Queensland State By-elections – Inala and Ipswich West

As well as the Brisbane City Council elections on 16 March, the Queensland Labor Party faces two state by-elections the same day.

The Inala by-election has been brought on by the resignation of former Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Inala is Labor’s safest seat with a massive margin of 28.2% and the party’s primary vote in 2020 was 67%. Inala is so safe that it was one of the seven seats Labor retained at the party’s 2012 landslide defeat. You can read my by-election profile for Inala here.

The Ipswich West by-election has been caused by the resignation of backbencher Jim Madden. The Labor margin is 14.3% and the first preference vote in 2020 50.1%. It was one of the seats lost to the LNP for a single term in 2012 and was also lost to One Nation for a single term in 1998. One Nation finished second in Ipswich West as recently as 2017. You can read my by-election profile for Ipswich West here..

I will be covering both by-elections as part of my Brisbane City Council result coverage on 16 March. The reason for this separate post is to highlight material I’ve been adding to both by-election pages on preferences.

Inala By-election

Inala was first contested in 1992 and has consistently been one of Labor’s safest seats. Only once, at Labor’s 2012 wipeout, did the party’s first preference vote fall below 50% and require preferences to be distributed. At the other 10 elections Labor’s first preference vote has been above 60% and Labor’s lowest two-party preferred results was 56.9% in 2012. Labor’s two-party percentage was above 70% at the other nine elections, above 75% at seven and reached 81.0% in 2004.

It is hard to imagine that Inala could be at risk. With two-thirds of the first preference vote, Labor would have to suffer a catastrophic collapse in support to lose. If Labor is forced to preferences, the bigger threat would be from an Independent rather than the LNP.

When Palaszczuk retired, there were calls for the new Labor candidate to come from the seat’s large migrant community. Labor did choose a local candidate in Margie Nightingale but passed over migrant community candidates.

One possible replacement candidate mentioned in newspapers was Nayda Hernandez, who worked in the ward office of local Labor councillor Charles Strunk. Late in 2023 her employment was terminated and the matter is before the courts. There is an issue of whether her employer was Brisbane City Council or Strunk. Hernandez first arrived in Australia as a child with her parents as refugees from El Salvador.

What’s important is that Hernandez has nominated as an Independent. So has Linh Nguyen who works in the local Vietnamese community. The LNP candidate Trang Yen also has a family background in the Vietnamese community.

If Labor’s primary vote collapses at the by-election, then the party could face problems based on the registered how-to-vote material. Several Independents have placed the LNP ahead of Labor in their recommendations. In addition, if Independent Nayda Hernandez outpolls the LNP, she benefits from the preference recommendation of the LNP, Greens and the Independents. Here’s the preference recommendations.

  • Labor: 2nd preference to the Greens with the LNP in 8th and last place. Independent Nayda Hernandez is listed 7th, which probably indicates Labor’s displeasure at her nomination. Labor’s preferences will not be distributed so the party’s recommendation is irrelevant to the result.
  • LNP: 2nd preference for Nayda Hernandez then the rest of the preferences are down the ballot paper with Labor in 5th. The preference for Hernandez could be important if the LNP finishes third.
  • Greens: Hernandez in 4th place ahead of Labor in 6, LNP last.
  • IND Hernandez: LNP 2nd preference, Labor 7th.
  • IND Nguyen: places Hernandez 4th, LNP 5th and Labor 7th.
  • IND Simpson: Hernandez 3rd, LNP 4th, Labor 7th.
  • Others yet to be located

Again, Labor’s vote would have to collapse under 45% for the party to be in trouble, and the real danger will be if the LNP slips to third place. Two weeks to go, let’s see how the result unfolds.

Ipswich West By-election

Ipswich West is a mixed urban-rural electorate located south-west of greater Brisbane. Most voters live in the built-up parts of Ipswich, the electorate taking in all of Ipswich to the north and west of the Bremer River as it winds its way through the city. The electorate then extends west into rural areas as far west as Grandchester with main centres at Pine Mountain, Marburg and Rosewood. There’s much more information about the electorate at my ABC election guide linked above.

Ipswich West was created in 1960 and has been won by Labor at 19 of the 22 elections since. The three losses were at unusual elections, two being landslide Labor defeats in 1974 and 2012, the third to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation at that party’s breakthrough 1998 election. After being in LNP hands for the one term of the Newman government, Labor’s Jim Madden won Ipswich West in 2015 after a swing of 14.9%. Madden was re-elected in 2017 as One Nation returned to finish second. One Nation slipped back to third place in 2020 as Madden was easily re-elected.

In 2023 Madden attracted unfavourable headlines over accusations of bullying and harassing electorate staff. This led to him announcing he would not contest the 2024 state election. Madden brought forward his departure by resigning in February to contest Division 4 of Ipswich City Council, the election to be held the same day as the by-election.

The contest has attracted a small field of four, Labor’s Wendy Bourne, LNP Darren Zanow, One Nation Mark Bone and Melody Lindsay for Legalise Cannabis. There is no Green candidate.

Labor’s primary vote is more likely to fall below 50% in Ipswich West than Inala making preferences more critical. Here’s my update on preferences as at 2 March.

  • Labor: 2nd preference to Legalise Cannabis, 3 to the LNP, 4th and last for One Nation. Labor’s preferences are highly unlikely to be distributed so the recommendation is probably irrelevant.
  • LNP: 2nd preference to One Nation ahead of Labor in third and Legalise Cannabis last. Could be an important recommendation if the LNP slip to third, as the party did at the 2017 state election.
  • Other how-to-votes yet to be sighted.

On 6 February Pauline Hanson announced that her party would recommend preferences to the LNP ahead of Labor at the state election in October. While I have not located a One Nation recommendation for Ipswich West, I would expect it to have LNP 2nd and Labor 3rd.

So whether One Nation or LNP finishes third, Labor will be in trouble if its first preference votes slips under 45%. I suspect the LNP will finish second as its candidate Darren Zanow has a higher profile. However, based on past results, I would expect One Nation preference to the LNP to be slightly weaker than the reverse flow if the LNP finishes third.

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