Toowoomba South by-election: preview and live coverage

Voters in the state seat of Toowoomba South again trudge to the polls today after their former member, John McVeigh, sought a higher calling by replacing Ian Macfarlane as federal member for Groom.

Live coverage

8.45pm. Postals put the LNP back on course, with Janetzki getting 1442 and Thorley on 823 out of 2615 counted. His primary vote is now 46.2%, which will presumably head upwards on late counting. Thorley would need 80% of preferences on the current numbers, and since Janetzki’s primary vote is likely to improve further as more postals come in, he appears likely to get over the line.

7.53pm. The LNP wins the last polling day booth, Rangeville, by 887 to 714 out of 1966 total, bringing Janetzki’s primary vote to 42.7%. This is 11.3% lower than the LNP ordinary vote total from 2015, which projects to a final primary vote total of 44.2%. It would seem that Thorley would win with something approaching three-quarters of preferences, which doesn’t seem implausible.

7.33pm. As anticipated, Middle Ridge is a better booth for the LNP, giving 1098 to Janetzki and 738 to Thorley, out of 2244 formal votes. Janetzki’s primary total edges up to 42.1%.

7.22pm. Thorley wins Harristown 793 votes to 747 for Janetzki, from a total of 2007. The total LNP primary is a perilously low 40.8%, but the two outstanding fixed booths were both very strong for them in 2015, and they should do well on postals.

7.14pm. Tor Street booth is typical of the others, with 331 for Janetzki, 305 for Thorley, 821 total. I’m picking up a rough 5% swing against the LNP, still projecting to around 50%, but the ABC is projecting 9.5%, and Antony will have thought harder about booth relocations than I have. That projects to an LNP primary vote total of 45.9%, which suggests a close final result.

7.08pm. Gabbinbar indeed comes in higher for the LNP, at 749 votes to 458 for Thorley, opening a 41.6% to 37.0% gap on the primary vote.

7.06pm. This by-election has been totally off my radar over the past fortnight, and I’ve given no thought to the fact that it’s the first election held after the restoration of compulsory preferential voting. It would be interesting if that ended up costing the LNP the seat, which is certainly plausible.

7.02pm. Thorley has a slight primary vote lead in Centenary Heights and Darling Heights, Janetzki has one in West Street. Two of the outstanding booths, Gabbinbar and Rangeville, were particularly strong for the LNP at the election. So despite the 39.6% raw primary vote, you still get the LNP to around 50% if you project off the swing.

6.52pm. Glenvale booth in line with the others: Janetzki 473, Thorley 429, total 1200.

6.51pm. Hume Street South booth doesn’t dispel the impression of a close result, with 299 for Janetzki and 266 for Thorley out of a total of 708.

6.49pm. Based on primary vote swings, Antony Green is suggesting an LNP total of 49%, suggesting Janetzki should be safe.

6.47pm. But now a second fixed booth, St Josephs, gives it to Thorley 189 to 186 out of a 472 total.

6.41pm. However, 233 “telephone votes” have heavily favoured the LNP.

6.30pm. The first booth is Toowoomba, and it’s a worry for the LNP, with Thorley matching it with Janetzki at 159 votes apiece out of 409.

6.28pm. I had a bloody hard time finding the results page on the Electoral Commission of Queensland site, but here it is. Nothing reporting yet.


A by-election is being held today for the Queensland state seat of Toowoomba South, whose former Liberal National Party member, John McVeigh, has now replaced Ian Macfarlane as member for the corresponding federal seat of Groom. The Liberal National Party candidate is David Janetzki, head of banking operations at Heritage Building Society, who won preselection ahead of Sam Wright, a partner at Ambrosiussen Accountants. Labor is not contesting the seat, but the Liberal National Party has cause to be concerned about the prospects of independent candidate Di Thorley, a former mayor of Toowoomba. The Courier-Mail reports of “rumours of polling showing a significant swing against the LNP but not enough to boot it from the seat”.

Toowoomba South covers the areas of the city located 130 kilometres west of Brisbane to the south of the Warrego Highway, with most of the town centre accommodated by Toowoomba North. Whereas Toowoomba North was in Labor hands from 2001 to 2012, and earlier for a term after the 1989 election, Toowoomba South has been held by the National Party and the Liberal National Party since the 1974 landslide. The present division of Toowoomba into northern and southern electorates dates back to 1972, and replaced an arrangement of Toowoomba East and Toowoomba West that in turn went back to 1960, before which the city was encompassed by a single electorate. Prior to the 1974 landslide the city had leaned somewhat to Labor, who had held both of its electorates since 1966.

The seat was held for the Nationals and then the Liberal National Party from 1991 to 2012 by Mike Horan, who passed largely untroubled by the challenges of One Nation in 1998 and the Peter Beattie landslide in 2001. After the 2001 election he served as Nationals leader until February 2003, when he was deposed by Lawrence Springborg. The redistribution before the 2009 election led to suggestions Horan should make way for up-and-coming MP Stuart Copeland, whose seat of Cunningham had been abolished. But Horan remained set on serving another term, and Copeland ran unsuccessfully in the new seat of Condamine as an independent. With Horan’s retirement in 2012, Toowoomba South passed to John McVeigh, previously a Toowoomba councillor and agribusiness management consultant. McVeigh won immediate promotion to cabinet as Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister, and maintained the position through to the government’s defeat in early 2015.

If the LNP retains the seat, it will maintain parity with the Labor minority government, which won 44 seats out of 89 at the election last January but has since lost two to the cross bench. The cross bench consists of two Katter’s Australian Party and three independents, including the two former Labor members and one who was elected as such. The candidates in ballot paper order are Ken Elliott (Katter’s Australian Party); David Janetzki (Liberal National Party); Di Thorley (Independent); Rob Berry (Independent); Alexandra Todd (Family First); Ken Gover (Greens). Live coverage of a sort will be featured here after the close of polling booths at 6pm.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

15 comments on “Toowoomba South by-election: preview and live coverage”

  1. I don’t know how many votes to expect from each booth, but with 9 of 20 booths counted and only 24.24% of enrolment counted it doesn’t look like a big turnout.

  2. LNP hung on to the seat, but they got a 9% swing against them.

    The same swing would lead to a loss of 30 LNP seats at the next state election. 🙂

  3. Maybe this by-election should be read as a mini-referendum on Queensland State politics in general rather than purely as an anti-LNP expression. It’s pretty clear that voters are ill-reconciled to the political order. They hope for more than politics-as-usual.

  4. I think it’s mostly anti-LNP & less state politics.

    The swing would have been a lot less, with maybe even a pro-LNP swing, if Turnbull had lost. But given that Turnbull hung on narrowly, so there’s likely to be an anti-LNP swing in all state elections.

  5. We’ll have to see what the 2CP is like but to me the result looks mostly like the increased number of candidates plus a kicking for dragging the electorate to the polls twice in two weeks. That said, Thorley wasn’t that dangerous an opponent, even failing to register a website in her own name and hence having it registered as an attack site against her.

    I wouldn’t read much into the primary vote swing by itself given that the last election was just LNP-Labor-Green in this seat.

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