Analysis of the 2020 Queensland Election Result

The 2020 Queensland election returned the Palaszczuk Labor government to office with an increased first preference vote, a two-party preferred swing in its favour, and with an increased majority in the Legislative Assembly.

The election was the first in Queensland for a fixed four-year term, and means that by the next election in November 2024, Labor will have governed Queensland for 30 of the last 35 years.

In mid-2021 Annastacia Palaszczuk will pass Clare Martin to become Australia’s longest serving female head of government. If Palaszczuk stays as Premier until 2024, she will pass Peter Beattie to become Queensland’s fourth longest serving Premier, trailing only Joh Bjelke-Petersen (Country/National), Frank Nicklin (Country) and William Forgan Smith (Labor).

Perhaps as a by-product of pandemic politics, the election saw a decline in support for minor parties. Despite gaining a second seat in the Assembly, Green support fell outside of inner-Brisbane. Support for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation halved, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party had the worst vote return for dollars spent in Australian electoral history, while Katter’s Australian Party remains a force in rural North Queensland.

Both major parties increased their first preference vote share, Labor up 4.1 percentage points, the LNP 2.2%, and an estimated two-party preferred swing to Labor of 1.9%.

Votes By Party

Table 1 below sets out party votes and change, seats won and change, as well as an estimated two-party preferred vote. Seat by seat results have been finalised at the ABC’s Queensland election website.

If you are on a mobile phone, this table looks much better if you turn your phone landscape.

Table 1 – 2020 Queensland Legislative Assembly Election

Party (Candidates) Votes % Votes Swing Seats
Labor Party (93) 1,134,969 39.57 +4.14 52
Liberal National Party (93) 1,029,442 35.89 +2.20 34
The Greens (93) 271,514 9.47 -0.53 2
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (90) 204,316 7.12 -6.61 1
Katter’s Australian Party (13) 72,168 2.52 +0.20 3
Independent (69) 70,992 2.48 -1.91 1
Legalise Cannabis (23) 26,146 0.91 +0.91 ..
Clive Palmer’s United Australia (55) 17,904 0.62 +0.62 ..
Informed Medical Options (31) 17,546 0.61 +0.61 ..
Animal Justice (13) 9,703 0.34 +0.16 ..
North Queensland First (5) 5,616 0.20 +0.20 ..
Civil Liberties & Motorists (16) 5,207 0.18 +0.08 ..
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (3) 2,801 0.10 +0.10 ..
Formal (597) 2,868,324 96.60 .. 93
Informal 101,023 3.40 -0.94
Total Votes / Turnout 2,969,347 87.92 +0.39
Enrolled Voters 3,377,476
Two-Party Preferred Vote (Estimate)
Labor 1,524,766 53.2 +1.9
Liberal National 1,343,558 46.8 -1.9

Note – table has had a very minor change to use the official check count figures.

As usual there was a difference in swing between south-east Queensland and the rest of the state. In south-east Queensland, Labor’s first preference support was up 3.9 percentage points while LNP support rose only 0.4 points. Across the rest of the state Labor support rose 4.3% and the LNP 5.8%. In rural districts, the collapse of One Nation helped generate two-party preferred swings to the LNP, but in seats like Pumicestone, Hervey Bay and on the Sunshine Coast, the collapse of One Nation support coincided with significant two-party swings to Labor. While One Nation is usually seen as a right-wing party, elections statistics usually suggest the rise and fall in its vote is a more complex phenomena than simply a shift between right-of-centre parties.

The collapse in support for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation was dramatic, almost halving compared to 2017, polling 7.1% state-wide, down 6.6 percentage points on 2017. The decline is even larger given the party contested 90 districts in 2020 compared to only 61 in 2017. In the 60 districts the party contested at both elections, One Nation’s vote share fell from 20.8% to 8.8%, a drop of 12.0 percentage points. In 2017 One Nation polled above 30% in four districts, above 20% in 35, and in 59 of the 61 districts it contested polled above 10%. In 2020 the only seat where the party polled above 30% was Mirani, it failed to pass 20% in any other district, and only passed 10% in 22 districts.

On first preferences One Nation finished second in only one seat, Mirani, which it retained on LNP preferences. One Nation finished third on primary votes in Bundamba before passing the LNP to finish second after preferences. This compares to finishing second in 21 districts at the 2017 election. The party’s vote collapsed in two regions where it normally polls well, Ipswich and Wide Bay-Burnett, slipping to third place in seats such as Ipswich, Ipswich West, Maryborough, Gympie and Nanango. With high profile candidates, the party had hoped to win Keppel and Rockhampton on the back of good results in 2017, but finished a distant third in both seats.

Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party contested 55 districts but attracted only 0.63% of the vote, just under 18,000 votes, 1.1% of the vote in the seats it contested. That is around two-thirds of the vote recorded by the Legalise Cannabis Queensland Party, who stood only 23 candidates and had a considerably smaller advertising spend. Surfers Paradise was the only seat where the UAP passed 2%, reaching 2.4%. The party’s two highest profile candidates had poor results, Anna Palmer in Currumbin finishing 7th in a field of eight with 460 votes (1.5%), and Greg Dowling in Townsville finishing 8th in a field of nine with 520 votes (1.8%).

Support for Katter’s Australian Party held up in the three seats it represents, but did not increase in other North Queensland seats. Its vote halved in Warrego and it polled below 5% in Burnett and Rockhampton, suggesting the party remains a North Queensland phenomenon.

Support for the Greens slipped state-wide despite gaining an extra seat in South Brisbane from Labor. There were notable increases in Green vote in a string of inner-Brisbane seats targeted by the party, with the Greens recording more than 20% of the vote in Cooper, Greenslopes, Maiwar, McConnel, Miller, Moggill and South Brisbane. The Greens polled 11.7% overall in south-east Queensland, down 0.5 percentage points, but only 5.0% across the rest of the state, down 0.7.

North Queensland First, formed by former LNP member Jason Costigan, contested only five seats and polled 3.9% in the seats it contested. Costigan polled 9.4% in Whitsunday, but the party’s next best result was 4.1% in Mirani.

Legalise Cannabis Queensland contested 23 seats and averaged 3.7% in the seats it contested, and in 21 seats polled higher than the UAP’s best result of 2.4%. The party polled 5.5% in Bundaberg and Ipswich.

The Informed Medical Options Party polled 1.8% in the 31 seats it contested. It passed 3% in only three seats, the adjoining Sunshine Coast hinterland seats of Glass House 3.3%, Nicklin 4.0% and Ninderry 4.1%.

The Animal Justice Party polled 2.5% in the 13 seats it contested, and the Civil Liberties and Motorists Party polled 1.1% in its 16 seats.

New and Departing Members

Of the 93 members in the last parliament, 83 were re-elected, six retired and four were defeated, resulting in 10 newly elected members.

The numbers by party were Labor 44 re-elected, three retired (Kate Jones, Anthony Lynham, Coralee O’Rourke) and one defeated (Jackie Trad). Three of Labor’s new members replaced retiring MLAs, respectively Jonty Bush, Jimmy Sullivan and Les Walker. Five new members were elected in seats gained by Labor, Tom Smith in Bundaberg, Jason Hunt in Caloundra, Adrian Tantari in Hervey Bay, Robert Skelton in Nicklin and Ali King in Pumicestone. Three of Labor’s gains were in seats with retiring LNP members, Caloundra, Hervey Bay and Pumicestone.

For the LNP, 33 members were re-elected, three retired (Mark McArdle, Ted Sorensen, Simone Wilson). The three retiring members represented seats lost to Labor. Three members were defeated, David Batt in Bundaberg, Marty Hunt in Nicklin and the departed Jason Costigan who was defeated as a North Queensland First candidate in Whitsunday. His defeated produced the LNP’s only new member, Amanda Camm.

The one change to the cross bench was the victory of the Green’s Amy MacMahon over Labor’s Jacki Trad in South Brisbane.

Patterns of Swing

There were a number of outlier swings at the 2020 election. Some were caused by the collapse in support for One Nation, and others were related to the presence or departure of sitting members.

On a statewide swing of 1.9%, Labor gained Pumicestone (margin 0.8%, swing 6.1), Caloundra (3.4%, 5.9), Bundaberg (4.2%, 4.2), Nicklin (5.3%, 5.4) and Hervey Bay (9.1%, 11.1). The swings in Pumicestone, Caloundra and Hervey Bay can be put down in part to the departure of sitting LNP members, as well as a dramatic collapse in One Nation support, down 15.5%, 16.4% and 14.1% respectively. All three seats also have older age profiles, and the connection between the Labor government’s support for border closures and a rise in support amongst older voters has been suggested.

The results in Nicklin and Caloundra also reflect a good result for Labor on the Sunshine Coast, the best result for the party since the collapse in Labor support at the 2006 election over the controversial Traveston dam.

As for Bundaberg, the seat has a long Labor history and was lost in 2006 over the ‘Dr Death’ scandal at Bundaberg Base Hospital. It was one of the surprise Labor gains in 2015, and was lost in 2017 after the new Labor MLA was revealed to have a string of unpaid bills and fines. It is a noteworthy gain by Labor, but may also reflect the removal of the issues that caused Labor’s previous defeats.

There were several other seats where MPs had significant swings in their favour. After her first victory in the seat in 2017, Labor’s Meaghan Scanlan had a 7.0% swing in her favour in Gaven. Not far away in Bonney, a new seat first contested in 2017, LNP member Sam O’Connor had an 8.4% swing in his favour. Two new crossbench MPs elected in 2017, KAP’s Nick Dametto in Hinchinbrook and Independent Sandy Bolton in Noosa, both increased their majorities.

Three other Labor newcomers from the 2017 election also had big swings in their favour. Jess Pugh was re-elected in Mount Ommaney with a 6.9% swing in her favour, Charis Mullen added around 7% to her margin in Jordan, and Corinne McMillan had a 5.2% swing in Mansfield.

For all Labor’s concern about seats in Townsville and Cairns, Labor increased its margin in all seats in the two cities.

The Role of Preferences

The decline in minor party vote share increased the number of districts won on first preferences. Thirty-three districts were won on first preferences (Labor 21, LNP 10, KAP 2) and 60 were decided after the distribution of preferences (Labor 31, LNP 24, KAP 1, Greens 2, One Nation 1, Independent 1). This includes two districts where the winning candidate trailed on the primary vote, with second place victories for Labor in Nicklin and One Nation in Mirani.

This compares to only 12 districts decided on first preferences in 2017 (Labor 7, LNP 4, KAP 1), and 73 districts where the distribution of preferences elected the candidate leading on the first count (Labor 37, LNP 34, KAP1, IND 1). In 2017 there were seven districts won by second placed candidates, four by Labor (Aspley, Gaven, McConnel, Mansfield), Burdekin by the LNP, Mirani by One Nation and Maiwar by the Greens. In addition, Katter’s Australian Party performed the rare feat in 2017 of winning Hinchinbrook from third place.

The decline in minor party support also increased the number of two-party preferred contests between Labor and the LNP from 65 to 85 districts. This was overwhelmingly due to the decline in support for One Nation. In 2017 there had been 21 districts where One Nation made it through to the final two-candidate pairing, 13 versus Labor and eight versus the LNP. One Nation made it to the final pairing in only two contests in 2020, defeating Labor to retain Mirani, and finishing second to Labor in Bundamba.

The eight districts that finished as two-candidate preferred contests included the three retained KAP seats, Hinchinbrook and Traeger versus the LNP, and Hill versus Labor. The Greens retained Maiwar in a contest versus then LNP, and gained South Brisbane in a contest versus Labor. Independent Sandy Bolton retained Noosa against the LNP.

Preference Flows

The Electoral Commission Queensland collected information on preference flows in counting on election night. This tallied the number of preferences that flowed from excluded candidates to one of the chosen pair of final candidates in each seat. This data provides a more accurate measure of how preferences flowed than analysis based on candidate exclusions during the distribution of preferences. The preference flow data did not capture data in counts conducted after polling day, and also included some data for preference flows that did not match the actual distribution of preferences that took place after the election

The following comments about individual parties are made based on data drawn from the ECQ’s data files.

Green preferences: There were 70 two-party contests where Green preferences were counted out. In all 70 seats, preferences favoured Labor, in total 80.1% flowing to Labor, 19.9% to the LNP. Preferences were above 80% in 28 districts, reaching 90.1% in Miller. Green preferences also flowed 75.8% to Labor from a much lower Green vote in three contests versus One Nation. Overall these preference flows were slightly stronger than at the 2017 election.

One Nation preferences: There were 69 two-party contests where One Nation preferences were distributed. In all seats One Nation preferences favoured the LNP, in total 33.8% to Labor and 66.2% to the LNP, the flow to the LNP above 70% in 22 contests and reaching 79.9% on Moggill. The flows were not dramatically different to those seen at the 2017 election or the 2019 Federal election, but they were far less important because of the collapse in One Nation’s first preference support.

Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party: There were 43 two-party contests where UAP preference data was available. In 42 the preferences favoured the LNP, in total the flows 35.6% to Labor and 64.4% to the LNP. Despite a much lower vote, these flows were in-line with flows seen in Queensland at the 2019 Federal election.

Katter’s Australian Party: In the seven two-party contests where KAP preferences were distributed, the flows were 42.1% to Labor and 57.9% to the LNP. This is a weaker flow to the LNP than at last year’s Federal election when there was an overall flow to the LNP of 69.6%. When you exclude the flow in Bob Katter’s electorate of Kennedy, the flow to the LNP drops to about 62%, but that is still around 5% stronger than the flows at the 2020 Queensland election.

Legalise Cannabis preferences flowed 58.2% to labor and 41.2% to the LNP. Informed Medical Options preferences split overall 49.8% to Labor and 50.2% to the LNP though varied from seat to seat. Animal Justice preferences were 61.8% to Labor and 38.2% to the LNP.

LNP preferences in Labor v Greens contests: In South Brisbane LNP preferences flowed 32.2% to Labor and 67.8% to the Greens. This was a reversal of the flow in 2017 and is due to the changed preference recommendation on the LNP’s how-to-vote. LNP preferences were also counted out on election night in McConnel and flowed 25.2% to Labor and 74.8% to the Greens. The Greens finished third in McConnel so Liberal preferences did not take part in the distribution of preferences.

LNP preferences in Labor v One Nation contests: There were two seats where the LNP finished third in Labor versus One Nation contests. In Mirani, LNP preferences flowed 16.6% to Labor and 83.4% to One Nation, those preferences being responsible for the re-election of One Nation’s Stephen Andrew. In Bundamba, LNP preferences flowed 31.0% to Labor and 69.0% to One Nation. There were six other seats where One Nation finished third but LNP preferences were counted out on the night based on 2017 results. These seats were Ipswich, Ipswich West, Jordan, Logan, Maryborough and Rockhampton. Across these seats, LNP preferences flowed 24.2% to Labor and 75.8% to One Nation.

Labor preferences are available in 10 districts. In Maiwar Labor preferences flowed 80.7% to the Greens, 19.3% to the LNP. In Noosa Labor preferences flowed to Independent Sandy Bolton 87.6%. Labor preferences flowed to Katter’s Australian Party 84.0% in Hill, 77.7% in Hinchinbrook and 54.7% in Warrego. There were also five contests counted as LNP v ONP contest on election night though One Nation eventually finished third. Labor preference in these seats flowed 57.6% to the LNP, 42.4% to One Nation. By seat the flows to the LNP were Condamine 53.8%, Gympie 64.5%, Lockyer 56.4%, Nanango 55.1% and Scenic Rim 59.4%.

The New Electoral Pendulm

The pendulum below sets out post-election margins for all new electorate.

Based on this pendulum, the LNP needs to gain six seats on a uniform swing of 3.1% to deprive Labor of its majority. The LNP needs 10 seats on a uniform swing of 5.2% to finish with more seats than Labor, and 5.6% for the 13 seats needed for a majority LNP government.

If you are on a mobile phone, this pendulum looks much better if you turn your phone landscape.

Labor Seats (52) LNP Seats (34)
Margin Electorate Margin Electorate
0.01 Bundaberg 0.5 Currumbin
0.1 Nicklin 1.1 Coomera
2.0 Hervey Bay 1.2 Burleigh
2.5 Caloundra 1.3 Chatsworth
3.1 Barron River 1.6 Clayfield
3.1 Townsville 1.6 Glass House
3.2 Thuringowa 2.2 Everton
3.9 Redlands 3.3 Whitsunday
3.9 Mundingburra 3.3 Theodore
5.2 Aspley 3.6 Moggill
5.3 Pumicestone 4.1 Ninderry
5.6 Cairns 4.4 Mermaid Beach
5.6 Keppel 4.5 Oodgeroo
6.1 Redcliffe 5.3 Buderim
6.3 Cook 5.4 Southport
6.7 Pine Rivers 7.0 Burdekin
6.7 Mackay 7.3 Toowoomba North
6.8 Mansfield 8.5 Gympie
7.8 Gaven 9.1 Maroochydore
8.3 Springwood 9.3 Kawana
8.6 Rockhampton 10.1 Bonney
9.5 Macalister 10.1 Mudgeeraba
9.9 Capalaba 10.2 Toowoomba South
10.5 Cooper 10.8 Burnett
11.0 Ferny Grove 11.4 Scenic Rim
11.1 McConnel 11.5 Lockyer
11.3 Murrumba 12.2 Nanango
11.4 Bulimba 14.1 Southern Downs
11.9 Stafford 15.8 Callide
11.9 Maryborough 16.2 Surfers Paradise
12.2 Mulgrave 16.6 Broadwater
12.6 Mount Ommaney 17.2 Gregory
12.8 Bancroft 19.2 Condamine
13.1 Kurwongbah 23.1 Warrego
13.2 Greenslopes Other Seats (7)
13.4 Lytton 5.3 South Brisbane (GRN v ALP)
13.4 Logan 6.3 Maiwar (GRN v LNP)
13.8 Miller 9.0 Mirani (ONP v ALP)
14.3 Ipswich West 14.1 Hinchinbrook (KAP v LNP)
14.4 Toohey 15.8 Noosa (IND v LNP)
14.8 Stretton 22.5 Hill (KAP v ALP)
15.1 Nudgee 24.7 Traeger (KAP v ALP)
16.0 Waterford
16.5 Ipswich
16.7 Morayfield
17.1 Jordan
17.3 Sandgate
17.8 Algester
20.7 Bundamba (v ONP)
23.5 Gladstone
26.2 Woodridge
28.2 Inala

7 thoughts on “Analysis of the 2020 Queensland Election Result”

  1. So does that mean that, for example, Morayfield there was an INCREASED swing of 16.7% to Labor compared to last election? What was the % last election, if possible?

    COMMENT: One Nation finished second in Morayfield at the 2017 election which complicates analysis. There was a swing of about 8% to Labor.

  2. Interesting how almost all of the marginal Labor seats are now in Sunshine Coast – Wide Bay region and Far North Queensland. Only two of the twenty most marginal are in Brisbane. The next election will clearly be fought on the Queensland coast and outside of Brisbane.

    1. Actually, Paul, while you’re right at first blush there are seats in the ALP column that will only fall to the LNP in a 2012-style wipeout – and they’re more “marginal” than a lot of the safer ALP seats in Brisbane above them on the pendulum.

      The LNP’s basic structural weakness is now Brisbane. the south-east now comprises 62 of 93 seats. At Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s last redistribution in 1986, it was 44 out of 89. After the removal of the Gerrymander and the demise of the National Party’s vote-pulling “messiah,” the Nats never got the picture: the future of non-Labor in Queensland is Liberal and must be built on strength in the south-east. Instead, the ex-Nats have done everything they can to retain dominance and the agenda put by the Coalition/LNP for most of the past 30 years shows the National tail has never stopped wagging the Liberal dog.

      The problem is obvious, but self-congratulation on another briliant loss is probably preferable to the LNP “brains” trust than the hard work – and Liberal policies – needed to fix up its act in Brisbane.

  3. To what extent do you think the emergence of the Animal Justice and Legalise Cannabis parties impacted the primary vote for the Greens? I would imagine that the strong flow of preferences from those parties to Labor would have been via the Greens.

    COMMENT: They might have hurt the Green vote. The preferences I quote were direct flows for the parties to Labor, not through the Greens.

  4. Hi Antony, are you able to provide 2pp estimates for ‘Other seats’?

    COMMENT: I have estimated Labor 2PP percents of Bundamba 71.2, Hill 40.3%, Hinchinbrook 43.9%, Maiwar 54.2%, Mirani 46.8%, Noosa 51.6%, South Brisbane 68.6% and Traeger48.8%. I think the estimates in Noosa and the three KAP seats are at best guestimates.

  5. If I recall correctly Redcliffe was considered doubtful on the night (at least for a while). There must have been quite a blowout to Labor on the late counting.

    COMMENT: 23,000 of the 33,000 votes in the electorate were pre-polls and postals that didn’t arrive until very late. Early on we only had polling places and we had no preference count and on that basis the seat was classed as in doubt. Once we had a preference count and further counting the result was clear.

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