By-election incoming for Northern Tablelands


NSW Nationals MP Adam Marshall announced his retirement yesterday, which will force a by-election for his state seat of Northern Tablelands in the New England region of NSW.

Northern Tablelands has always been a strong area for the Nationals, but has also been a strong area for independents in the past. Richard Torbay won the seat as an independent in 1999, and held it by a large margin until he quit in 2013 after a failed attempt at contesting the overlapping federal seat as a National.

Adam Marshall won the 2013 by-election with ease, and held the seat by large margins at the next three elections. He held the seat by a 33.8% margin in 2023.

A strong independent could do well here, but in the absence of such a campaign the seat should stay safely with the Nationals.

You can read my guide to this by-election here.

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  1. I highly doubt Labor will even bother running here with such a low vote. National retain, easily. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it’s an uncontested election, but I doubt that will happen.

  2. Agree NP, this is an ultra-safe seat for the Nationals and will only be competitive if a high-profile independent decides to run here (similar to 1999 when Richard Torbay beat then incumbent Ray Chappell). A by election will see some swing against the Nationals due to the loss of Adam Marshall’s personal vote, but I still expect their primary vote to be over 60% with a 2CP margin at least 70%.

  3. During some of the Wran years this seat was held by
    The alp. When the sitting mp died his widow came within 3% of winning.alp victory would depend on a
    Massive personal vote. A independent similar to Tony Windsor could win

  4. Some early insights from the ground.

    There’s two potential independents I would watch. Although this is speculation based on local knowledge, I don’t have any solid information on if either of these are planning a run.

    The first is Sam Coupland, mayor of Armidale Regional Council (and son in law of Bob Katter). You could describe him as a light Nat, but he’s not a member of the party. His personal vote is strong around Armidale and would be well positioned to make a serious run at the Tablelands.

    For a left of center indie, Adam Blakester could be a possibility. He made the 2CP against Barnaby in the 2019 New England Election and did well in Armidale booths. There is a Voices of New England group who have struggled to get off the ground in the past, but Adam would fit as a candidate for them if he/they were inclined to run someone. He also has a personal vote around Armidale and Uralla (the two most left leaning areas of the electorate).

    From what I hear, the Nat’s were a bit blindsided by Adam stepping down. There has been some reporting that Adam was lined up to replace Barnaby as the MP for New England, which has been the running rumor locally. But it’s also pretty public knowledge that Barnaby is planning another run at the leadership before he goes out (this is even known federally), and that Adam was a bit on the out with the Nats. I’m sure the pre-selection battle is underway for the Tablelands regardless, but I would also speculate Coupland could be approached by some within the party.

    It will be interesting to see if the Shooters run. In the past they’ve been able to pull a decent share of the vote in this part of the state, but last year they suffered just as much here as they did in other lower house runs after their internal exodus of MPs. Without an Upper hour campaign running in parallel it will be interesting to see if they think it’s worth putting in the resources to re-build their vote.

    Word is that the local Labor and Greens branches respectively are calling meetings to decide if they are going to put up candidates or even put in the resources to run. Labor’s branches in this part of the world have slowly suffered from erosion and are not nearly as well resourced as other parts of the state. The Greens do have small but active branches in Armidale and Glen Innes (Glen even had a Greens’ mayor). But I don’t think either will get enough of the vote to be in competition to win.

    I agree with the sentiment that if someone is going to be in the running that isn’t the Nats here, it will be an independent. Obviously though anyone could be well placed to gain back ground in their first preference vote with a popular incumbent leaving, depending on how much of a campaign they put in. See the results for the electorate of Tamworth just south of the Tablelands last year. Active campaigns from a prominent independent, Labor and Greens (there was also a field of non-local paper candidates) saw a 12% swing away from the sitting Nats member. This my have just pushed Tamworth from being an uber safe seat (second only to the Tablelands state wide) to a safe seat, but it shows there is a desire for non-National representation, or at least to not be in ultra safe seats where the Nat’s are left to walk it in.

  5. A strong independent from Armidale could be competitive here but would still have an uphill task to overturn a 80% seat.

    I guess Ben could post another thread ”An unsurprising landslide” like he did in 2013 when the Nats easily won in 2013 IF the Nats retain this with a huge margin again.

  6. @Daniel T the new one would be “A second unsurprising landslide”.

    Even 11 years on from 2013 I highly doubt this would flip. I bet Labor won’t even run. Labor, the Liberals and the Greens will be more focused on Sydney, Newcastle and surrounds since the NSW local elections are being held in October. Regional councils in NSW are almost all nonpartisan, whereas councils in the area south of (and including) Newcastle and Maitland and east of (and including) the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury are usually at least somewhat partisan. However, sometimes candidates run without any party endorsement but are members of a political party (e.g Port Macquarie-Hastings Mayor Peta Pinson is a National and Bega Valley Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick is a Liberal).

    Key councils to watch: all partisan Sydney councils and the Central Coast Council. Another worth looking at is Tweed City Council which is one of only two partisan councils north of Port Stephens (the other being the MidCoast Council which is barely partisan despite being situated in a conservative area of the state).

  7. Interesting to compare state and federal results. In Armidale and the larger towns the state 2pp was 20% or so higher than the federal result at similar type booths. Not sure if it was due to Adam Marshall popularity, antiBarnaby factor or a combination.

  8. @Redistributed plus OPV on the state level plus timing matters because Armidale has a lot of uni students who go there to New England University so in uni season Labor and the Greens would do better than they would in non-uni season.

  9. @Nether Portal – they can’t vote there just because they are living there in Uni season – they need to be enrolled in the area.

    @Redistributed – a lot of safe Coalition seats in NSW (perhaps more Liberal than National) do better at State election than Federal. I’m not entirely sure what the reasons are but it is apparent across northern Sydney as well. I dolt think candidates have much to do with it. Though perhaps State MP’s build up a personal vote quicker and to a greater extent. But its not about how “good” they are.

  10. The state seats are roughly half the size of the federal seats…. this allows a mp to build up a personal vote.
    Cootamundra and Lismore are examples of this as is Tweed to a lesser extent

  11. @High Street in Sydney it’s because the NSW Liberals are more moderate and in Newcastle the state Labor Party does best because they’re more centrist than the federal Labor Party. Overall NSW politics is more moderate/centrist than federal politics. NSW Labor being centrist also means the Greens do well in Balmain and Newtown which are in the safe Labor seat of Grayndler (Albo’s seat).

  12. The thing is though the regional areas that are solidly blue or dark green on the federal level are also the same on the state level. The Central West, the Mid North Coast, the Northern Tablelands, the Orana and the Riverina are good examples of this. Compare this to northern Sydney where the Liberals dominate on the state level despite now holding only two federal seats north of Sydney Harbour (Bradfield and Mitchell). Plus on the state level the Central Coast should start to become more competitive especially around Gosford and The Entrance with Terrigal being blue ribbon and Wyong being working-class and more Labor-voting. Dobell and to a greater extent the classic bellwether seat of Robertson are already competitive federally. Looking at booth results though the state Liberals usually do better in the seat of Terrigal (overlapping with Robertson with a small part in Dobell) while the federal Liberals have traditionally done better in the areas within the state seats of Gosford (Robertson) and The Entrance (Dobell). But again, The Entrance and to a lesser extent Gosford should start to become competitive again soon.

  13. I don’t see how an independent can scrape together a successful campaign and become competitive within the next few weeks. They could score a double digit primary especially if Labor doesn’t run. An independent could use this by-election as a launchpad for the 2027 state election or even for New England at the 2025 fed election.

  14. Adam Marshall’s official resignation date is 13 May so a by election would not be until July probably. Enough time to find a candidate and mount a campaign. Labor very unlikely to run. Nats have to be very firm favourite unless something goes seriously pear shaped.

  15. Moree solicitor Brendan Moylan has been selected as the Nats candidate. According to the New England Times no one else has expressed interest in running.

  16. @Redistributed Brendan will be the next MP then. Nationals retain easily, Labor won’t run.


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