A historically swinging seat from the 1960s to early 80s, Barton was held by Labor's former Attorney General Robert McClelland for 17 years until his retirement in 2013, when Varvaris' election win returned it to the Liberal Party by a margin of just .03 %. This, combined with its redistribution to Labor favoured areas, makes Barton a pivotal election seat. It is expected to return to Labor.
The metropolitan inner-south Sydney seat of Barton is a key marginal battleground at this election. On election night expect a great deal of attention on the outcome here.
Created in 1922 and named after Australia’s first Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, the seat covers well-known suburbs like Kogarah and Rockdale. Being close to Sydney International Airport, the issue of aircraft noise has often dominated debate.
The current member for Barton is Nickolas Varvaris, a Liberal Party member who has held the seat since 2013. Varvaris is an accountant who grew up in the area and served on Kogarah Council for 15 years, including a period of time as mayor. He won the seat of Barton narrowly in 2013, beating Labor candidate Steve McMahon by less than 1000 votes after preferences.
However, a redistribution of the electorate's boundaries prior to the 2016 federal election has seen Barton change from a marginal Liberal seat to a notional marginal Labor seat. The Liberal two-party preferred margin of 0.3% at the 2013 polls has been replaced by an estimated Labor margin of 4.4%. Star Labor candidate Linda Burney poses a serious threat to Mr Varvaris. A former teacher and activist, Ms Burney has held the overlapping state electorate of Canterbury since 2003, and has been the Deputy Leader of the NSW Labor Party since 2011. If elected, she will become the first Indigenous Australian woman to sit in the House of Representatives.
Under the redistribution, Barton's southern border has traditionally run along the Georges River from Captain Cook Bridge to the Illawarra rail line. The new boundaries to be used at the 2016 election have removed some of the strongest Liberal voting booths, replacing them with strong Labor areas.
Mr Varvaris has kept voters guessing as to whether he intended to stand for election again. The sitting member missed the February 19 deadline to nominate for pre-selection, and continued to miss extended deadlines granted by the Liberal Party. However, he eventually announced his intention to run on May 10, two days after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the date of the federal election.
Other challengers include Brent Heber (Greens), Sonny Susilo (Christian Democratic Party) and Harry Tsoukalas (Online Direct Democracy).