Herbert – Australia 2022

LNP 8.4%

Incumbent MP
Phillip Thompson, since 2019.

Geography

Herbert covers the vast majority of the urban area in Townsville. It also covers rural areas to the west of Townsville which are contained in the Townsville local government area.

History

Herbert is an original federation seat. The seat originally covered most of North Queensland, from Mackay to the Torres Strait, but now is almost entirely based in Townsville. The seat has long been a marginal seat, and only three former MPs have managed to retire on their own terms.

The seat was first held by Fred Bamford, who held the seat for a quarter of a century. He was first elected as a Labor member and was expelled from the ALP over conscription in 1916. He served briefly as a minister under Billy Hughes and represented the Nationalists under his retirement in 1925.

At the 1925 election, Premier of Queensland Ted Theodore resigned from office in order to run for Herbert, but was surprisingly defeated by Lewis Nott of the Nationalists, who held the seat for one term. Nott later emerged as the first member for the Australian Capital Territory as an independent from 1949 to 1951.

George Martens won the seat for the ALP in 1928 and held it until his retirement in 1946. The seat was then held by Labor’s William Edmonds until 1958.

Edmonds was defeated that year by John Murray of the Liberal Party, who was defeated himself by the ALP’s  Ted Harding in 1961. Harding was defeated in 1966 by Robert Bonnett. The seat was then held solidly by the Liberal Party for a long period. Bonnett retired in 1977 and Arthur Dean held on to the seat for the Liberals from 1977 to 1983.

In 1983, Dean was defeated by the ALP’s Ted Lindsay, as part of Bob Hawke’s election win over Malcolm Fraser. Lindsay held the seat for the entirety of the Hawke/Keating government before being defeated in 1996 by Liberal candidate Peter Lindsay (no relation). Lindsay was re-elected four times, and retired in 2010.

The Liberal National Party’s Ewen Jones won the seat in 2010. The redistribution had made Herbert a notional Labor seat, but a swing of 2.2% saw Jones retain the seat for the LNP. He was re-elected in 2013.

Jones lost in 2016 to Labor candidate Cathy O’Toole in an extremely close race. Recounting eventually gave O’Toole the seat with a 37-vote margin.

LNP candidate Phillip Thompson easily defeated O’Toole in 2019 thanks to an 8.4% swing.

Candidates

  • Toni McMahon (Informed Medical Options)
  • John Ring (Labor)
  • Scott Humphreys (Greens)
  • Larna Ballard (Great Australian Party)
  • Phillip Thompson (Liberal National)
  • Angela Egan (Independent)
  • Steven Clare (Independent)
  • Greg Dowling (United Australia)
  • Clynton Hawks (Katter’s Australian Party)
  • Toni McCormack (Animal Justice)
  • Diane Pepe (One Nation)
  • Assessment
    Herbert swung hard to the LNP in 2019 but has a recent history of being won by Labor. The swing was also massive in three other coastal seats in central and northern Queensland, but Herbert is the only one that had been won by Labor in 2016, and has the slimmest margin. We may well look back on 2019 as the beginning of the end of Labor winning seats in this area, and the LNP campaign here will be boosted by the local member’s new personal vote, but if they have a chance of winning back any of these seats Herbert would be the best prospect.

    2019 result

    CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
    Phillip Thompson Liberal National 34,11237.1+1.6
    Cathy O’Toole Labor 23,39325.5-5.0
    Amy LohseOne Nation10,18911.1-2.4
    Nanette RadeckKatter’s Australian Party9,0079.8+2.9
    Sam Blackadder Greens 6,7217.3+1.1
    Greg DowlingUnited Australia Party5,2395.7+5.7
    Tamara DurantConservative National Party1,6711.8+1.8
    Mackenzie SevernsAnimal Justice1,5851.7+1.7
    Informal5,7595.9-1.0

    2019 two-party-preferred result

    CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
    Phillip Thompson Liberal National 53,64158.4+8.4
    Cathy O’Toole Labor 38,27641.6-8.4

    Booth breakdown

    Booths have been divided into five areas. Most of the seat’s population lies in the Townsville urban area, and these booths are divided into three areas: Townsville, Mundingburra and Thuringowa-Douglas. The remaining booths are divided between those in the rural hinterland to the west of Townsville, and those on islands off the coast.

    The LNP won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in four areas, with a vote ranging from 53.3% in Mundingburra to 61.3% in the rural parts of the seat. Labor polled 57.3% on the islands, which only make up a small part of the population.

    One Nation and Katter’s Australian Party both polled best in the rural parts of the seat, and amongst the urban parts of the seat they both polled best in Thuringowa-Douglas.

    Voter groupON primKAP primLNP 2PPTotal votes% of votes
    Thuringowa-Douglas12.39.256.217,53319.1
    Mundingburra9.79.053.315,70917.1
    Rural17.213.661.39,25910.1
    Townsville6.56.754.47,2537.9
    Islands5.04.742.71,7221.9
    Pre-poll10.110.662.329,94632.6
    Other votes12.59.261.010,49511.4

    Election results in Herbert at the 2019 federal election
    Toggle between two-party-preferred votes and primary votes for the Liberal National Party, Labor, One Nation and Katter’s Australian Party.

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    22 COMMENTS

    1. You mean Ewen Jones. The big reason they lost it was because of him. Anyone who suggests Morrison is popular in regional QLD has no clue what they are talking about. Malcolm Turnbull’s coalition held onto Capricornia,Flynn and Dawson didn’t they? I guarantee you if Turnbull was still PM these would still have been safe seats because if voters had to choose between the coalition or Labor on the Adani issue I assure you they wouldn’t have supported Labor.

      And not to mention Adani wasn’t the only reason this area swung wildly. franking credits and negative gearing and immigration policy were other big factors. If it really was Adani then why did Townville swing towards Labor at the state election last year?

      Cathy O’Toole was one of the worst performing Labor mp’s in recent history, that is the reason she suffered one of the worst defeats of a sitting federal MP in modern times. I think if she retired last time the margin would have been around 5-6% instead of the current 8%

      Just watch her interview with Michael Rowland, she literally refused to say ”I support Adani” and dodged the question and said ”I don’t get what the big fuss is” That is why she lost badly. Not Palmer, Not Hanson. It was her and Bill Shorten.

      Not to mention Palmer hated Ewen Jones and called on him to lose his seat before the 2016 election. surely this didn’t help.

    2. Labor announced candidate Aviation Firefighter John Ring as their candidate. LNP will be favorites to retain. Its even possible the scenario of Labor winning the federal election but failing to win Herbert. I just feel that way about this seat. Popular former Liberal MP Peter Lindsay stopped Labor getting across the line to win Herbert in Kevin Rudd’s win in 2007. Labor benefited from One Nation directing preferences to them which helped them eek a out a win in this seat in 2016.

    3. Agree likely Liberal Hold. I do believe there is a sitting member here like in most regional seats. If Peter Lindsay had retired at the 2007 election i believe it would have fallen to Labor and the TPP result would have been higher for Labor than the QLF TPP. If it wasnt for a poor result in QLD in 2010 Labor would have won this seat as there was no incumbent. The Swing against Labor in 2010 was smaller compared to the QLD average and Labor achieved a better TPP than the overall QLD result.

    4. There is a strong defence force vote in this electorate
      which tends to favour the Liberals. Labor will get a swing to it ,but it’s a likely Liberal hold.

    5. @John T

      I read in the Saturday Paper that Labor are a chance in this seat. And apparently miltary veterans were unhappy with the way Afghanistan pullout was handled which may be a factor. You right though overwhelming majority of defense forces tends to vote Liberal. But the three state Labor seats situated here shows the electorate is not afraid to vote Labor too.

      Pretty sure I read in the Guardian that Labor thought they were a chance here as well.

    6. The major party’s have lost the plot ! They are all about popular politics. Policies that keep them elected. Fir Australia to move forward we need the votes, ideas and vision of passionate independents. 2 party adversarial system is holding us back – let’s face it , it’s often hard to distinguish between the two these days.

    7. Herbert is one seat definitely on my watch for election night as it could throw up a surprise. Interestingly, of the 7 so far declared candidates, 3 of them contested the state seat of Townsville in 2020 (Clynton Hawks now KAP, then for NQF, Toni McMahon IMOP and Grew Dowling UAP). Candidates so far are for ALP, LNP, GRN, UAP, KAP, IMOP and IND x1.

      As mentioned above, the three corresponding state seats (Townsville, Thuringowa and Mundingburra) are all ALP held but themselves are marginal of around 3%. (As an aside, those MPs are known are the three amigos, and it’s not used affectionately!)

      I do know people in this electorate, so my view might be slightly biased. Businesses being affected by mandates at a local level might bite (has been some news articles), but don’t think IMOP would get more than 2% (their vote in Townsville 2020), if lucky for 1%. Greg Dowling was the leader for UAP at the QLD 2020 Election and also ran in 2019 in Herbert. Although he scored 5.7% in 2019, he only got 1.8% in 2020 (and the neighbouring state electorates had about the same). Maybe with Clive running federally it might boost the vote but 5% would seem high for UAP. With no declared PHON candidate for now, I’ll put UAP at around 4% which I think is generous. There is also an IND in Angela Egan, a Doctor which could take the ‘health’ vote from IMOP and a bit off UAP. Could see her getting up to 5%.

      The GRN vote I don’t expect to go much beyond 8%, considering there was a slight swing against them in 2020. It really comes down to where that PHON vote goes if no candidate (it was fairly evenly split to LNP and ALP advantage at the state election, with a little bit more for LNP in Thuringowa) and also where the KAP vote goes. According to the ABC, with those voters preferencing more the LNP, I’d say LNP retain here.

      KAP is like most regional parties (eg JLN in Tas, Australian Christians in WA, Centre Alliance in SA, Victorian Socialists in VIC) in picking a few seats to focus on and has been campaigning hard here, with the local news featuring them regularly. They got 11%, 12% and 16% in the corresponding state seats in 2020. I could see them getting up to 15% of the vote federally, depending on how things go (if no PHON), but definitely an improvement.

      Still I put this electorate as 60% LNP Retain, 35% ALP Gain and 5% Wild Card KAP gain (or PHON if they run, but would require strong swings to both and some tight preferencing by voters).

    8. Saw Phillip Thompson himself personally campaigning at the Strand today which I found interesting. Took a double take as I wasn’t even aware he had a whole sleeve of tattoos but there you go. He seems to be taking his race seriously and not kicking back for an easy win. Labor and LNP signs throughout Townsville actually seem relatively equal in number and they’re quite common as well at least compared to what I’d been seeing in Mackay and the rest of Dawson. I don’t detect any dissatisfaction with Thompson among the people of Herbert but interesting it at least on the surface gives off the impression of a race taken seriously. Expecting him to retain his seat with a small swing to Labor assuming they improve in Queensland and/or win the election nationally.

    9. Apparently the PHON candidate, who has no profile on this page, lives in Melbourne. PH is expecting to carry the voting solely on her name. I don’t see that as a winning strategy.
      At least 3 of the candidates are former defense personnel – always a big consideration in this electorate.

    10. Could be in play but I’d say the LNP hold this with a 5-6% swing to Labor and will be more marginal than Dawson,Flynn and Capricornia. Only Leichhardt will be more Labor than this.

      Labor have a shot based on the fact they are often underestimated in this region, nobody thought the LNP would lose this seat in 2016 especially not before half a dozen other seats in QLD. And Labor managed to hold all the Townsville seats at the state election with a couple even swinging to them. Look I know state politics isn’t the same, but everyone thought Labor was dead in Townsville at the state election.

      This seat could be a surprise on election night but I predict Labor will still fall short here. If Labor is a good government then this potentially could be a flip in 2025.

    11. This is another fascinating seat. The LNP primary was already low and reliant on preference flow. Any drop in the primary makes this interesting.

    12. Surprised the LNP romped home here. This is now one of their safest seats. How? Was Thompson popular here?

      Considering the state election result in Townsville it is surprising how bad Labor did here.

      I’m guessing the lack of effort and resources for Labor into seats like this and other QLD seats is to why these seats still have inflated margins? Or is it a new long term trend? Will the new Labor gains in other states in traditional Liberal seats hold for Labor or at least be competitive in future?

    13. Daniel, I had a look at some US elections and found military personnel tend to be more conservative leaning. Given Townsville and its Federal seats like Herbert have above average numbers of military personnel, this would naturally translate into more votes for the Coalition.

    14. The 11.7% margin of victory here is the third largest ever in the electorate’s history, only surpassed by 1937 and 1914 (both Labor wins), and tied with 1943, although that was a non-traditional contest between Labor and the Communist party.

      This follows a general trend North Queensland has been undergoing for decades now, but one that only hit the cities relatively recently. There has been a massive shift away from Labor all over barring certain small exceptions. Even at the 2020 state election, where the NQ result was lauded as a miracle by Labor people in a way similar to the Liberals in 2019, Labor got tiny swings to them in all the Townsville and Cairns seats, except Thuringowa where they actually even got a swing against them, and they completely flopped in Burdekin and Whitsunday.

      This all applies to Central Queensland to some degree as well, but that’s not my focus here. Labor needs to perform better in the Gold and Sunshine Coasts to offset inevitable losses further North, but then they have a two front war in these parts anyway because the Greens continue to improve their already high primary vote in a not-insignificant number of Brisbane seats near the CBD.

    15. Clive Palmer’s UAP running a candidate in Herbert and preferencing against his enemy Ewen Jones would have had a small impact but enough to change the impact, 62.86% of the UAP’s 315 votes flowed to Labor as preferences. If it was 50-50 then the LNP would have won by 4 votes, but because of that decision Labor won by 37 votes. One Nation preferencing against the LNP would also have had an effect with 51.66% of their preferences going to Labor.

    16. @Yoh An, agree about military vote but Solomon also significant military vote and Labor had a thumping win there. I am thinking Labor simply abandoned here after they got burnt in 2019 and did not try allowing a sophomore surge here. Most regional electorates are socially mixed for example there is a big university here as well so it hard to comment on demographic trends such as gentrification or an area moving from mortgage belt to settled. The Libs have underperformed in neighbouring Leichardt compared to the Howard years. IMHO if Warren Entsch retired this election it may have fallen to Labor like it did last time he retired in 2007.

    17. It is a curiosity as to why Herbert has such a unique swing to the rest Queensland and how much of it can be attributed to the performance of Thompson.

      @Laine I agree with your point that Labor can perhaps focus on performing better in the Gold and Sunshine Coasts to offset losses elsewhere in Queensland. Places where state Labor do quite well like Nerang (Gaven) on the Gold Coast is a good start.

      But I’d also argue that at the same time, Townsville is not so dissimilar to Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast either. In fact I see Townsville as very similar to the Gold Coast of approximately 30 years ago in demographics, urban development, urban scale and dwelling profiles. Gold Coast in the aforementioned period of its urban development was still a reliably safe LNP heartland.

      The major difference between Townsville and “the Coasts” is the large proportion of those employed in the defence industry in Townsville as Yoh An pointed out (over 5%). The Coalition’s attempt at a khaki election and their anti-CCP rhetoric was likely landing much better here than the rest of the country. This messaging was not backfiring like it did elsewhere due to Herbert’s much smaller proportion of Chinese diaspora (almost non-existent) in comparison to places like Reid, Chisholm, Bennelong and Moreton.

      But still I’m sure there are a lot of other factors responsible. I think that more banal personal factors relating to Thompson like his arm tattoos also made him appealing to local punters in a way that couldn’t be formally be quantified.

    18. “2020 state election, where the NQ result was lauded as a miracle by Labor people in a way similar to the Liberals in 2019,”

      @Laine

      Not really. If anything the youth curfew policy the LNP proposed in the state election was a desperate ‘throw the kitchen sink’ moment in Townsville because the LNP polling was in trouble.

      Labor also had a incumbent pull out at the last moment in the seat of Mundingburra. And still had no trouble holding the seat.

      I think you are overstating the federal result effect. Labor was crushed in the 2019 federal election in North and Central Queensland but had no problem retaining their state seats in the same regions. I haven’t seen anything to suggest the next state election will be any different.

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