The Gabba – Brisbane 2020

Council margin – GRN 6.8% vs LNP
Mayoral margin – ALP 3.3%

Incumbent councillor
Jonathan Sri, since 2016.

Inner south of Brisbane. The Gabba covers the suburbs across the river from the Brisbane city centre, including Dutton Park and West End.

The Gabba shrank significantly, losing its easternmost quarter but otherwise experiencing no boundary changes. East Brisbane and Buranda were moved to Coorparoo. These changes increased the Greens margin from 5% to 6.8%.

The Gabba replaced the Dutton Park ward, which covered the inner south and some nearby areas. Dutton Park was traditionally considered to be a safe Labor ward.

Tim Quinn was first elected as a Labor councillor for the Gabba in 1985. He held the ward covering the area right up until 2003.

Quinn served in civic cabinet throughout Jim Soorley’s mayoralty, serving as deputy mayor from 1997. Quinn was appointed as Lord Mayor to finish Soorley’s fourth mayoral term in 2003, and resigned from Dutton Park. Quinn was defeated by Campbell Newman in 2004.

Helen Abrahams was appointed to finish Quinn’s term as Dutton Park councillor in 2003. Abrahams had previously served one term in Paddington from 1991 to 1994.

Abrahams was re-elected in 2004 with a 9.1% margin over the Liberal Party, but the Greens polled 25.1% in their first contest in the area.

Dutton Park was replaced by the Gabba in 2008, and Abrahams scraped by with a 2.7% margin. The Liberal Party outpolled Labor on primary votes, 37.1% to 35.8%, and Labor only won on Greens preferences.

Abrahams was re-elected again in 2012. She increased her primary vote to 45% mostly at the expense of the Greens, and increased her margin to 8%.

Abrahams retired in 2016, and Labor dropped to third place on primary votes. Greens candidate Jonathan Sri came second on primary votes and won the ward on Labor preferences.


This was the first ward ever won by the Greens when Sri won in 2016. Past history of Greens wins in lower house seats in other states (the elections which are most similar to a BCC election) suggest that Greens MPs often strengthen their margin after one term, but we don’t know how that will play out here. Sri’s main challenge will be staying ahead of Labor, as it’s likely Labor preferences will be enough to win a second term if he can stay in the top two against the LNP.

Sri may benefit from incumbency and from Labor voters choosing the progressive party with the stronger local presence, but his radicalism (both in substance and style) could either help him or hurt him.

There is also a danger that a swing against the LNP would drop them into third place, which would mean the most conservative part of the ward would be deciding the result between the Greens and Labor. If this happens Sri would need a significant boost in his primary vote relative to Labor to hold on.

2016 council result

Sean Jacobs Liberal National 7,71235.9-1.134.5
Jonathan Sri Greens 6,82331.7+13.932.8
Nicole Lessio Labor 6,45730.0-15.130.3
Leon LechnerPeople Decide5162.4+2.42.4

2016 council two-candidate-preferred result

Jonathan Sri Greens 10,19455.056.8
Sean Jacobs Liberal National 8,33645.043.2

2016 mayoral result

Graham Quirk Liberal National 8,91741.2-6.239.7
Rod Harding Labor 6,59830.5+1.431.0
Ben Pennings Greens 5,14623.8+2.824.7
Karel BoelePeople Decide3881.8+1.81.9
Jeffrey HodgesIndependent3761.7+1.71.7
Jim EldridgeIndependent1300.6+0.60.5
Jarrod WirthIndependent810.4+0.40.4

2016 mayoral two-party-preferred result

Rod Harding Labor 10,08451.7+7.853.3
Graham Quirk Liberal National 9,44148.4-7.846.7

Booth breakdown

Booths in The Gabba have been divided into three areas: north-east, south-east and west. In simplistic terms, the north-east is the best LNP area, the west is the best Greens area, and the south-east is the best Labor area.

The Greens won big victories in the south-east and west, but the LNP won 55.5% of the two-candidate-preferred vote in the north-east.

Labor similarly won big in the south-east and west on the mayoral ballot while the LNP won in the north-east.

The Greens were outpolled by Labor in the south-east (narrowly) and the north-east (less narrowly) but significantly outpolled Labor in the west.

Voter groupALP prim councilGRN 2CP councilLNP 2PP mayoralTotal votes% of votes
Other votes28.147.954.73,73621.5

Election results in The Gabba at the 2016 Brisbane City Council election
Toggle between two-candidate-preferred votes (Greens vs LNP) for council, two-party-preferred votes for lord mayor, and council primary votes for Labor.

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  1. Sri is safe. His biggest risk would have been compulsory preferential, with LNP preferences potentially giving the seat to Labor in the event of LNP coming 3rd.

    In optional preferential, LNP will likely do “just vote 1” cards and if Balmain/Newtown in NSW are any indication, the Greens will actually gain slightly off the few LNP votes that don’t exhaust.


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