Experienced campaigner James McGrath will lead the Liberal National Party's Queensland Senate campaign following a nailbiting backroom battle at the party's State Council.

Senator McGrath defeated rising star Amanda Stoker on Saturday to win the top spot on the ticket following a closed-door vote by the party faithful.

Predictions of a tight contest were incorrect, with Senator McGrath winning a staggering 212 votes to Senator Stoker's 101 - with three informal.

Senator James McGrath arrives at the Brisbane Convention Centre for the closed-door vote for the LNP’s Queensland Senate campaign. Picture: Liam Kidston
Senator James McGrath arrives at the Brisbane Convention Centre for the closed-door vote for the LNP’s Queensland Senate campaign. Picture: Liam Kidston

LNP rules stipulate lead National candidate, Matt Canavan, will take number two on the ticket ahead of second-placed Liberal Senator Stoker - who will take the third spot.

The victory sets the party's line-up ahead of the next federal election, where it is tipped to win at least three Senate seats in Queensland.

Senator McGrath pledged to grow the party and campaign to win.

"I have the experience fighting elections and I am asking you to send me out to fight," he said.

Senator Stoker told party delegates they "need my courage" to get results - particularly in the state's marginal seats.

Senator Amanda Stoker was narrowly defeated by James McGrath. Picture: Liam Kidston
Senator Amanda Stoker was narrowly defeated by James McGrath. Picture: Liam Kidston


Senator McGrath, who helped put Boris Johnson on the path to Downing Street and ran the Liberal Nat­ional Party's 2012 state election campaign, told the party the next election would be tough.

He said Queensland would decide Australia's next Prime Minister.

"We didn't surrender in 2019 and we won't in the next election," Senator McGrath said.

In an eight-minute speech to party delegates, Senator Stoker cited her firm stand against "cancel culture" and experience as an assistant minister.

MP Andrew Laming at the LNP 2021 Senate preselection. Picture: Liam Kidston
MP Andrew Laming at the LNP 2021 Senate preselection. Picture: Liam Kidston

Her stump speech was not enough to beat Senator McGrath, who was widely tipped by delegates to win.

One LNP member said electing Senator McGrath to the top spot would allow his "extraordinary campaign skills" to be used in the fight to win Queensland - an essential state for Scott Morrison.

Each of the LNP's six Senate candidates spoke for almost 10 minutes before taking questions ahead of a party vote.

Lawrence Springborg at the LNP 2021 Senate Pre-selection. Picture: Liam Kidston
Lawrence Springborg at the LNP 2021 Senate Pre-selection. Picture: Liam Kidston

Senator Canavan was the first to speak, promoting his track record of support for mining and agriculture while also calling for tax reform and support for families.

Embattled Liberal MP Andrew Laming also attended the State Council just weeks after being ordered to undergo empathy training following accusations of harassment.

Opposition Leader David Crisafulli. Picture: Liam Kidston
Opposition Leader David Crisafulli. Picture: Liam Kidston

Mr Laming, who was blocked by the party from recontesting his bayside seat at the next federal election, could be seen mingling with state and federal colleagues.

Former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman's election as LNP trustee has polarised members, with one "dumbfounded" by the decision.

Another party delegate dismissed concerns Mr Newman's involvement in the party would provide Labor with fodder at the 2024 state election.

"He's not going to be a spokesman for the party or leading our campaign - it's about getting using his skills in certain areas and him helping us," they said.

Originally published as McGrath wins top spot on LNP Senate ticket



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