A second by-election now looms in Queensland, in which One Nation may cause trouble in a traditionally Labor-voting working class seat. Elsewhere, Josh Frydenberg faces a contentious Section 44 challenge, and a Victorian Liberal aspirant regrets not paying his train fare.

At the top of the sidebar are links to guides I have up for three by-election campaigns currently in progress, including yesterday’s new addition:

• Queensland’s festival of democracy on March 28 looks set to receive a new attraction after Jo-Ann Miller’s announcement to parliament yesterday that she is resigning as member of the eastern Ipswich seat of Bundamba, effective immediately. After two decades as Labor member, Miller has grown increasingly estranged from her party over time, a particularly interesting manifestation of which was an appearance alongside Pauline Hanson on the campaign trail two days before the December 2017 state election. One Nation did not field a candidate against Miller in 2017, but has been quick to announce it has a candidate ready to go for the by-election, who will be announced on the weekend. Since Ipswich was the birthplace of the Hanson phenomenon, this could yet make the by-election more interesting than the 21.6% two-party margin suggests. Tony Moore of the Brisbane Times reports Steve Axe, Miller’s electorate officer, will contest the preselection, but Sarah Elks of The Australian reports the front runners are two candidates of the Left: Nick Thompson and Lance McCallum, who are respectively aligned with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and the Electrical Trades Union. I have a provisional by-election guide up and running which takes it for granted it will be held on March 28, though this is yet to be officially confirmed. Also on that day will be the Currumbin by-election and council elections, including for the big prizes of the Brisbane city council and lord mayoralty.

• Further on the by-election front, I had a paywalled piece in Crikey yesterday on the Greens preferences imbroglio in Johnston.

Legal matters:

• The Federal Court is hearing a Section 44 challenge against Josh Frydenberg relating to his Hungarian-born mother, which complainant Michael Staindl argues makes him a dual citizen. Frydenberg’s mother and her family fled the country in 1949 as its post-war communist regime tightened its grip on power, describing themselves as stateless on arrival in Australia. Staindl maintains that the whole family’s Hungarian citizenship rights were restored with the collapse of communism in 1949. Staindl is also pursuing defamation action against Scott Morrison over the latter’s claim that his action was motivated by anti-Semitism. The Australian ($) reports a decision is expected “within weeks”.

• In further legal obscurantism news, Emanuele Cicchiello has withdrawn from the race to fill Mary Wooldridge’s vacancy in the Victorian Legislative Council on the grounds that he once pleaded guilty to an offence carrying a prison term of more than five years – for improperly claiming a concessional train fare when he was 19. The Australian ($) reports that those remaining in the field are Asher Judah, former Property Council deputy director and Master Builders policy manager, and Matthew Bach, deputy director of Ivanhoe Girls Grammar.

Return of the frack

A contentious preference recommendation by the Greens brings a Northern Territory by-election to life, while the closure of nominations yields only a small field of candidates for the Queensland seat of Currumbin.

No Newspoll this week, owing to The Australian’s enthusiasm for unleashing them at the start of parliamentary sitting weeks, requiring a three week break rather than the usual two. However, we do have a extensive new poll on the bushfire crisis from the Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research and Methods and the Social Research Centre. It finds that fully 78.6% of the population reports being affected by the fires in one way or another, 14.4% severely or directly. Half the sample of 3000 respondents was asked how Scott Morrison had handled the bushfires, of whom 64.5% disapproved; for the other half the question was framed in terms of the government, with 59.4% disapproving.

Beyond that, there’s the two state/territory by-election campaigns currently in progress:

• I have posted a guide to next Saturday’s by-election in the Northern Territory seat of Johnston, which has suddenly became of more than marginal interest owing to the Greens decision to put Labor last on their how-to-vote cards (albeit that local electoral laws prevent these being distributed within close proximity of polling booths). This has been done to protest the decision by Michael Gunner’s Labor government to lift a moratorium on gas fracking exploration. The party has not taken such a step in any jurisdiction since the Queensland state election of July 1995, when it sought to punish Wayne Goss’s government in the seat of Springwood over a planned motorway through a koala habitat. This made a minor contribution to its loss of the seat, and hence to its eventual removal from office after a by-election defeat the following February. There’s acres of useful information on all this on Antony Green’s new blog, which he is publishing independently due to the ABC’s cavalier treatment of the invaluable blog he had there in happier times. There will also be a piece by me on the Greens’ decision in Crikey today, God willing.

• The other by-election in progress at the moment is for the Queensland seat of Currumbin on March 28, for which my guide can be found guide can be found here. With the closure of nominations last week, only two candidates emerged additional to Laura Gerber of the Liberal National Party and Kaylee Campradt of Labor: Sally Spain of the Greens, a perennial candidate for the party in federal and state Gold Coast seats; and Nicholas Bettany of One Nation, about whom the only thing I can tell you is that he recently deleted his Twitter account (what’s preserved of it on the Google cache reveals nothing particularly outrageous).

All the fun of the fair

Leadership action for two parties at the second tier of federal politics, dates confirmed for Queensland and Northern Territory by-elections, and the Liberals choose a successor for Cory Bernardi’s Senate seat.

Party leadership developments:

• Barnaby Joyce has announced he will contest the Nationals leadership when the party room holds its first meeting on the resumption of parliament this morning, with a view to deposing Michael McCormack, who replaced Joyce him after his resignation in February 2018. This follows the opening of the deputy leadership position after Bridget McKenzie resigned from cabinet on Sunday over her handling of grants to sports clubs while serving as Sports Minister before the election. Joyce has two confirmed supporters out of a party room of 21, most notably Matt Canavan, who also quit cabinet yesterday (while also taking the opportunity to concede a loan under the North Australia Infrastructure Facility Act, over which he has ministerial oversight, had been given to an NRL club of which he was a registered supporter). The other is Wide Bay MP Llew O’Brien, who will move the spill motion that will vacate the leadership position if it gets the required 11 votes. Sharri Markson of News Corp reports claims Joyce has precisely that many votes, but this does not seem to be the majority view: a Seven News reporter related a view that Joyce had about seven, while an unnamed Liberal MP told The Australian ($) Joyce would not get “anywhere near” winning. David Littleproud, Keith Pitt and David Gillespie will all nominate for the deputy position, with Littleproud rated the favourite.

• Richard Di Natale announced yesterday that he was quitting both the Greens leadership and would shortly leave the Senate, saying he wished to spend more time with his family. Every indication is that he will be succeeded this morning by the party’s sole member of the House of Representatives, Melbourne MP Adam Bandt. The Australian ($) reports there are “discussions under way” for Queensland Senator Larissa Waters to take on a new role as party leader in the Senate”. Di Natale will remain in parliament pending the party’s process for choosing his replacement, which is likely to take several months. There is only the vaguest of speculation at this point as to who the successor might be.

By-election news:

• It has been confirmed the Queensland state by-election for the Gold Coast state seat of Currumbin, to be vacated with the resignation of Liberal National Party member Jann Stuckey, will be held on March 28, the same day as the state’s council elections. The selection of lawyer Laura Gerber as LNP candidate has fuelled Stuckey’s attacks on the party, on the basis that she was chosen by the party’s state executive rather than a vote of local members, and that this reflected a determination for the seat to be contested by “a skirt”. Among the reasons for Stuckey’s alienation from the party is that her own favoured successor, Chris Crawford, was blocked by the party’s vetting committee last year. The LNP has held the seat since 2004, currently on a margin of 3.3%.

• The date for the Northern Territory by-election in the Darwin seat of Johnston has been set for February 29. The seat is being vacated with the retirement of Labor member Ken Vowles after a period of estrangement from the party and its leader, Chief Minister Michael Gunner. The seat will be contested by Joel Bowden for Labor; Josh Thomas for the Country Liberals; Steven Klose for the Territory Alliance, the new party associated with former CLP Chief Minister Terry Mills; and Aiya Goodrich Carttling for the Greens. Labor has held the seat since its creation in 2001, currently on a margin of 14.7%.

Preselection news:

• South Australia’s Liberals have chosen a factional moderate, Andrew McLachlan, to fill the Senate vacancy created by the retirement of Cory Bernardi. McLachlan has served in the state’s Legislative Council since 2014, and been the chamber’s President since the 2018 election. Tom Richardson of InDaily reports McLachlan won 131 out of 206 votes in the ballot of state council members to 51 for former Law Council of Australia president Morry Bailes and 24 for former state party treasurer Michael Van Dissel, both of whom are associated with the Right. Bailes’ weak showing in particular amounted to an “epic defeat” for hard right forces including Boothby MP Nicolle Flint and Barker MP Tony Pasin.

• Another looming federal redistribution in Victoria, whose population boom will again entitle it to an extra seat, has set off a round of turf wars within the ALP, highlighted by a scuffle that broke out at a branch meeting last week. This reportedly followed the arrival of 100 supporters of Labor Right powerbroker Adem Somyurek at a branch meeting held at the Hoppers Crossing home of Jasvinder Sidhu, a Socialist Left preselection aspirant, who was allegedly assaulted after telling the group to leave. Somyurek is said have designs for his faction on the seat of Lalor, held formerly by Julia Gillard and currently by Joanne Ryan, which the party’s once stable factional arrangements reserved for the Left. According to a Labor source quoted in The Age, the Right has secured control of branches in the Calwell electorate and is likely to take the seat when the Left-aligned Maria Vamvakinou retires, while the Left is seeking to gain leverage by putting pressure on Right-aligned Tim Watts in Gellibrand.

Also, the Nine/Fairfax papers are reporting on an Ipsos poll of 1014 respondents concerning climate change, which is apparently part of an annual series conducted by the pollster, with no information provided as to who if anyone might commission it. While the poll records a high pitch of concern about climate change, it does not find this to be at a greater height than last year (somewhat at odds with the recent finding of Ipsos’s Issue Monitor series, which recorded a post-bushfire surge in concern about the environment), and actually records an increase in the number of respondents who had “serious doubts about whether climate change is occurring”: from 19% two years ago to 22% last year to 24% this year.

Queensland state by-election(s) and the Brisbane lord mayoralty

Queensland state by-elections loom in at least one seat, almost certain to be held on the day of the state’s council elections.

Queensland looks like it may have a practice run for its October state election on March 28, in the shape of by-elections for two state seats together with its council elections, which are themselves of unusual interest due to the extent of the City of Brisbane and the partisanship of its council politics. Certainly a contested by-election looms in the southern Gold Coast seat of Currumbin, after Liberal National Party member Jann Stuckey resigned on Wednesday, trumping her announcement last June that she would not seek another term. The other potential by-election is in the seat of Bundamba in eastern Ipswich, a seat safe enough for Labor that it was among the seven retained at the party’s 2012 election wipeout. The situation there arises from suggestions that Jo-Ann Miller, a long-standing thorn in the side of her party’s leadership, is considering jumping ship to run for the mayoralty of Ipswich. The ABC quotes the Electoral Commissioner, Pat Vigden, as saying the cost of a by-election would be cut from $350,000 to $210,000 if it was held on the same day as the council elections.

Jann Stuckey’s announcement on Wednesday that she was retiring due to a battle with depression carried the sting that political life had exposed her to “bullying, personal attacks and insults”. This follows threats to her preselection after she and two other LNP members voted to remove abortion from the criminal code in November 2018 in what was supposedly a conscience vote (the only Labor member who voted against was the aforementioned Jo-Ann Miller), and her publicly voiced displeasure that the party’s candidate vetting committee knocked back the preselection nomination of her favoured successor, Chris Crawford. However, LNP leader Deb Frecklington insisted Stuckey’s comments in her retirement announcement referred to attacks on her by Labor, which Stuckey has endorsed to the extent of telling Seven News she had been “humiliated” by recent government attacks on her in parliament.

Stuckey has held Currumbin for the Liberals and then the LNP since 2004, most recently on a margin of 3.3% at the 2017 election. This followed a 2.4% swing to Labor, reducing the margin to its lowest point since her first two wins in 2004 and 2006. The seat was previously held for Labor from 1992 to 2004 by Merri Rose, a Beattie government minister whose career ended ignominiously. Labor’s candidate will be Kaylee Campradt, a part-time campaign officer for the Queensland Council of Unions who was preselected to run at the state election last October. No word on the LNP preselection that I’m aware of, other than a statement from the party’s administration that it will be “expedited”.

The Brisbane lord mayoralty election will pit LNP incumbent Adrian Schrinner against Labor candidate Patrick Condren, a television news journalist. Labor originally selected its unsuccessful candidate from 2016, Rod Harding, but dumped him in favour of Condren in September. The Liberals (technically the LNP since 2010) have won four successive lord mayoral elections since 2004, the last three by landslide margins. Campbell Newman was the winner in 2004 and 2008, and was succeeded on his entry to state politics in 2012 by Graham Quirk, the winner of 2012 and 2016. Quirk in turn resigned in April last year and was succeeded by Schrinner, the choice of the LNP-dominated council.

The LNP won 19 of the 26 council wards in 2016 to Labor’s five, with the others going to an ex-Liberal independent and the Greens. In the ward of Pullenvale, former federal Ryan MP Jane Prentice suffered another preselection defeat on Wednesday at the hands of Greg Adermann, as both vied to succeed incumbent Kate Richards, who has been disendorsed and referred by her own party to the Crime and Corruption Commission.

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.

Stafford by-election live

Ongoing coverage of the count for Queensland’s Stafford by-election, and its aftermath.

# % Swing 2PP (proj.) Swing
Bob Andersen (Liberal National) 7,967 33.4% -18.6% 36.7% -20.3%
Sally-Anne Vincent (Family First) 951 4.0%
Anne Boccabella (Greens) 2,846 11.9% +2.1%
Anthony Lynham (Labor) 12,105 50.7% +17.1% 63.3% +20.3%
FORMAL/TURNOUT 23,869 76.6%
Informal 474 2.2% +0.1%
Booths reporting: 14 out of 14


The table above shows raw figures in the first two columns for the primary vote, then uses booth matching over the next three columns for the primary vote swings, two-party preferred result and two-party swing. However, these figures are entirely derived from the polling day booth results, and are unaffected by the 2742 pre-polls and 2946 postals which have been added to the count, which are included in the first two columns. Here the swing has been slightly lower – respectively at 16.0% and 14.7% by my reckoning, compared with the 20.3% shown based on polling booth results. So it would seem in the final analysis that the swing is unlikely to have a two in front of it. An interesting new feature of the declaration vote breakdowns is “uncertain identity”, which no doubt has something to do with the new voter identification regime. There are as yet no results listed, but presumably this will change over the next week as the ECQ investigates the declaration votes of those who showed up at the polling booth without the required ID.

The map to the right shows booth-level two-party results from both the March 2012 state election and yesterday. The swing was highly uniform throughout the electorate with the exception of the Chermside booth, where it was only about 6%, and the Prince Charles Hospital booth, where it was 31% (not shown because with only 223 votes cast it falls below the 250-vote threshold I use for inclusion). The waters in Chermside may have been muddied by the fact that it attracted voters who at the general election voted in nearby polling booths in other electorates.

The chart to the left offers some historical perspective by detailing polling booth results (so no postals, pre-polls, absents or other declaration votes) in Stafford from this and previous election. I did this half in the expectation of showing that 2012 rather than yesterday was the extraordinary result, but what emerges is that it was a very good result for Labor by any measure. It should be particularly encouraging for them that they were about 6% up on two-party preferred from a winning election in 2009, although I should caution that Labor did seem to suffer a bit of a backlash in Brisbane’s inner north on that occasion.

Another way of putting the result in perspective is offered by the chart to the right, which seeks to illustrate the extent to which by-election swings provide a pointer to the result of the next election. Drawing on federal and state by-election results over recent decades, it shows the government swing (which is usually negative) on the X-axis and the overall swing recorded at the subsequent election on the Y-axis. The linear trendline that runs through the middle is not brilliantly predictive, explaining only 42% of the variation, but the relationship is there, and for a 20% by-election swing it implies a swing of 8.7% at the following election. While this is a seismic shift in absolute terms, it still leaves the LNP out in front by 54-46. If such a swing was uniform, Labor would emerge with a still fairly modest 27 seats in an assembly of 89 – although importantly, one of those seats would be Ashgrove.


7.51pm. Stafford Heights two-party result added.

7.39pm. All that remains for the evening is two-party results from the Stafford Heights booth and perhaps a few pre-poll numbers. The projected swing to Labor is now over 20% – a disastrous result for the LNP by any standard.

7.20pm. All booths now in on the primary vote, and the result is fairly clearly looking worse for the LNP than Redcliffe, which would be gravely alarming for them.

7.03pm. At around the time I thought results would start coming in, they’re actually well on their way to finished. Preference shares: 52.1% to Labor (41.4% in 2012), 14.4% to LNP (20.3%), 33.5% exhausted (38.3%).

7.01pm. Gympie Road booth added, swing now 18.9%.

6.58pm. Stafford West booth has reported, and the swing is staying above 18%.

6.55pm. There are now enough two-party votes that I’m no longer going off 2012 preferences, and the Labor swing is now even higher – over 18%.

6.49pm. I very seriously understimated how fast this count was going to be. Six normal booths in plus a pre-poll, and the result is looking very similar to Redcliffe with a swing of around 16%. It can most assuredly be called for Labor now.

6.48pm. Chermside has reported 2PP: four votes to LNP, nine to Labor, 12 exhaust.

6.45pm. I’m doing some experimental probability calculations for my own amusement, and I presently have Labor’s win probability at 94.05%.

6.42pm. Newmarket booth added on primary vote. Whereas I only had the swing at Chermside at about 6%, being right on what Labor required, here it’s 18.8%.

6.37pm. Two-party result from Prince Charles added: of the non-major party votes, 16 went to Labor, five to the LNP, and eight exhausted.

6.33pm. A far more moderate result from the 382 votes at Chermside, where I’m rating Labor up 9% and the LNP down 3.5% – although a number of booths from 2012 aren’t in use this time, so such comparisons are problematic.

6.23pm. Only 216 votes from Prince Charles hospital booth, so quicker off the mark than I thought. The results are … interesting. My two-party preferred projection is at this stage based on the preference allocation from the 2012 election.

6.10pm. Polls have closed at Queensland’s Stafford by-election and counting is under way. This post will follow the count as the results come in, with the above table showing raw primary votes and percentages, and booth-matched two-party preferred projections and primary vote swings. This being a highly urban electorate, all the booths will be large and take a while to count, so I wouldn’t hold my breath on any results being in before 7pm.