Northern Tablelands by-election, 2013

Cause of by-election
Richard Torbay, independent Member for Northern Tablelands, had been preselected as the Nationals candidate for the federal seat of New England at the upcoming 2013 federal election, and was planning to resign from his state electorate and trigger a by-election later in 2013.

On 19 March 2013, Torbay was sacked as Nationals candidate for New England and resigned from the Nationals, on the basis of information that has not yet been disclosed. On 20 March, Torbay resigned from his state electorate, triggering a by-election.

Read the profile for the seat of Northern Tablelands at the 2011 state election.

Margin – IND 19.4% vs NAT

Incumbent MP
Richard Torbay, 1999-2013.

Geography
The seat of Northern Tablelands covers most of the New England region, including the Armidale Dumaresq, Glen Innes Severn, Guyra, Gwydir, Inverell, Uralla and Walcha local government areas and part of Tenterfield. The major centres of the seat are Armidale, Inverell and Glen Innes.

History
The current seat of Northern Tablelands was created in 1980 following the abolition of the districts of Armidale and Tenterfield. A seat with the same name had also existed from 1920 to 1927, when it elected three members by proportional representation.

Tenterfield had been held by the Country Party continuously since 1927. The seat was first won by Michael Bruxner. He had first won a seat in Northern Tablelands as a Progressive MP in 1920. During that term, the Progressives split, with urban members supporting Nationalist Premier George Fuller’s government and joining the Nationalist Party. Bruxner led the rural wing, which eventually became the Country Party.

Bruxner won the seat of Tenterfield in 1927, and held it until his retirement in 1962. He served as a minister from 1927 to 1930, and as Deputy Premier from 1932 to 1941. He was succeeded in 1962 by his son Tim Bruxner.

The younger Bruxner was appointed to Cabinet as a minister after the 1973 election. He became Deputy Leader of the National Country Party in 1975. In 1976 he lost his ministry when the Coalition government lost power. He retired in 1981 when Tenterfield was abolished in the redistribution.

The seat of Armidale had a very solid record of being held by the Country Party, although the ALP won the seat on two occasions, in 1953 and 1978.

Armidale was won in 1927 by David Drummond. Like the elder Bruxner, he had also been elected as one of the members for Northern Tablelands in 1920 for the Progressives and ended up in the Country Party. He served as state minister for Education from 1927 to 1930 and from 1932 to 1941. In 1949, he moved to the federal seat of New England, which he held until his retirement in 1963.

Davis Hughes won the seat for the Country Party at the 1950 by-election. He was re-elected at that year’s general election, but lost in 1953 to the ALP’s Jim Cahill. In 1956, Hughes defeated Cahill, and went on to hold the seat until 1973, when he resigned to take up the position of Agent-General for NSW in London.

The 1973 by-election was narrowly won by Country Party candidate David Leitch. He was re-elected in 1973 and 1976, but lost in the 1978 landslide to the ALP’s Bill McCarthy.

When Armidale and Tenterfield were merged into Northern Tablelands in 1981, the seat was won by McCarthy. He held the seat until his death in 1987.

The 1987 Northern Tablelands by-election was won by the National Party’s Ray Chappell. He served as a minister in the Coalition government from 1993 to 1995.

In 1999, Chappell was challenged by former Armidale mayor Richard Torbay, running as an independent. Torbay won a large victory, winning almost 60% of the two-party-preferred vote.

In 2003, Torbay increased his margin from 59% to 82%, which was slightly reduced to 80% in 2007. Following the 2007 election he was elected as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, despite the ALP holding a solid majority in the House.

Torbay lost the speakership at the 2011 election. He managed to hold on to his seat with a solid margin of almost 20% while rural independents lost their seats in Dubbo, Port Macquarie and Tamworth.

Torbay has been one of four crossbenchers in the Parliament since the 2011 election, along with Jamie Parker, Greg Piper and Clover Moore (succeeded by Alex Greenwich in 2012).

Torbay was preselected for the Nationals to run against independent federal MP Tony Windsor in 2012. He was forced to step down as the Nationals candidate in March 2013.

Candidates
The Nationals are running Adam Marshall, former Mayor of Gunnedah. He defeated former National Farmers Federation president Jock Laurie and Nationals staffer Claire Coulton in the preselection. Jim Maher, Mayor of Armidale-Dumaresq is running as an independent.

  • Bill Bush (Independent)
  • Adam Marshall (Nationals)
  • Dora Koops (Greens)
  • Herman Beyersdorf (Labor)
  • Katherine Nicholson (Independent)
  • Jim Maher (Independent)
  • Silvana Nero (Christian Democratic Party)

Assessment
The Nationals are likely to regain Northern Tablelands. The Liberal/National ticket polled almost 50% of the primary vote in the seat in the Legislative Council, with the ALP coming second with less than 16%.

A strong independent may stand a chance, but in current circumstances would be unlikely to defeat the Nationals candidate.

2011 result – Legislative Assembly

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Richard TorbayIND29,52663.4-9.3
Charlie McCowenNAT13,19928.3+10.6
Sarah FrazierALP1,5803.4-0.9
Pat SchultzGRN1,5313.3+0.1
Isabel StruttCDP7361.6-0.4

2011 two-candidate-preferred result – Legislative Assembly

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Richard TorbayIND31,24769.4-10.8
Charlie McCowenNAT13,75630.6+10.8

2011 result – Legislative Council

GroupVotes%Swing
Liberal/Nationals21,81148.20+8.95
Labor7,22715.97-10.43
Shooters and Fishers5,52912.22+2.43
The Greens3,6047.97+1.12
Pauline Hanson1,7723.92+3.92
Christian Democratic Party1,2772.82-2.19
The Fishing Party9652.13-0.19
Others3,0626.77-3.60
Polling places in Northern Tablelands at the 2011 state election. Armidale in blue, South in red, Glen Innes in yellow, Inverell in green, Gwydir in orange. Click to enlarge.
Polling places in Northern Tablelands at the 2011 state election. Armidale in blue, South in red, Glen Innes in yellow, Inverell in green, Gwydir in orange. Click to enlarge.

Booth breakdown
Booths in Northern Tablelands have been divided into five areas. Booths in the town of Armidale itself have been grouped together. Booths in Glen Innes Severn and Tenterfield local government areas have been grouped as Glen Innes. Booths in the Gwydir and Inverell council areas have been grouped by council area. The remainder of the seat, including Guyra, Uralla, Walcha and rural parts of Armidale Dumaresq have been grouped as “South”.

Richard Torbay won an easy majority in every part of the seat, varying from 62.6% in the south to 75.8% in Armidale.

In the Legislative Council, the Liberal/Nationals ticket vote varied from 40% in Armidale to 56% in Inverell. The ALP came second in four out of five regions, with the Shooters and Fishers coming second in the south.

The Greens came fourth in four regions, but overtook the Shooters and Fishers in Armidale.

Unfortunately the NSWEC does not publish polling place breakdowns of the final Legislative Council count, so I’ve had to use the preliminary count, which does not include below-the-line votes, so the numbers may not add up. These numbers have been used for maps and booth breakdowns.

2011 Legislative Assembly breakdown

Voter groupIND 2CP %Total votes% of votes
Armidale75.7810,12721.74
South62.576,76514.53
Inverell72.176,47113.89
Glen Innes67.526,30913.55
Gwydir63.682,5235.42
Other votes68.8714,37730.87

2011 Legislative Council breakdown

Voter groupLNP %ALP %SFP %GRN %Total votes% of votes
Armidale40.0418.419.1015.559,44821.89
South50.8413.3516.595.556,24914.48
Inverell55.9616.9412.412.885,49512.73
Glen Innes49.6816.9213.586.295,92813.73
Gwydir54.7816.5714.052.062,3845.52
Other votes52.6815.849.9238.1913,65931.65
Two-candidate-preferred Legislative Assembly primary votes in Northern Tablelands at the 2011 state election. Click to enlarge.
Two-candidate-preferred Legislative Assembly primary votes in Northern Tablelands at the 2011 state election. Click to enlarge.
Liberal/National primary votes in Northern Tablelands for the Legislative Council at the 2011 state election. Click to enlarge.
Liberal/National primary votes in Northern Tablelands for the Legislative Council at the 2011 state election. Click to enlarge.
Labor primary votes in Northern Tablelands for the Legislative Council at the 2011 state election. Click to enlarge.
Labor primary votes in Northern Tablelands for the Legislative Council at the 2011 state election. Click to enlarge.
Shooters and Fishers primary votes in Northern Tablelands for the Legislative Council at the 2011 state election. Click to enlarge.
Shooters and Fishers primary votes in Northern Tablelands for the Legislative Council at the 2011 state election. Click to enlarge.
Two-candidate-preferred Legislative Assembly primary votes in the Armidale area of Northern Tablelands at the 2011 state election.
Two-candidate-preferred Legislative Assembly primary votes in the Armidale area of Northern Tablelands at the 2011 state election.
Liberal/National primary votes in the Armidale area of Northern Tablelands for the Legislative Council at the 2011 state election.
Liberal/National primary votes in the Armidale area of Northern Tablelands for the Legislative Council at the 2011 state election.
Labor primary votes in the Armidale area of Northern Tablelands for the Legislative Council at the 2011 state election. Click to enlarge.
Labor primary votes in the Armidale area of Northern Tablelands for the Legislative Council at the 2011 state election.

22 COMMENTS

  1. 15.5% in Armidale for the Greens, compared with less than half or worse anywhere else… it’s certainly a university town. I’ve never set foot in the place but I’ve done a UNE unit… photonics, borrowed by Murdoch for their increasingly threadbare physics degree. (The labs involved a physics lecturer flying across the country for a week with a box full of of expensive optical equipment, which we proceeded to break. Whoops, there goes an $800 optical fibre splicer. 😛 )

    Labor could look really good and really bad at the same time if they ran in this by-election. Something like 25% of the vote would see them get pwned hard, but anything’s better than 3.4% of the primary vote. With the possible exception of a few Qld state seats in 1998 or 2001 (somewhere like Nanango?), that may be a modern-day record for Labor.

  2. It’s an interesting one. I would guess that the ALP would hope for a strong indi to run like in Sydney so that they can legitimately pull out, but failing that, they would probably get something in the mid-20s mark like in Clarence. I can’t see it being a by-election that many people will stay up for. It’ll be one of those results that both sides can spin but your mainstream news consumer won’t pay a jot of attention to.

  3. only a point of statistics but doesn’t the electoral commission count labor to np 2 candidate preferred………The underlying np vote must be 60% or more
    The Nat party have to be favorites…….. who is Tony Windsor supporting?

  4. There’s no sensible way to interpret an “underlying” 2pp vote when the Nats got 28% and Labor got only 3% – imagining a candidate who got almost two-thirds of the primary vote just not being there breaks sanity. The same kind of thinking creates John Birmingham’s last few books and the entire genre of steampunk. Imagine if young Tony had drowned falling off the Manly ferry at the age of 4, and old Julia is a grandma living in Cardiff. That sorta thing.

  5. Word is that the by election will be between Labor and Dr. Jim Maher with the Nationals not expected to poll above 30%.

  6. Yeah, I was surprised too when a local posted on Poll Bludger that there isn’t much love for the Nationals candidate or for Barnaby Joyce as well. They also mentioned that the ALP and Dr. Maher had far more workers at the pre-poll station than what the Nationals did.

  7. Guess we’ll see soon enough. Expect the commentary either way to use the Nat and Indi and proxies for their federal counterparts.

  8. Most of the other commenters in Pollbludger are desperately dismissing the notion that this has any implications whatsoever for Windsor, so it’s safe to say they believe the Nationals will get up…

  9. Marshall will win this easy, no question. The dislike of the NSW and Federal ALP has pretty much ensured this. Also the hub of Armidale being a uni town will ensure that the ALP loses votes due to their cuts to uni funding. I am surprised Beyersdorf is running for ALP considering the uni cuts and that he is on the uni board. Very confusing and surprising.

    The poll published in the Leader regarding Windsor and Joyce was heavily flawed. The real polling is showing that it is very much 50/50 with a winner unbackable at this stage.

    I am assuming Windsor will start to unleash some of the funding measures approved after the last election that he hasn’t rolled out yet in the lead up to the election.

    I would think Windsor might just get over the line when he does this. However, being traditionally Nats heartland and with a high profile candidate who will have a ministry in an Abbott government, this may swing voters in Joyces direction in the hope of significant funding to the region. After all, I can’t imagine Abbott putting any money into New England if Windsor wins.

  10. Surely after the experience of Torbay and the Federal Independents, the Nats should get close to 50%. Anything less would have to be dissapointing for them. I’d guess ALP in mid-20’s.

    That Armidale Express poll (Nat 37, ALP 23, Maher 31), I expect, just covers Armidale, which will be the strongest area for the ALP and also Maher (as he’s the Mayor). I’ll take 10 points off Maher and give them to the Nats, thats my guess.

  11. Labor will go 85% to maher what im hearing whether that is correct dont know

    if thats the case marshall will need over 45 % cant see it happening

    which would 51/49% win to maher the others are giving preference

  12. 26/48 booths are in, the Armidale booths are starting to come in as well, although the Nationals are still > 60%.

  13. I guess that Pollbludger commenter was either a Labor rusted on or taking the piss…..possibly both….

Comments are closed.