Groom by-election, 2020

Cause of by-election
Sitting Liberal National MP John McVeigh announced his retirement in September 2020.

MarginLNP 20.5%

Groom covers the city of Toowoomba and rural areas to the west of the city contained entirely within Toowoomba Region council area.

Groom was created as part of the expansion of the House of Representatives at the 1984 election. The seat has always been held by Coalition MPs.

Groom was first won in 1984 by the National Party’s Tom McVeigh. McVeigh had been Member for Darling Downs since the 1972 election, and was elected Member for Groom in 1984 when Darling Downs was abolished. Darling Downs had previously centred on Toowoomba, which became the centre of the new seat of Groom.

McVeigh retired in 1988, triggering a by-election. The Liberal Party contested the by-election, and their candidate Bill Taylor outpolled the Nationals by 4.5% on primary votes and won a substantial majority on Labor preferences.

Taylor held the seat for a decade, retiring in 1998. The Nationals again challenged for the seat, but fell into fourth place behind Labor and One Nation, with the Liberal Party’s Ian Macfarlane winning the seat.

Macfarlane was made a junior minister in January 2001, and joined the Howard cabinet after the 2001 election as Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, a role he held for the remainder of the Howard government. Macfarlane served as a frontbencher while the Coalition was in opposition, and as a cabinet minister during the Abbott government.

Macfarlane was dropped from the ministry when Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as Prime Minister. He attempted to switch from the Liberal party room to the Nationals party room, but the LNP state executive blocked the proposal.

Macfarlane retired at the 2016 election, and was replaced by John McVeigh, who won the seat easily. McVeigh had held the state electorate of Toowoomba South since 2012, but resigned from that state seat to contest the federal election.

McVeigh was re-elected in 2019, but resigned from parliament in September 2020.


  • Sandra Jephcott (Sustainable Australia)
  • Craig Farquharson (Liberal Democrats)
  • Garth Hamilton (Liberal National)
  • Chris Meibusch (Labor)

Groom is a very safe LNP seat and should stay in LNP hands.

2019 result

John McVeigh Liberal National 50,90853.3-0.7
Troy Kay Labor 17,81118.7-3.5
David KingOne Nation12,49313.1+13.1
Alyce Nelligan Greens 7,5988.0+1.8
Kenneth LawUnited Australia3,7844.0+4.0
Perry AdreliusConservative National2,8543.0+3.0

2019 two-party-preferred result

John McVeigh Liberal National 67,27470.5+5.2
Troy Kay Labor 28,17429.5-5.2

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided into four areas. A majority of the population lives in the Toowoomba, and these booths were split into two halves: north and south. The booths outside of the Toowoomba urban area have also been split into north and south.

The LNP won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in all four areas, ranging from 63.2% in Toowoomba North to 74.7% in the rural north.

Voter groupON prim %LNP 2PP %Total votes% of votes
Toowoomba North12.963.217,97018.8
Toowoomba South10.866.016,43617.2
Other votes12.975.916,54617.3

Election results in Groom at the 2019 federal election
Toggle between two-party-preferred votes and One Nation primary votes.

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  1. roughly 2/3 Toowoomba Urban area and 1/3 rural surrounds the lnp vote exceeds 66% almost every where
    I wonder why the Two urban state seats have a much lower lnp vote?

  2. Groom wasn’t really a new seat in 1984. It was Darling Downs renamed to commemorate Littleton Groom and to reflect that the growth of Toowoomba meant that much of the actual Darling Downs was now outside the seat.

  3. I’ve heard the LNP won’t be finalising their pre-selection for Groom until after the state election. So any potential chance of holding the bye-election on the same day as the state election. As they similarly did with holding the South Brisbane bye-election during the Brisbane City Council elections in 2016. Is now confirmed as out of the question.

  4. One hardly needs to wait till after State Election to finalise candidates. A delay of a few days would result in it being to late to run two elections together. There would be significant logistic priblems with running both elections on same day. ECQ runs State Elections and AEC Federal elections. Rules for issuing ballot papers are not identical. ID requirement for State, ballot paper initialling for federal. Staff are probably same people but who would employ them. Which Act would take precedence. Handing out Frderal HTV without State ECQ approval would probably be illegal. No Approval normally required for Frderal HTV. My feeling is this would be chaotic and chaos leads to mistakes which lead to Court of Disputed Returns cases. Better to run seperately.

  5. Will likely be a ONP vs LNP Contest. It appears that the ALP will not field a candidate. often major parties don’t field a candidate in some of these very safe seats.

  6. Why does wikipedia say the Coalition has 77 seats when they really have 76? (for now) until at least the byelection is resolved and if ite because they think this is a certain hold. It isn’t but it is very likely ro be a Liberal hold I’d put a bet od 20$ on it. But as Antony once said. Anyone on the ballot paper can win.

  7. Wikipedia is hardly a work of Reference. Yesterday’s Draft House Hansard List of Members

    shows Groom as being Vacant but the party for this vacant seat is shown as LNP.
    If Hansard classifies the vacant MP as LNP then one can hardly blame Wilkipedia for being wrong.

  8. I looked at Hansard expecting to find that LNP member for Groom was paired with an ALP member but this does not appear to be case.

  9. David van Gend could blow this seat for the LNP, They could lose it, Saying Homosexuality is treatable and opposes abortion in almost all cases and calls Climate change a Hoax, will not win in Toowoomba, safe seat or not, it doesn’t matter. Everyone said Alabama was a safe senate seat for the GOP in 2017 but look where that went. and closer to home, everyone thought the LIBS would hold onto Wentworth at the by-election, look what happened again. He is not a generic LNP candidate he has controversies and has a real chance of losing to an Independent or maybe One Nation. if Labour stand the TPP could even be close. Toowoomba is conservative but not ”crazy” like this guy is. I am comparing David van Gend to Roy Moore.

  10. I have expressed view that we are better off with Palaszczuk than Frecklington but if I had a vote in Groom I would support Van Gend. My feeling is that Toowoomba is far more socially conservative than LNP generally.
    Van Gend’s economics have not been discussed but I suspect they are closer to Menzian -Fraser era Liberalism than modern neo-liberalism.

  11. @Daniel I know Toowoomba has a bit of a history with Christian Fundamentalists but I still heavily doubt they will pick somebody with such extreme views as those you mentioned. As you said the city is conservative but it’s not insane. If they were to nominate van Gend they’d risk blowing it and losing to an independent imo, although I’m not sure who’s eyeing a run in the by-election as of now. Fingers crossed they go with a half-decent and somewhat respectable candidate.

  12. Good to see that Guardian Newspaper reports that LNP have endorsed Van Gend.
    They need to get back to standing up to ALP not just abusing them

  13. Andrew, so his views on social issues don’t matter? I respect your opinion though.

    Even Tony Abbott never said anything as extreme as that even though Abbott is a staunch opponent of SSM, Although as i am also a British citizen i am happy to see him on the Brexit Trade board.

    While this seat isn’t JUST Toowoomba, Most of the population lives in it or it’s outer suburbs. Labour has had success in Toowoomba North prior to the Newmanslide and even in 2015 Labour only barely lost it. We will have to see who they endorse but i think this seat is no where near a lock for the LNP, IF they nominate an extremist, a generic Liberal should win comfortably however, But a generic candidate means someone without controversy typically. There was talk in the past of Campbell Newman entering state politics, and Groom might have been a seat he had considered in the past? but i think he decided against it. Newman would win the seat because he isn’t considered an extremist, And yes i believe Matt Canavan would have won here had he entered.

  14. If Van Gend is selected on Sunday, which I don’t believe is likely, this will create unnecessary distraction for Deb Frecklington in the last week of the election campaign, once again bringing attention to the divide between her and the party organisation. So this will be a test for new president Cynthia Hardy. I think to divert from this, plus also to prevent any independent or minor party challenge if Van Gend is selected they will chose a more moderate candidate such as Rebecca Vonhoff, who I believe is the frontrunner. It may be the case that David Van Gend is too conservative, even for Toowoomba-ites, but weirder things have happened.

  15. Roy Moore wasn’t ‘just’ very conservative, he was accused of sexually violating multiple underage women. He lost Alabama because he lost the support of the conservative Christian right that formed his base. I don’t know that Van Gend has been involved in anything like that. Groom is a conservative electorate. He may damage the LNP brand at large but climate denial and homophobia sell well enough on the Darling Downs. Opposing euthanasia might hurt him but I can’t see it making anywhere near enough difference. I mean the LNP has a 20 point margin. *Maybe* Katter’s party give him a run for his money but I doubt it.

  16. I tend to agree with Furtive Lawngnome, Roy Moore was completely different and to equate him to any politician in Australia is a low blow.

    As for Van Gend, he may be an extremist but in reality are his views any different from most Liberals.
    The Liberals raison d’être is ultimately one of homophobia, racism and climate denialism among many other things. I’m sure if you asked Morrison, Abbott, Andrews, Dutton, Abetz in private they would most likely agree with his views.

    This seat will most likely stay in LNP hands, maybe even a good showing by One Nation.

  17. Why do people vote for racism and/or homophobia then? Low education? Tradition? Denial? Social class? I hear everyone saying on the internet that Australia isn’t a conservative country and the LNP is like the USA Democrats. Is that really the case?

    The stuff I am reading the LNP is like the GOP, I get that we have Universal healthcare and we get free university upfront and then we pay when we work but if you look at the social and economic policies it seems to be like the GOP

    Australia as a whole is more (Liberal) than the US but to say the Coalition is like the US Democrats or even to the left of them is ridiculous. I don’t see conservative Democrats like Joe Manchin (who politically would be allot like Malcolm Turnbull here) say extreme stuff like some politicians in the coalition say.

    I thought the Liberal party was supposed to be the party of Menzies which was quite Centre compared to today, They might have been more like the Democrats, and with the electorate being more to the left than it was 50 years ago I am surprised they are going further to the Right, The reason we have the far-right rising in some places is because of immigration.

    And considering most people outside the United States including Australia even here in QLD oppose Trump, It surprises me allot of the LNP people embrace him. Come January ScoMo will have 1 less buddy on the world stage because I am predicting a Biden win 341-197 (Trump only wins OH,GA,TX for the Tossups) and a 53-47 Senate majority for the Democrats including 2 INDS) , I am interested in what you people are predicting for the US election even though it’s unlikely Ben will make a page for the US-election like he did in 2012 IICR.

  18. Daniel
    350 for Biden Very close to your prediction . Trump is heading for biggest defeat since Barry Goldwater.

    You are quite right about Menzies he supported or at least tolerated:
    ?Concilliation and arbitration
    ?Governmrnt owned and operated Enterprises
    ??Centralised Marketing of Agricultural Products
    ?Regulation of economy Trade Practices Act
    ?Never has a surplus budget
    ?Governmrnt expenditure on infrastructure Beef Roads, Ord and continuation of Snowt Mountains but do not forget he also
    ?supported criminality of sodomy, abortion and pornography.
    ?strong enforcement ofQuarantine Laws
    David Van Gend would I think fit quite easily into Menzies era Liberal Party.
    It should be remembered that Menzies deserted the Liberal party in old age and voted DLP.

    Unfortunately I will be unable to help Van Gend due to a hip replacement operation but he is pre closely the sort of candidate who Would bring me back from position that I have at the moment which is Libs are as bad as ALP socially and worse economically.

  19. Unlikely Van Gend wins Guardian is just having a fit. He will drop out early in the preselection vote and his hardcore supporters are a block that will deliver the preselection to the winner (probably the councillor).

  20. The Christian right will lose Groom for the Liberals mark my words, this isn’t america, Tea party reoublicans can’t win here, pollbludger reports Van Gerd is the frontrunner for preselection

  21. Although I’d like to write him off, in the event that David van Gend is preselected for the Groom by-election, it’s fairly likely that he will win it. The region is much more conservative and religious than the national average, and Toowoomba in particular has been a hotspot for fundamentalist Christian movements in the past. Nobody stands a chance against the Liberals here bar a high-profile Independent, and I’ve seen nobody put their hands up. Whilst Australia is not the American South and religiosity has been in decline for some time here, that will not translate to a huge swing against the Liberals simply because they nominated somebody with archaic views.

    If people with the outspoken opinions of van Gend will win anywhere in this country, it will be in this area and the surrounds (Maranoa, New England, etc.)

    Rebecca Vonhoff seems to have the backing of Liberal party insiders and the Prime Minister, so I’m not particularly concerned at the moment. I suppose we’ll see the results soon enough though.

  22. As I stated, Van Gend was never winning. He has an influential voting block in that branch but not a huge voting block. He was never winning, but it created good ABC and Guardian alarm pieces.

  23. Good choice and thank God. Liberal retain now (i assume he is from the Liberals and not the Nats) probably will be 65/35 TPP if Labor ran so reverting back the 2019 margin to 2016. If not idk what the margin will be. Whether PHON will get a better count than what Labor usually does is a question. But would the Greens preference PHON? I don’t think so. Not only would it require every party to preference against the LNP but also for them to go under 50% primary both scenarios now being unforeseeable since the Liberals didn’t nominate a controversial candidate.

  24. So basically 3 Centrist or Centre-left candidates running against the coalition. Won’t be enough to flip it but just saying and since Toowoomba swung away from Labor at the state election. (The Liberal Democrats are centrist and centre-left) Just look at the UK Liberal Democrats, they are basically the same party but in different countries.

  25. “Will likely be a ONP vs LNP Contest. It appears that the ALP will not field a candidate.”

    This is incorrect Labor has preselected Lawyer Chris Meibusch who contested Labor for Groom in 2007 and 2010. He also ran for Mayor at the Toowoomba Regional Council elections in March.

  26. It is a by-election in *Toowoomba* in one of the safest seats in the country. I’m doubting this flips or gets close.

  27. @John I had to look this up and you’re right. 1994 is a long time back, and pretty impressive they’ve run in all Federal By-Elections since. (Mackellar March 26 1994 started the trend.) I was looking back at all the results and you sometimes forget how strong the anti-immigration parties were in the early 90s, with Reclaim Australia: Reduce Immigration gaining 30% 2CP in the 1996 Blaxland By-Election. Also remember a time late 90s/early 00s when Democrats were in the 2CP before the Greens really started threatening.

    For me, it’ll be interesting to see how Labor goes and if Lib Dems threaten for second, or just merely add preferences to the LNP’s massive margin. ONP, United and Conservatives got 20% combined last time, so there is a fair vote there to be sucked up.

    I guess with the recent implosion in the QLD State Election, ONP decided against fielding a candidate here. You’d think with all the publicity they had recently, that might have encouraged them (any publicity is good publicity) but I’m glad to be spared Ashby having a whinge twice in a month.

  28. Don’t listen to Newspoll, BS polls. Same polls that has Shorten winning and not Newspoll is doesn’t just underestimate the coalition they could be underestimating Labor as well like they did in Victoria 2018 and QLD 2020 and a few other elections. Besides even if it’s correct Albanese would win because this poll clearly shows striking distance which is a win for Labor.

  29. Y’know, after the last four years, anyone who dismisses something as “fake news” (or any similar phrase) is gonna get side-eyed. A lot. Newspoll got the 2019 election wrong as well, but in the opposite direction to which you claim.

    The LDP in Aus are nothing like the UK party (who have a long and interesting history). They’re a US-style libertarian microparty who tend to get people elected by the GVT mystery box, or the few percent of clueless voters who mix them up with the Liberal party. (Or both.) We’ve got one in WA, who has his job thanks to 3% of voters in southern Perth who thought they were the Liberals. His interests include vaping, and… uhh… yeah. Vaping. He even had trouble making up his mind on euthanasia laws, which I would’ve thought to be a pretty libertarian thing. (His accidental election is why we don’t have a Labor-Green upper house majority after the biggest Labor win in 120 years! Grrr.)

    The LDP candidate in Groom shares Aaron Stonehouse’s interest in vaping. (Ooo, blueberry flavoured!) He should get a few % from people who can’t read, or maybe from the 20% who voted for Hanson, Palmer or Anning last time. Sustainable should mop up a few % from people who wanted the Greens. LNP should get at least 60% of primary vote.

  30. John I can not understand any minor party not contesting every by-election.
    Minor Parties get publicity I’m a by election which they never get in a General election. In this case there are local newspapers , local radio and a local mentality. If a minor party fails to contest a by election it is a fair guess that they have no party or too bloody lazy to get off their backsides to do anything.
    My prediction is that sitting Government will have more suppport from electorate than would normally be case.
    Therefore unless there is a good country independent, a good Katter candidate or DLP candidate Libs will not lose any votes and will romp home.

  31. I agree with you Andrew I am amazed that no social conservative party has nominated in this by-election. Family first used to pull 4-6% and the other liberal candidate up for pre-selection was certainly the LNP’s second choice. So the right candidate possibly a DLP candidate might just have pulled a reasonable vote here and gained good publicity.

  32. Tony both DLP and KAP had active groups in Toowoomba yet neither had a candidate. Toowoomba Chronicle should be asking both parties why they could not be bothered running candidates.

  33. Sad to see Dr Van Gend lose the pre-selection because he is the rare type of candidate who has done the hard work at a grassroots branch level, has a strong professional background as a doctor, and is a deep-thinker on political issues who has written and spoken extensively for many years. But Garth is also a very good intellect so I’m sure he will do well for LNP too.

  34. Coverage of Groom By election has been very poor. I saw no TV coverage. Courier Mail certainly has shown their city centric mentality. Toowoomba Chronicle is protected by strong fire wall so litttle news. It annoys me that my subs to Oz covers Townsville Bulletin and Wall Street Journal but not other News Ltd Queensland provincial papers. My prediction based on attitudes of Queenslanders generally , State election result and knowledge of Toowoomba is that Libs will retain easily .
    ( about 5%)I expect two flows to occur
    1) flow to government as result of COVID 19 management (about 5%)
    2) flow against govt as result of by-election effect ( about -3%)
    I expect these to cancel out each other with 2 PPV remaining unchanged.
    Sustainable Australia will pick up most of Greens vote which will then flow to ALP.

    All of Conservative minor Party vote has no where to go but to LNP. This amounts to nearly 20K votes. So rise in LNP primary vote will be about 15% plus. This is not really a swing to LNP just no where for Conservative minors to go other than LNP. This means that any result where LNP primary vote is not up by 10-15% is in fact a decline in LNP vote.Would have been a much more interesting campaign if Dr. Van Gend had been Liberal candidate.

  35. Daniel I have done a Google search and can not find any evidence to support either your position ( that he is a Nat) or mine that he is a Lib. I guess we will just have to wait and see

    2/3 of seat being city in SEQ will in my voice likely result in Him being a Lib.

  36. Whether Garth Hamilton is a National or a Liberal he will be sitting with the Liberals. It was decided at a meeting with Groom LNP branch members in late September that if elected the LNP member for Groom will sit with the Liberals.

    They also decided at the meeting to give room to potentially revisit the issue before the next federal election.

  37. John McVeigh did nothing to fix the major problems in Groom. In fact, he made them worse. Glad to see the back of McVeigh.

  38. Results appear to be near duplication of last Federal election. Some of minor conservative votes have flowed to ALP but no swing to ALP evident. A bit contradictory I know but my estimates
    Govvt +3% for COVID 19
    – 3% for By election and minor conservatives splitting between ALP and Libs. > Nil change in %.

  39. 3% 2pp swing to Labor, give or take – the low end of what oppositions tend to get in by-elections in govt seats, but they wouldn’t’ve been trying all that hard. Both majors are well up on primaries, and Sustainable Australia got 8%, partly thanks to the donkey vote (so their preferences might favour LNP more than you’d expect). Not really much you can read into it. A safe LNP seat is still safe.

  40. Nothing particularly extraordinary about this result, A three percent swing against the government is rather par for course in a by-election that was never in doubt.

    @Entrepreneurial – I doubt their are many people who would be sad that Dr van Gend was not preselected to be the LNP candidate, unless of course you support conversion therapy.

    The term “deep thinker” would need to applied rather loosely in his case, more like a man driven by nothing other than hate.

    Had he been preselected, Libs across the country would have distanced themselves and a slightly more polished conservative independent probably would have made things interesting.

  41. Looking at figures this morning LNP may have won seat but they should be aware that they have not done well. % hide a lot. Firstly 70617 votes compared to 95448 formal vote. This mean that nearly 25K voters failed to vote ( or votes not counted. ALP vote went up from 17811 to 19629 18.7% to 27.8%. No ON Candidate , No Palmer, No Katter, No DLP, No FF or CD and LNP vote dropped 50908 to 41567. On percentages this looks quite good but it seems fairly clear that LNP just stayed Home.
    I expect LNP vote will increase with postal votes being counted but with this level of decline they would have actually have lost great majority of less safe seats in country.
    LNP have far more to worry about from this result than ALP have to. A repeat of this performance nationwide and they will lose government in a landslide.

  42. Does anybody know where I can access historical Australian electoral division boundaries? Just curious how the QLD federal seats used to be drawn like what the boundaries looked like in 1996,1975,1983 etc. I know my division of Petrie used to be part of Longman (North Lakes was part of Longman prior to 2010) I am interested if anyone knows how to get the map data. I have tried researching but found nothing as so far.

  43. National Library will have Divisional Maps.
    You may be able to access redistribution reports on line but map data much more readily available today than it used to be.

    Small scale maps used to appear in Political Party Newspaper adverts in Daily papers.

    Commonwealth Electoral returns to Parliament did not go down to level of booths but State Booth figures were presented to Parliament.

    I recall trying to extrapolate booth figures from sub division figures in 1969. Without much success.
    I had a Christmas job in an office and used a huge revolving drum calculator during Lunch breaks to work out booth percentages which were not readily available.
    Drum revolved and subtracted input figure each time it rotated until no longer able to do so then shifted one place to right and started again …
    After 7 weeks I had % booth figures for a most of Queensland.
    Booth figures were available from AEC but not readily. Even sub division results which were in public domain were not easily obtained. Senator Condon Byrne managed to get them for me from Parliamentary Library.


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