally extended either westwards to the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island or, as at present, northwards to the Riverland. The former territories were lost when Mayo was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984, but recovered between 1993 to 2004 when Mayo was drawn into Adelaide’s outskirts. The Riverland was last represented by Labor for a term after the 1943 landslide, having been accommodated by the Liberal stronghold of Angas from 1949 until its abolition in 1977, and by Wakefield from 1993 to 2004, which was likewise safe for the Liberals through that time. The 2004 redistribution gave effect to a cut in the state’s parliamentary numbers from twelve to eleven, causing Barker to take back the Riverland from a radically redrawn Wakefield, and Wakefield to take strong Labor areas in outer northern Adelaide from abolished Bonython.
Barker was held for the Country Party by Archie Cameron from 1934 until it dumped him as leader a year after he took over from Earle Page in 1939, at which point he defected to the United Australia Party. Cameron became part of the newly founded Liberal Party in 1944, which has held Barker ever since. The member from 1990 to 1998 was Ian McLachlan, a former National Farmers Federation president touted by some as a future prime minister. McLachlan won preselection for the seat at the expense of the incumbent, James Porter, who had held it since 1975. However, McLachlan’s ministerial career was limited to a single term as Defence Minister, followed by his unexpected retirement at the 1998 election. His successor in Barker was Patrick Secker, who led a generally low-profile parliamentary career before being unseated for preselection before the 2013 election.
Despite endorsement from Tony Abbott and moderate factional powerbroker Christopher Pyne, Secker lost a local ballot to Mount Gambier lawyer Tony Pasin by 164 votes to 78, with a further 40 recorded for a third candidate. Pasin picked up a 3.5% swing at the election, and holds the seat with a margin of 16.5%. He was public in his support for Tony Abbott through his leadership travails in 2015, and has since been identified as part of a loose grouping of conservatives dissatisfied with the Malcolm Turnbull ascendancy. Pasin’s opponents at the election will include James Stacey, a grain and livestock farmer who was the Nationals’ lead Senate candidate in South Australia in 2013.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.