Labor will likely retain its three marginal Townsville seats with the results surprising some voters, analysts and party insiders.
The seats of Townsville, Mundingburra and Thuringowa were held by Labor on tight margins and were key battlegrounds in this election.
Both party leaders flocked to the north multiple times during the campaign, with Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington casting her vote there early on Saturday morning.
Townsville James Cook University political scientist Maxine Newlands said the areas were expected to be close contests.
“I think people were expecting — and the polling was showing — that it was going to be tight,” Dr Newlands said.
“Possibly a win for LNP in Townsville and Thuringowa, but it hasn’t panned out that way.
“Last time in Thuringowa, One Nation were very prominent and took almost 20 per cent of the vote, whereas this time around they haven’t really been as prominent.”
The current count shows swings to Labor between 2.7 per cent and 3.2 per cent in the three seats and the ABC’s election analysis predicts the party will hold onto them.
University of Queensland political analyst Chris Salisbury said he had expected “a mixed bag” of parties to win the Townsville seats.
“[I expected] Labor likely to lose one or two … but they surprised us as they did three years ago,” Dr Salisbury said.
Townsville’s Labor branch and candidates were jubilant with the results last night, though they are waiting for more votes to roll in before claiming victory.
The LNP’s Townsville candidates have also not conceded defeat.
Some local Labor party members were nervous incumbent Scott Stewart would lose the seat of Townsville, given it was the most marginal electorate in Queensland at 0.4 per cent.
“It’s still too tight to call I think but we will continue to be optimistic,” Mr Stewart said last night.
As of Sunday, Mr Stewart had won 53.1 per cent of the vote, with the LNP’s John Hathaway trailing not far behind on 46.9 per cent.
Youth crime plan ‘over the top’
Townsville has seen growing community anger around youth crime in the Palaszczuk Government’s last term, prompting Ms Frecklington to grip onto the hot button issue during the campaign.
The LNP controversially announced it would trial a curfew for young people and fine parents in Cairns and Townsville — a proposal that was widely condemned.
The party also repeated claims Labor was “soft on crime”.
Speaking to voters at the Townsville markets on Sunday, some were surprised the LNP’s “tough on crime” rhetoric did not earn them a local seat.
“In Townsville we have the youth crime problem, I thought Townsville might vote a different way to see if they could try and tackle the problem,” Tyneal Berry said.
Others, including Clint O’Neill, were not as shocked.
Dr Newlands said the LNP recycled its 2017 election crime messages, which “didn’t work then and it hasn’t worked in 2020”.
She said voters were looking for a long-term strategy, particularly as the Government faces a four-year term instead of three years.
“People are looking for solutions more than headlines,” Dr Newlands said.
“There was quite a lot of community members that spoke out and said … they didn’t feel that was the best approach around curfews.”
Dr Salisbury said it was anticipated the LNP’s crime agenda would resonate with voters, particularly because it had been echoed “long and loud” by local press.
“That doesn’t seem to have resonated as much as we thought,” Dr Salisbury said.
“I can only imagine that the issue has in fact been trumped by people’s concern over the pandemic.
“The LNP did try this same curfew plan and crackdown on youth crime at the last election … it just doesn’t seem to have swung enough voters either last time or this time and presumably that’s largely in part to the pandemic being more front of mind.”
Mr Stewart said Labor’s economic recovery plan was a sustainable solution.
“When you have low levels of unemployment, you have low levels of crime,” Mr Stewart said last night.
Former state Liberal leader Joan Sheldon told ABC Radio Brisbane the LNP spent too much energy on Townsville.
“Townsville has always been very difficult for the LNP,” Ms Sheldon said.
“I personally thought too much time was being spent up there.
“While the regions are extremely important … the south-east is where the majority of the seats are.”