I have been reading Christian Kerr (ed) The Crikey Guide to the 2007 Federal Election. For $19-95 this is an informative - and entertaining - guide to the forthcoming Federal Election. As someone who has never been particularly interested in electoral detail (or knowledgeable about it) I have learnt a lot. I think Labor will win if they pick up about 5 seats in NSW.
Incidentally I found a number of parts of this book interesting. The chapter on the political ‘spin machines’ that the public funds for each of the 150 members of the House of Representatives and the 76 senators extraordinary. Each has 4-5 full-time staffers and at least one electorate office. The astounding statistic provided is that 24% of all news stories originate with a politician or a person employed by a government department.
There is an interesting article by Sally Young in today’s Age on related topics such as government advertising (Young has recently edited Government Communication in Australia) which argues, among other things, that public media are overwhelmed by the quantity of ‘spin’ they are subject to.
On the forthcoming election itself I am mainly interested in what will happen. After reading The Crikey Guide I think Labor will win if they can pick up a large nunber of seats in NSW.
Overall Labor needs to win 16 seats to effectively govern. A uniform national swing of about 4% would give them that so that current opinion polls suggest Labor would win in a landslide. Betting markets are slightly more favourable to the Coalition giving a win probability for them of between 39-42%. An unusual aspect of recent developments is that while the polls have swung towards showing some sort of recovery for the Coalition the betting markets have moved more firmly against the Coalition – in March the betting markets were predicting a Coalition win.
We know that the Coalition will improve its vote as the election approaches – its primary vote has recovered 5.2% since March. The huge lead that Labor now has will presumably be further eroded but the issue is whether it will be eroded completely. My assumption is it will not be eliminated – the Coalition will lose some support – but I don’t know what sort of net swing Labor will get. Indeed I wonder if anyone does – hence I can understand the fairly even prices in betting markets.
The opinion polls suggest a Labor landslide but many of those shifting to Labor in their stated intentions now will think hard about their economic situation on voting day. I think the current macroeconomic instability being suggested by US financial market performance and the prospect of higher interest rates in Australia will provide votes for the Coalition not Labor. The disturbance is clearly externally sources and the nervous nellies will tend to stick with those having experience as a government. Overall however I still think Labor has a clear edge.
The Crikey Guide suggests that Labor should fairly easily pick up about 10 seats or so which will not give it victory but will at least put it in a strong position in 2010. It should get around 3 in South Australia at least 1 or 2 in Queensland, about 2 in NSW and, despite recent pork-barrelling, they should get Braddon in Tasmania. There are 2 very marginal seats in Western Australia - these might be difficult to get given the resilient strength of the Coalition there. Taken together this will give Labor 10 seats. Can Labor get another 6 to claim victory?
Queensland. It seems quite difficult to get more seats in Queensland even given Rudd’s appeal as a Queensland. Getting a third seat in Queensland would require a 5.7% swing while a fourth seat would require a 6.2% swing. These are not impossible but a big ask given the economic boom conditions in this state. Maybe one more seat?
NSW. There are a whole batch of potential gains in NSW beyond Parramatta. But among these are Wentworth (2.5% swing required) and Bennelong (4.2%) held by Malcolm Turnbull and the Prime Minister respectively. Gaining these seats seems a big ask. Apart from these there are Lindsay (2.9%), Eden-Monaro (3.3%), Dobell (4.8%) and Paterson (6.3%). Labor must win former Labor seats like Dobell and Lindsay to win this election. These are the ex-Labor voting ‘Howard battlers’ who are worried about their mortgages. It seems to me Labour must pick up an extra 3 of these 4 seats in NSW to gain victory.
South Australia. Labor should pick up three seats in South Australia but to get more than that it would need to win Boothby (5.4%). Interestingly the troubled Mitsubishi plant is in the centre of this electorate. Labor has a hopeless candidate, Nicole Cornes, but she does have high visibility. You would have to guess that if more pork-barrelling politics is to occur it will be here. Labour might get one more.
Western Australia. Support for the Coalition in polling has been stronger here than elsewhere. Discounting the two seats it should get Labor needs to get Kalgoolie (6.3%) and Canning (9.5%) without losing Swan and Cowan which it holds by a thread. I find it hard to believe that Labour will improve its position here beyond two seats.
Victoria. A difficult state for Labor – its best chances are Deakin and MacMillan requiring 5% swings. My guess is at most one seat.
This forecast split gives Labor exactly 16 extra seats. The key to realising it it seems to me would be to get a full 5 or 6 seats in NSW. This with the 10 seats it should get with a 4-5% swing should give it government.
The Crikey Guide suggests that ‘when the swing is on its on’ which it interprets to mean that swings can be very dramatic in Federal politics. A uniform swing of 6% would give it government no risk. If the swing is non-uniform anything could happen. A hefty swing in strong Coalition electorates that was not enough to displace sitting members might leave the Coalition in power.