Barrie Unsworth

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Not to be confused with Barry Unsworth, British novelist.
The Honourable
Barrie Unsworth
Barrie Unsworth.png
36th Premier of New South Wales
Election: 1988
In office
4 July 1986 – 25 March 1988
Deputy Ron Mulock
Preceded by Neville Wran
Succeeded by Nick Greiner
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Rockdale
In office
2 August 1986 – 3 May 1991
Preceded by Brian Bannon
Succeeded by George Thompson
Member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales
In office
6 November 1978 – 15 July 1986
Personal details
Born (1934-04-16) 16 April 1934 (age 81)
Dubbo, New South Wales
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Pauline Hennessy
Profession Trade union official
Religion Catholic

Barrie John Unsworth (born 16 April 1934) was an Australian politician, representing the Australian Labor Party in the Parliament of New South Wales from 1978 to 1991. He served as the 36th Premier from July 1986 to March 1988.

Early years[edit]

Unsworth, the son of Joseph and Olive Unsworth, was born in Dubbo, New South Wales, and educated in Sydney, at Kogarah High School. On leaving school, at age 15, he was apprenticed as an electrical fitter. In 1955, aged 21 years, he married Pauline Hennessy and they subsequently had one daughter and three sons, one of whom has died; he and his wife have nine grandchildren. Unsworth was initially an Apprentice Electrical Fitter, then Electrical Fitter, Electrical Testing Officer and subsequently Sales Representative for Sydney County Council from 1950 until 1960.[1]

Unsworth had a brief period of military national service between 1953 and 1954 in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).[1]

Union career[edit]

In 1961, Unsworth became an organiser of the Electrical Trades Union, and continued to build his career in the labour movement and was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 1966 to attend Harvard University, Trade Union Program. The following year, he was elected to the Labor Council of NSW and was its elected Secretary from 1979 to 1984. Unsworth was an Australian delegate to His Royal Highness of Duke of Edinburgh Study Conference, Oxford University in 1974[1][2]

During his career as an elected union official, he was appointed by the Wran Labor NSW Government to a range of government bodies including:

  • Public Transport Commission of New South Wales, Commissioner (1972–1975)
  • Pipeline Authority, Member (1973–1978)

Political career[edit]

Unsworth was elected a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council in 1978. While serving in the Legislative Council, Unsworth represented Australia as a delegate at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Worker Participation in Management Conferences held in Geneva (1980) and The Hague (1981).

In the Wran Labor Government, Unsworth was Minister for Transport (1984–1986) and Minister for Health (February to July 1986).[3]

After the surprise retirement of Premier Neville Wran in May 1986, he became leader of the NSW Labor Party and thus Premier, and was also Minister for Ethnic Affairs and Minister for State Development. As Premiers are required by convention to be members of the Legislative Assembly, Brian Bannon, member for Rockdale, resigned to accept a government job as Chairman of the Homebush States Sport Centre Trust,[4] and Unsworth contested the resulting by-election held on 2 August 1986. He only narrowly won the seat, with a 17.1% dive in the primary vote and hostile independent preferences giving him a margin of just 54 votes.[5] A by-election for Wran's safe Labor seat of Bass Hill was even worse, with a 22.2 per cent drop on the primary vote delivering a 103 vote victory to the Liberal candidate.[5]

Unsworth was Premier for two years[1] until the Labor Party's landslide defeat by the Liberals' Nick Greiner in the 1988 elections. Unsworth did not contest the 1991 election.

Life after politics[edit]

Immediately following politics, Unsworth had little political involvement with his only public commitment being as Deputy Chairman and then Chairman of the Australian Executive Committee for His Royal Highness Duke of Edinburgh Study Conference (1982–1998). Unsworth was General Manager of 2KY Broadcasters Pty Ltd Racing Radio between 1992-2000. In 2001 he was a recipient of the Centenary Medal.[6]

Following the election of the Carr Labor Government in 1995, Unsworth was placed on a number of key government and community bodies, including:

During 2003 - 2008, Unsworth was a Director of Father Chris Riley's charity, Youth off the Streets, that provides crisis care, refuges, schools, drug and alcohol programs to young people in Australia and throughout Asia. Unsworth has also been a Director of Entherm Pty Ltd (2003–2005), Member of Overseas Trade Authority of New South Wales (1978) and a Director of Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (2004–2006).[1]

In 2003 and 2004, Unsworth was commissioned by the NSW Government to conduct a formal review of public bus services.[7] In 2008 he headed a committee that considered the privatisation of the New South Wales' electricity industry.[8] The committee and Unsworth supported the sale.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "The Hon. Barrie John Unsworth (1934–)". Members of Parliament. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  2. ^ "The Hon. Barrie John Unsworth (1934–)". NSW Parliamentary Papers. State Library of New South Wales. Retrieved 13 June 2010. 
  3. ^ "Chronological List of Ministries (1856 to 2009)". Former Members of Parliament. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 13 June 2010. 
  4. ^ "Rockdale By-election (1986)". NSW Electoral Commission. Retrieved 13 June 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "By-election bloodbaths". Crikey. 27 November 2005. Retrieved 13 June 2010. 
  6. ^ "UNSWORTH, Barrie John". It's an Honour database. Australian Government. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  7. ^ "Ministerial Review of Bus Services in NSW (Unsworth Review)". NSW Government, Ministry of Transport. 15 July 2004. Archived from the original on 9 November 2007. Retrieved 26 November 2007. 
  8. ^ "Unsworth to head electricity committee". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 January 2008. 
  9. ^ NSW electricity privatisation bid rejected – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Political offices
Preceded by
Paul Landa
Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council
1984 – 1986
Succeeded by
Jack Hallam
Vice-President of the Executive Council
1984 – 1986
Preceded by
Peter Cox
Minister for Transport
1984 – 1986
Succeeded by
Ron Mulock
Preceded by
Ron Mulock
Minister for Health
Succeeded by
Peter Anderson
Preceded by
Neville Wran
Premier of New South Wales
1986 – 1988
Succeeded by
Nick Greiner
Minister for Ethnic Affairs
1986 – 1988
New title Minister for State Development
1986 – 1988
Succeeded by
Wal Murray
Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
Brian Bannon
Member for Rockdale
1986 – 1991
Succeeded by
George Thompson
Party political offices
Preceded by
Neville Wran
Leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales
1986 – 1988
Succeeded by
Bob Carr