Queensland State Election 2020: a quick guide

12 January 2021

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Cathy Madden
Politics and Public Administration Section


This Quick Guide provides a brief overview of the 2020 Queensland Legislative Assembly election results and the new ministry appointed after the election. It also includes background information on the electoral system in Queensland, a summary of the 2020 election results, and details of by-elections and changes in party representation during the 56th Parliament.

The Queensland election, held on 31 October 2020, was the first state election to be held during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also the first Queensland election to have been held on a fixed date and to elect members for a four-year term. The Australian Labor Party (ALP) had a convincing win at the election with 52 seats, gaining five more seats than required to govern as a majority government. This is contrary to some forecasts of a possible outcome of a either a Labor or Liberal National Party (LNP) minority government.


The Queensland Legislative Assembly and electoral system

Queensland is the only Australian state (territories apart) to have a unicameral legislature. Members of the 93-member Legislative Assembly are elected under a full preferential voting system to represent single-member electorates for four-year terms.

Under the Constitution (Fixed Term Parliament) Amendment Act 2015 (Qld) the Queensland Parliament has fixed terms, with all elections following the 2017 election to be held every four years on the last Saturday of October. The Governor may call an election earlier than scheduled if the government does not maintain the confidence of the Legislative Assembly, or if the annual appropriation bill fails to pass.

The Queensland election of 31 October 2020 was the first with a fixed date and a four-year term to follow. The previous state election was held on 25 November 2017, two months before the government reached its full three-year term. The 2017 election was the first election to be conducted as full preferential voting since 1992. Elections for the Queensland Legislative Assembly are regulated by the Electoral Act 1992 (Qld) and administered by the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ).

Result of the 2017 election

Following the November 2017 election Labor held 48 seats in the Legislative Assembly (51.6 per cent); the LNP 39 seats (41.9 per cent); Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) three; the Queensland Greens (Greens) one; Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (PHON) one, and there was one Independent.

Ms Palaszczuk’s ministry of 18 was sworn in on 11 December 2017. Nine of the ministers were women.

On 12 December 2017 Deb Frecklington was elected leader of the LNP after Tim Nicholls stood down as leader.

Queensland's 56th Parliament was officially opened on 14 February 2018 and adjourned on 10 September 2020. The Governor made a Proclamation dissolving the Legislative Assembly of Queensland on 6 October 2020, published in the Government Gazette of 9 October 2020.

COVID-19 and the election

The threat of the COVID-19 pandemic loomed over the election, not least the Palaszczuk Government’s months-long border restriction measures, with commentators noting popular support for the restrictions in Queensland. Queensland is the first state to hold an election during the pandemic, following elections in the Australian Capital Territory (held on 17 October) and the Northern Territory (held on 22 August). Queensland had held local government elections on 28 March 2020.

On 17 June 2020 the Queensland Government issued a Statement of principles governing the conduct of the COVID-19 Queensland General Election. The Palaszczuk Government developed the principles to support the ECQ in providing all eligible Queenslanders with the opportunity to safely participate in the Queensland General Election. The ECQ developed its own Statement of Intent to ensure the elections were conducted in a safe and fair manner. There were a range of voting options for electors including early voting, postal voting, election day voting on 31 October and telephone voting for eligible electors.

The conduct of the poll proceeded smoothly. The ECQ conducted the elections based on advice from Queensland’s health authorities and experts regarding the impact of COVID-19. It put a range of protection measures in place such as early voting, postal voting, election day voting and telephone voting for eligible voters.

Electoral law reform

In May 2018, Queensland enacted amendments to its electoral laws that made it unlawful for property developers to make donations to political parties that endorse and promote candidates in Queensland State and local elections.

In addition, the Electoral and Other Legislation (Accountability, Integrity and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2020 (Qld), passed in June 2020, applied expenditure limits during the final six months of a parliamentary term and in the month-long election period. The election spending caps, restricting spending by political parties to $92,000 per seat, applied at the October election and operated retrospectively to include expenditure incurred from 30 March 2020.

Leadership and other party changes


The first state-level elections to be held during the COVID-19 pandemic were two by-elections for the Queensland electoral districts of Currumbin and Bundamba, held on Saturday 28 March 2020 (the same day as Queensland local government elections). Both were won by candidates from the same party as the previous incumbents, with Lance McCallum (ALP) being elected for Bundamba and Laura Gerber (LNP) for Currumbin.


Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad resigned from her party and ministerial positions in May 2020 following a Crime and Corruption Commission investigation into claims she interfered in the appointment of a school principal in her electorate.

Other changes

In February 2019 Whitsunday member Jason Costigan was expelled from the LNP over allegations of harassment. In October 2019 he founded the North Queensland First party.

Three LNP members announced that they would not be re-contesting the 2020 election: Mark McArdle (Caloundra), Ted Sorensen (Hervey Bay) and Simone Wilson (Pumicestone).

In early September 2020 three senior ministers announced their retirements: Kate Jones (Cooper), Anthony Lynham (Stafford) and Coralee O’Rourke (Mundingburra).

The election

The October 2020 Queensland election was the first instance of an Australian state election with both major parties being led by women: Labor’s Annastacia Palaszczuk and the LNP’s Deb Frecklington. Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington had survived a leadership challenge in June 2020.

The Writ for the election of the 93 members of the Legislative Assembly was issued with the following dates:

  • Tuesday 6 October 2020, the day of the issue of the Writ
  • Saturday, 10 October 2020, the cut-off for electoral rolls
  • Sunday, 11 October 2020, the cut-off for nomination of candidates
  • Saturday, 31 October 2020, polling day, and
  • Wednesday, 9 December 2020, the return of the Writ to the Governor.

The state electoral boundaries that became effective on 29 October 2017 remained in place for the 2020 election. These boundaries will remain in place until the next state redistribution is finalised. A preview of the election was prepared by the ABC’s chief election analyst, Antony Green.

A record 597 candidates nominated for the 2020 elections. The ALP, LNP and the Greens each fielded 93 candidates; PHON 90 candidates; Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) 55 candidates; and KAP 13 candidates. One of the bigger cohorts was made up of independent or unaffiliated candidates (69). The remainder were from a variety of minor parties including North Queensland First with five candidates.


Pre-election polling had indicated that Labor had been behind in Queensland polls until early October, when a YouGov poll gave the ALP a lead of four per cent 52–48 on a two-party-preferred basis. The swing back to Labor was likely attributable to the state’s handling of COVID-19, with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk recording strong personal ratings.

The final Newspoll (25–30 October) gave Labor 37 per cent of the primary vote, the LNP 36 per cent, the Greens 11 per cent and One Nation 10 per cent. It also gave Labor a small two-party-preferred lead over the LNP (51.5 per cent to 48.5 per cent), upending the results of the 31 July Newspoll which gave LNP two-party preferred lead 51–49. A Morgan SMS poll taken between 12 and 15 October had Labor ahead 51–49 two-party preferred. None of the polls showed significant two-party changes from the previous (2017) election.

In late July, Newspoll had found 81 per cent of those surveyed approved of Palaszczuk’s handling of the pandemic, with 57 per cent preferring her as premier and 26 per cent preferring Deb Frecklington. But a late September Newspoll saw a marked dip in Palaszczuk’s ratings, with 68 per cent of respondents saying the premier was performing well over COVID-19.


The Labor Party achieved a third term with an increased majority, winning 52 seats (four more than at the 2017 election) and securing a 4.1 per cent first preference positive swing. Ms Palaszczuk is Australia's first female Premier to win three consecutive elections; women won 21 of Labor’s 52 seats (40 per cent).

Opposition leader Deb Frecklington announced she was standing down as leader of the LNP on 2 November 2020. The LNP party room met on Thursday 12 November and elected Broadwater MP David Crisafulli as Leader unopposed. Six out of the Opposition's 34 seats are occupied by women (18 per cent).

Table 1 below provides a brief summary of the results of the 2020 state election.

Table 1: Summary of first preference votes and seats won

Party Votes Votes (%) Swing Seats
ALP 1,135,687 39.6 4.14 52





271 307

204 173










KAP 72,199 2.5 0.20 3
Ind 70 965 2.5 -1.91 1

Source: Parliamentary Library analysis of QEC data. See Appendix B for party abbreviations.

Notable developments at the election included:

  • The ALP vote in marginal seats such as Townsville (0.38 per cent margin), Mundingburra (1.13 per cent) and Thuringowa (4.15 per cent) did not collapse as predicted.
  • Labor gained seats in areas such as the Sunshine Coast including Caloundra and Pumicestone and further north, Hervey Bay. This has been seen, in part, as the ‘senior vote’ endorsing the Government’s health and border restriction policies. (All LNP incumbent members in the three seats had announced their retirements prior to the election).
  • Labor also won tight contests following recounts in Bundaberg and Nicklin, gaining the seat of Bundaberg by nine votes and Nicklin by 84 votes after preferences were distributed.
  • the One Nation vote decreased markedly (the party received 7.1 per cent of the first preference vote, a decrease of 6.6 per cent from the 2017 election), but the party retained its one seat of Mirani.
  • Clive Palmer’s UAP reportedly spent more than $4.6 million on its campaign, but did not win a seat, attracting just 0.63 per cent of the vote. Around $4 million was reportedly spent on anti-Labor advertising, including inaccurate claims such as Labor plans to introduce a death tax.
  • The Greens have two members after the Greens retained the seat of Maiwar and won the seat of South Brisbane from Labor incumbent Jackie Trad. However, the Greens’ overall vote declined slightly by 0.53 per cent from the 10.0 per cent gained at the 2017 election.
  • The LNP retained Whitsunday which had been held by Jason Costigan, the former LNP member who stood as a candidate in the seat for North Queensland First.

Further analysis of the election including preference flows is provided by Antony Green, who estimates the overall two-party preferred vote as ALP 53.2 to LNP 46.8.

Early voting, turnout and informality

Turnout for the election was slightly higher than the 2017 election at 87.9 per cent (up from 87.5 per cent). Early voting was offered over the period of 19–30 October: the total pre-poll vote was 1,288,696 (total early votes minus total votes on polling day, 31 October 2020), or 38.2 per cent of votes. In comparison, at the 2017 State election pre-polls votes made up 26.2 per cent of votes. The high number of pre-poll votes, while at least partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, also continues a broader trend towards early voting at Australian elections including federal polls.

In addition a total of 905,806 postal vote votes were dispatched, compared with around 367,000 postal votes for the 2017 general election—an increase of over 146 per cent. A total of 766,478 votes (84.6 per cent) of those issued were returned compared to around 85 per cent of postal votes returned in the 2017 State general election.

The 2020 election saw a decline in informal votes to 98,242 (3.31 per cent) compared to 122, 672 votes (4.34 per cent) at the 2017 election. The higher incidence of informal votes at the 2017 election may have reflected the introduction of full preferential voting.


The Palaszczuk ministry was sworn in on 12 November 2020. Three new faces were included in the ministry: Scott Stewart (Townsville), Meaghan Scanlon (Gaven), who will, at 27, become the youngest minister in the state’s history, and Leanne Linard (Nudgee). Eight of the 18-member Cabinet are women (44.4 per cent). The full ministry is listed at Appendix A.

The 57th Parliament was opened and members sworn in on 24 November 2020. The Ceremonial Opening of the 57th Parliament was held on 25 November 2020.

Appendix A: post-election ministry

Annastasia Palaszczuk MP Minister for Trade
Stephen Miles MP Deputy Premier
Minister for State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning
Cameron Dick MP Treasurer
Minister for Investment
Grace Grace MP Minister for Education
Minister for Industrial Relations
Minister for Racing
Yvette D’Ath MP Minister for Health and Ambulance Services
Mark Bailey MP Minister for Transport and Main Roads
Mick De Brenni MP Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen
Minister for Public Works and Procurement
Shannon Fentiman MP Attorney-General and Minister for Justice
Minister for Women
Minister for Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence
Mark Ryan MP Minister for Police and Corrective Services
Minister for Fire and Emergency Services
Stirling Hinchliffe MP Minister for Tourism Industry Development and Innovation
Minister for Sport
Mark Furner MP Minister for Agriculture Industry Development and Fisheries
Minister for Rural Communities
Leeanne Enoch MP Minister for Communities and Housing
Minister for Digital Economy
Minister for the Arts
Glenn Butcher MP Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing
Minister for Water
Di Farmer MP Minister for Employment and Small Business
Minister for Training and Skills Development
Craig Crawford MP Minister for Seniors and Disability Services
Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships 
Scott Stewart MP Minister for Resources
Meaghan Scanlon MP Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef
Minister for Science and Youth Affairs
Leanne Linard MP Minister for Children and Youth Justice
Minister for Multicultural Affairs
Assistant Ministers
Bart Mellish MP Assistant Minister to the Premier for Veterans’ Affairs, Trade and Covid Economic Recovery
Charis Mullen MP Assistant Minister for Treasury
Julieanne Gilbert MP Assistant Minister for Health and Regional Health Infrastructure
Lance McCallum MP Assistant Minister for Hydrogen Development and the 50% Renewable Energy Target by 2030
Nikki Boyd MP Assistant Minister for Local Government
Brittany Lauga MP Assistant Minister for Education
Bruce Saunders MP Assistant Minister for Train Manufacturing and Regional Roads
Michael Healy MP Assistant Minister for Tourism Industry Development

Source: Queensland Government

Appendix B: party abbreviations

AJP Animal Justice Party (Queensland)
ALP Australian Labor Party (State of Queensland)
KAP Katter’s Australian Party
LNP Liberal National Party of Queensland
GRN The Queensland Greens
Ind Independent
NQF North Queensland First
PHON Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Queensland Division
UAP Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party


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