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Antony Green: These marginal seats in state's north will be crucial


If the minor parties or LNP can block Labor in the north at Queensland’s upcoming election, they could prevent it from holding onto power. ABC election expert Antony Green explains:

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It can seem a long way from the corridors of power in Brisbane, but several marginal electorates in north Queensland will influence who gets to form government after the state election on October 31.

While the major parties historically tussle over key prize seats up north, the popularity of minor parties in those areas adds a wildcard element to the race.

ABC chief elections analyst Antony Green said the COVID-19 pandemic meant fewer ballots would be cast on election day itself, so more voters than usual would make up their minds well in advance.

He said regional voters, including those in north Queensland, would have a significant impact on the result.

“If the LNP or minor parties can block Labor in the regional cities, Labor falls short of a majority,” Green said.

But he warned against results in marginal seats in the Townsville area being interpreted as guides for how the rest of Queensland would vote.

I think Townsville has its own problems, economically, law and order.

Barron River

While the seat of Cairns is considered a relatively safe electorate for Labor, the neighbouring seat of Barron River is set to come down to a knife-edge.

The seat covers the northern parts of the city, from the airport to Palm Cove, as well as Stratford, Smithfield, Redlynch and Kuranda.

The bellwether seat is held by Labor frontbencher Craig Crawford — Barron River has been won by Labor nine times from the 11 elections since 1989, mainly through preference deals.

The city’s tourism-driven economy has been hit hard by the pandemic — the 4870 postcode has the highest number of people on the Commonwealth’s JobKeeper benefit in Queensland.

It is heavily reliant on international and Victorian visitors, so tourism, jobs and the uncertainty surrounding Queensland’s border closure will be among the key issues.

Road infrastructure will also come into play — the Captain Cook Highway, linking the city to the northern beaches, has long been an issue for commuters.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being poured into upgrades, which are exacerbating the daily crawl to work.

Crawford, a former paramedic first elected in 2015, holds two ministerial portfolios. His biggest threat will come from the LNP’s Linda Cooper, a popular former local councillor.

[Full candidate profiles and Antony Green’s guide to Barron River]

Ballot order (* incumbent):

  1. Aaron McDonald – The Greens
  2. * Craig Crawford – ALP
  3. Jenny Brown – Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party
  4. Susan Andrews – Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
  5. Adam Rowe – Informed Medical Opinions Party
  6. Linda Cooper – LNP


Burdekin stretches from south of Townsville to Bowen along the Bruce Highway, and also includes mining and agricultural regions.

The sprawling electorate is held by the LNP by a margin of just 0.8 per cent.

Dale Last retained the seat in 2017 despite a redistribution that favoured the ALP.

Strong flows of One Nation preferences got Last over the line three years ago, and he has built a strong personal following and prominent profile in the region.

Regional economic development is a key issue in this electorate.

[Full candidate profiles and Antony Green’s guide to Burdekin]

Ballot order (* incumbent):

  1. Dominique Thiriet – Animal Justice Party
  2. Jack Smith – The Greens
  3. Michel Brunker – ALP
  4. Sam Cox – Katter’s Australian Party
  5. Clive Remmer – Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
  6. * Dale Last – LNP
  7. Benjamin Wood – Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party
  8. Carolyn Moriarty – North Queensland First


The electorate covers Yeppoon, Emu Park, the Keppel Islands, as well as surrounding agricultural areas, the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area and some northern suburbs of Rockhampton.

Labor’s Brittany Lauga has held the seat since 2015. In 2017, she was narrowly re-elected in a contest in which One Nation finished second, and the minor party is likely to be her key opponent again.

Lauga has been criticised over her handling of a potential new resort development on Great Keppel Island.

Businesses on the Capricorn Coast suffered significant economic losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, so tourism, as well as mining jobs, are likely to be the issues on many voters’ minds.

[Full candidate profiles and Antony Green’s guide to Keppel]

Ballot order (* incumbent):

  1. * Brittany Lauga – ALP
  2. Adrian De Groot – LNP
  3. James Dockery – Legalise Cannabis Qld Party
  4. Nicki Smeltz – Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party
  5. Wade Rothery – Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
  6. Paula Ganfield – Informed Medical Opinions Party
  7. Clancy Mulbrick – The Greens


Last election, it was preferences that got Pauline Hanson’s One Nation candidate Stephen Andrew across the line.

The LNP’s decision to put Labor last on how-to-vote cards could be key to Mr Andrew’s advantage again this year.

Spanning from Rockhampton to the outer suburbs of Mackay, Mirani covers 25,000 square kilometres, including several mining towns and sugar cane operations.

The Great Barrier Reef protection measures that passed parliament in September last year have been a hot topic; they are regulations that Andrew opposes.

Labor, the LNP and PHON all have expressed their support for the coal industry, and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited the region recently when she said Labor was the “party of coal”.

A key determinant of the result will be whether the enthusiasm for One Nation is still as high as it was three years ago.

[Full candidate profiles and Antony Green’s guide to Mirani]

Ballot order (* incumbent):

  1. * Stephen Andrew – Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
  2. Nick Byran – Civil Liberties & Motorists Party
  3. Shane Hamilton – ALP
  4. Tracie Newitt – LNP
  5. Ben Watkin – The Greens
  6. Jason Borg – North Queensland First
  7. Tepepe Borg – Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party


Mundingburra, held by retiring Labor MP Coralee O’Rourke, covers southern areas of Townsville, including the Lavarack Barracks (Australia’s biggest military base), the Townsville Hospital and the James Cook University campus.

It is a bellwether seat, always going with the party that forms government.

Crime is a big issue for Mundingburra voters, as is the construction of a new motorsport facility, DriveIT NQ, which will have a speedway, skid pan and learner driver tracks.

As is the case for all three seats in the Townsville area, Mundingburra has historically low first-preference votes for the major parties, with many voters backing minor party candidates.

[Full candidate profiles and Antony Green’s guide to Mundingburra]

Ballot order:

  1. Susan Jackson – Legalise Cannabis Qld Party
  2. Jenny Brown – The Greens
  3. Les Walker – ALP
  4. Glenn Doyle – LNP
  5. Martin Brewster – Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party
  6. Ian Bowron – Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
  7. Alannah Tomlinson – Katter’s Australian Party


Thuringowa covers areas towards the southern reaches of Townsville — middle- and low-income areas that usually see a pitched battle between Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the ALP.

PHON disendorsed Troy Thompson just days before the election campaign began, saying he failed to come clean about his previous legal name and business dealings, but the party has found a replacement candidate in Jeni Alexander.

Katter’s Australian Party believes Julianne Wood can pick up votes that would otherwise have gone to PHON because of a strong profile in the community as the convenor of the Facebook group Take Back Townsville, which rails against the level of juvenile crime in the area.

Crime is the high-order issue in this electorate, with many residents particularly frustrated by property crime perpetrated by a small number of chronic youth offenders.

[Full candidate profiles and Antony Green’s guide to Thuringowa]

Ballot order (* incumbent):

  1. Jeni Alexander – Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
  2. Heidi Hardisty – The Greens
  3. Julianne Wood – Katter’s Australian Party
  4. Michael (Blu) Turner – Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party
  5. * Aaron Harper – ALP
  6. Natalie Marr – LNP


Townsville is one of the most marginal seats in Queensland.

Held by Labor’s Scott Stewart, it covers the central part of the city and nearby suburbs such as the salubrious Castle Hill, as well as Magnetic Island and the Indigenous community of Palm Island.

The LNP’s John Hathaway is aiming to regain the seat he lost to Stewart in 2015.

This year the voters will get to choose between candidates from a wide range of parties, including Katter’s Australian Party and the United Australia Party.

Crime and jobs are hot-button issues in all Townsville electorates, and the eponymous central electorate is no exception.

The economic pain felt in other parts of the state due to the coronavirus pandemic has been somewhat tempered in Townsville, thanks to the economy being more diversified than in North Queensland electorates that rely heavily on tourism.

[Full candidate profiles and Antony Green’s guide to Townsville]

Ballot order (* incumbent):

  1. Toni McMahon – Informed Medical Opinions Party
  2. Joshua Schwarz – Katter’s Australian Party
  3. * Scott Stewart – ALP
  4. Samara Grumberg – Animal Justice Party
  5. John Hathaway – LNP
  6. Greg Dowling – United Australia Party
  7. Clynton Hawks – North Australia First
  8. Clive Clarkson – Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
  9. Tom O’Grady – The Greens


Voters from Mackay’s northern beaches through to the Whitsundays have seen a lot of change since the last election due to the havoc caused by Cyclone Debbie and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jason Costigan, who prevailed by fewer than 500 votes in 2017, started his own party — North Queensland First — after he was expelled from the LNP amid sexual harassment complaints that have since been withdrawn.

The LNP has this time endorsed former Mackay deputy mayor Amanda Camm, while Labor will be represented by former principal Angie Kelly, the sister of Brisbane-based MP Joe Kelly.

Labor lost its original candidate, Tracie Cameron, who suggested family illness was behind her decision to stand down, although she has since alleged it was because ALP officials feared she would not follow the party line.

Front of voters’ minds will be tourism; the pandemic has seen a huge downturn in business in the Whitsundays.

The seat is also home to major sugar cane operations around Proserpine.

Upgrading of flood-prone roads and reducing congestion in Mackay’s northern beaches, where there is only one access road, could also play a role in voters’ final decisions.

With a tight contest likely, the preferences flowing from Katter’s Australian Party and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation voters could be decisive in crowning the winner.

[Full candidate profiles and Antony Green’s guide to Whitsunday]

Ballot order (* incumbent):

  1. Paul Hilder – Legalise Cannabis Qld Party
  2. Amanda Camm – LNP
  3. Greg Armstrong – Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party
  4. Emma Barrett – The Greens
  5. Angie Kelly – ALP
  6. Deb Lawson – Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
  7. * Jason Costigan – North Queensland First
  8. Ciaron Paterson – Katter’s Australian Party

– ABC / © 2020 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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