2024 Northern Tablelands By-election

In NSW the Minns government will face its first electoral test on June 22 at the Northern Tablelands by-election.

Or to be more correct, could have faced its first by-election test because Labor looks unlikely to nominate a candidate. Based in the state’s rural north, Northern Tablelands is the Coalition’s safest seat, the Nationals polling a huge 83.8% of the two-party preferred at last year’s state election. At the 2011 election, the Labor vote was so low its candidate lost their deposit!

The only interest will be if an Independent candidate nominates, trying to tap into local Independent support that saw Richard Torbay win Northern Tablelands at four elections from 1999 to 2011 and helped Tony Windsor win the Federal seat of New England in the same period.

I’m publishing a profile of the by-election on my personal blog as I will be overseas for the by-election and not have access to the ABC website. I will try and update this page while overseas. I will not be providing result commentary on 22 June as I will be otherwise engaged in Budapest.

2024 Northern Tablelands By-election

Party Status: Very Very Safe National 33.8%

Date – Saturday 22 June 2024

The by-election has been caused by the retirement of National Party MLA Adam Marshall.

The by-election writ will be issued and rolls close on Friday 31 May. Nominations close Thursday 6 June with announcement of candidates and draw for ballot position on Friday 7 June. Postal vote application open Monday 20 May, Pre-Poll voting starts Saturday 15 June. Further information on the by-election can be found at the NSW Electoral Commission’s website.

Electorate Description

A sprawling electorate of 59,412 square kilometres, Northern Tablelands is the state’s third largest electorate and covers 7.4% of the state. It runs from the New England tableland into the north-west slopes, from Armidale to Moree. It includes Walcha, Armidale, Uralla, Guyra, Glen Innes, Inverell and Moree. While a predominantly a rural electorate, the largest centre Armidale is also a major education centre, the city including New England University and The Armidale School. (Map courtesy of the NSW Electoral Commission)

Departing Member

Adam Marshall was first elected to Gunnedah Council in 2004 when he was just 19. He became Deputy Mayor in 2007 and Mayor after the 2008 local government elections. Marshall retired from council at the 2012 local government elections and moved to Armidale to start a Commerce degree at New England University. He won pre-selection for Northern Tablelands after the resignation of Independent Richard Torbay, chosen over higher profile candidates including NFF President Jock Laurie. Marshall had been Chair of the NSW Country Mayors Association and Senior Vice President of the Shires Association of NSW. Elected at the 2013 by-election, Marshall became Minister for Tourism and Major Events and Assistant Minister for Skills when Gladys Berejiklian became Premier in early 2017. Later promoted to Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Western NSW, Marshall was not retained as a Minister when Paul Toole replaced John Barilaro as Nationals Leader.

Background

Northern Tablelands was created in 1981 by the amalgamation of the old Armidale and Tenterfield electorates following the Wran government’s introduction of one-vote one-value electoral boundaries. Armidale had been won for Labor in 1978 by popular local Bill McCarthy, and he won the new seat at its first contest in 1981.

McCarthy re-contested in 1984 despite being ill with cancer and died in 1987. National Ray Chappell won the subsequent by-election, narrowly defeating McCarthy’s widow Thelma. The seat was then a National Party stronghold until 1999 when Chappell was defeated by Independent Richard Torbay.

Torbay needed preferences at his first contest in 1999, but won more than 70% of the first preference vote in 2003 and 2007 and even polled 63.4% of the vote in 2011 on the defeat of the Keneally government when all other rural independents were defeated.

The Iemma government surprisingly elected Torbay Speaker after the 2007 election. Despite talk of his links to the Labor Party, the National Party chose to select him as its candidate for New England ahead of the 2013 Federal election.

In early 2013, stories emerged that then Labor power broker Eddie Obeid had helped in Torbay’s first election campaign. Torbay withdrew as National candidate, allowing Barnaby Joyce the chance to contest New England. Shortly afterwards Torbay resigned as member for Northern Tablelands.

The National Party’s Adam Marshall easily won the May 2013 by-election, taking the O’Farrell government’s tally of seats to a record 70 in the 93-member Legislative Assembly. Marshall was easily re-elected in 2015, 2019 and 2023.

The Labor vote was only 3.4% in Northern Tablelands at the 2011 state election, below the 4% threshold for return of nomination deposit and payment of public funding.

2023 Polling Place and Vote Type Results

There were 41 polling places in Northern Tablelands at the 2023 state election. The National Party recorded two-party preferred majorities at 40 of them, above 80% in 30, above 90% in 13 and reaching 96.7% at North Star Community Hall. The sole Labor majority was 94.4% recorded at the Toomelah Aboriginal community on the Queensland border near Boggabri.


(Click on polling place for results)

The National result was overwhelming for all votes types in 2023.

Past Voting Trends

Northern Tablelands might have been a marginal seat in 1984, but the National margin versus Labor hasn’t dropped below 10% since and has been above 25% at the last four elections. As the chart below shows, the gap between the National two-party preferred vote in Northern Tablelands and the Coalition’s two-party vote across NSW has continued to widen.

That doesn’t mean that the Nationals always win. The black line shows the National Party’s defeated two-candidate preferred vote against Richard Torbay at elections from 1999 to 2011. Torbay was the only rural Independent to retain their seat on Labor’s landslide defeat in 2011. So bad was Labor’s result in 2011 that the Labor candidate in Northern Tablelands fell short of 4%, losing their deposit and denied entitlement to public funding.

Declared Candidates

Candidate Name Party
MOYLAN, Brendan The Nationals

More Information

Brendan Moylan – The Nationals Moylan is a solicitor who won pre-selection from a contested field of six. He has lived in the region all his life and lives in Moree with his wife and three children.
Website

2023 Election Result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Alan Crowe SAP 595 1.2 +1.2
Peter O’Loghlin LCA 1,148 2.3 +2.3
Darshan (Billy) Wood IND 980 2.0 +2.0
Adam Marshall NAT 35,575 71.6 -1.8
Gary Hampton PEP 425 0.8 +0.8
Yvonne Langenberg ALP 5,045 10.2 -0.8
Natasha Ledger IND 496 1.0 +1.0
Elizabeth O’Hara GRN 2,369 4.8 -0.8
Michael Hay SFF 2,239 4.5 -5.1
Margaret Hammond LDP 783 1.6 +1.6
…. OTH 0 0.0 -0.4
After Preferences
Adam Marshall NAT 37,654 83.8 +0.7
Yvonne Langenberg ALP 7,255 49.5 -0.7
Exhausted 4,746 9.6

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