Ken Booth (politician)

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Ken Booth

Ken Booth.jpg
Treasurer of New South Wales
In office
2 October 1981 – 25 March 1988
PremierNeville Wran
Barrie Unsworth
Preceded byNeville Wran
Succeeded byNick Greiner
Minister for Sport and Recreation and Minister for Tourism
In office
14 May 1976 – 2 October 1981
PremierNeville Wran
Preceded byDavid Arblaster
Succeeded byMichael Cleary
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Wallsend
In office
24 February 1968 – 1 November 1988
Preceded byNew district
Succeeded byJohn Mills
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Kurri Kurri
In office
8 October 1960 – 23 January 1968
Preceded byGeorge Booth
Succeeded byDistrict abolished
Personal details
Born(1926-02-23)23 February 1926
Kurri Kurri, New South Wales
Died1 November 1988(1988-11-01) (aged 62)
Newcastle, New South Wales
Political partyLabor Party
Spouse(s)Irene Marshall (1954–79)
Gail Mathieson (1982–88)
ChildrenChristine Booth
FatherGeorge Booth

Kenneth George Booth (23 February 1926 – 1 November 1988) was a New South Wales politician, Treasurer, and Minister of the Crown in the cabinets of Neville Wran and Barrie Unsworth. From 1981 to 1988 he was the Treasurer of New South Wales. He was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for 28 years from 8 October 1960 until his death on 1 November 1988 for the Labor Party, representing the seats of Kurri Kurri and Wallsend.[1]

Early life[edit]

Ken Booth was born in 1926 in Kurri Kurri, New South Wales, the son of Labor Member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly since 1925, George Booth, and Annie Elizabeth Booth (née Payne). Booth was educated at Kurri Kurri Public School and Maitland Boys' High School. He later credited his experiences during the Great Depression as formulaic for his left-wing ideas. At age 17, he joined the Labor Party. Booth trained to be a physical education teacher at the Armidale and Sydney Teachers College, gaining a Diploma in Physical Education (DipPhysEd) in 1946.[2]

After teaching at Cessnock High School from 1947 to 1949, he worked in physical education at the Murrumbidgee area office in Wagga Wagga. In 1951 he lectured at Sydney Teachers College and at Newcastle Technical and Newcastle University colleges until 1960. On 23 January 1954 he married Irene Marshall, also a teacher, at Christ Church Cathedral in Newcastle. Together they had a daughter, Christine. An avid sportsman, Booth enjoyed swimming, walking rugby league, basketball, was Secretary of the Newcastle Cricket Association from 1958 to 1960 and a delegate to the New South Wales Cricket Association.[1]

Political career[edit]

When his father died, Booth won ALP pre-selection for his father's then-vacant seat of Kurri Kurri. At the resulting by-election on 8 October 1960, Booth was elected with 92.53% of the vote against a single Communist candidate.[3] He was elected a further two times, in 1962 and 1965, but was elected uncontested as a candidate.[4] He retained this seat until it was abolished in a redistribution prior to the 1968 election. Booth subsequently contested and won the recreated seat of Wallsend, gaining 75.83% of the vote.[5] He would hold this seat through seven more elections in 1971, 1973, 1976, 1978, 1981, 1984 and 1988.[6]

Originally serving in the backbenches, with the election of Neville Wran as Leader of the party he was given the post of Shadow Minister for Education from 13 December 1973 to 14 May 1976.[7] Following the Labor victory at the 1976 election, Booth, a prominent member of the Socialist Left faction of the New South Wales Labor, was sworn in as Minister of the Crown, serving as the Minister for Sport and Recreation and Minister for Tourism. He served on the Councils of the University of New South Wales from 1962 to 1965, Newcastle University College and its successor, Newcastle University from 1963 to 1974.[1]

As Minister for sports, he implemented a capital grants program and became popular among sporting organisations throughout NSW. On 13 August 1979, over a year after their 25th wedding anniversary, his wife Irene died from cancer, aged 47.[1] On 29 February 1980 he was appointed Assistant Treasurer whilst retaining his other portfolios. Held these offices until 2 October 1981 when he was appointed as the Treasurer of New South Wales. As Treasurer, Booth introduced significant reforms, including program budgeting and reorganisation of the parliamentary public accounts committee, embodied in the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983 (NSW).[2]

Later career[edit]

On 21 February 1982 Booth remarried to Gail Mathieson, an office executive, in Redfern.[1] When his good friend and fellow left-faction member, Jack Ferguson, retired as Deputy Premier and Leader, Ferguson recommended Booth as his preferred successor, however, following some opposition from within the left faction, Booth lost the ballot to Ron Mulock.[8] He remained as Treasurer until the defeat of the Unsworth Labor government at the state election in March 1988. In opposition Booth was appointed by the new Leader, Bob Carr, as Shadow Minister for Energy and Shadow Minister for Mineral Resources from 11 April 1988.[7] He was accused by the new Minister for Administrative Services, Matt Singleton, of interfering, as Treasurer, with a Government office accommodation deal that resulted in $350,000 in dead rent. The unsubstantiated allegations infuriated the ALP Opposition and Booth was supported by Opposition Leader, Bob Carr. A subsequent Police inquiry cleared Booth of any wrongdoing. Booth however, did not live to see his name cleared and Carr commented that: "the tragedy of this case is that Ken Booth died before his name could be cleared".[9] He died in office, survived by his daughter and his second wife, of a myocardial infarction on 1 November 1988 at his home and was cremated.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e "The Hon. Kenneth George Booth (1926–1988)". Former Members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Burnswood, Jan (2007). "Booth, Kenneth George (Ken) (1926–1988)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Volume 17. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 1 July 2020 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  3. ^ Green, Antony. "Kurri Kurri by-election 1960". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  4. ^ Green, Antony. "Elections for the District of Kurri Kurri". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  5. ^ Green, Antony. "Wallsend – 1968". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  6. ^ Green, Antony. "Elections for the District of Wallsend". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Opposition Shadow Ministries from 1973". Parliament of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 16 September 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  8. ^ Bramston, Troy (2006). The Wran era. Sydney: Federation Press. 74–75. ISBN 978-1-86287-600-2.
  9. ^ "Booth cleared in Police rent deal inquiry, Carr claims.", Sydney Morning Herald, 1 March 1989 pg.4.


New South Wales Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
George Booth
Member for Kurri Kurri
District abolished
New district Member for Wallsend
Succeeded by
John Mills
Political offices
Preceded by
David Arblaster
as Minister for Culture, Sport and Recreation
and Minister for Tourism
Minister for Sport and Recreation
Succeeded by
Michael Cleary
Minister for Tourism
Title last held by
Max Ruddock
Assistant Treasurer of New South Wales
Title next held by
Phillip Smiles
Preceded by
Neville Wran
Treasurer of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Nick Greiner