HUNTER VALLEY NEWS COLUMN 18 MAY 2016

Understandably, everywhere I go I’m asked who will win the July 2 election.  It’s a hard question!

It’s a bit like asking who will win the Melbourne Cup eight weeks out, too many things can change including form by race day.  There are some things we do know.  Labor currently has only 55 seats in a House of Representatives of 150.  That means it needs to win 21 seats to reach the magic 76 to govern in its own right.  But it’s a little more complicated because of the recent re-distribution.

As a result of those boundary changes, two seats currently held by the Coalition are “notionally” Labor.  That means that if you applied the booth-by-booth results from the last election to the new electorates in question Labor would have won them both.  One of those electorates is Paterson right here in the Hunter.  The other is Barton in Sydney.

So the real target for Labor is now 19 seats.  To win that many seats Labor needs a national uniform swing of 4 percent.  That’s a big ask.  To put it into perspective, Kevin Rudd enjoyed a swing of 5.4 percent in 2007 delivering him an additional 23 seats.  In 1996, John Howard also pushed through the 5 percent barrier to pick up 29 seats.  In 2013, Tony Abbott only had a 3.6 percent swing but it delivered him 18 seats.

These historical results not only give us a sense of the scale of a 4 percent swing, they also demonstrate that similar uniform swings can deliver different results because it all comes down to what’s happening in individual electorates.  To provide another example, in 1998 Kim Beazley secured a 4.6 percent swing, won 50.98 of the primary vote and an additional 18 seats but lost the election.  In other words, the vote overall came up, but didn’t grow enough in enough electorates. 

This is the problem with relying on “national” figures.  The polls which tell you most are those which are taken in the individual seats the Opposition party must win.  These are the electorates the television broadcast will focus on most on election night.
But I suspect the swings in the coming election will be less uniform than in the past.  I describe it as the 150 by-elections phenomenon.  Once there was a thing called a “safe seat” but no one believes in them any longer. Certainly, no one can afford to take their seat for granted.  Just ask Barnaby Joyce in New England! 

I believe some of the seats Labor is hoping to win will fall short and others we were less optimistic about will be won.  That makes the election even harder to predict.

So maybe you should turn to Sportsbet where the coalition is $1.33 to Labor’s $3.25.  Labor is not concerned about being the “underdog”! More than ever, we believe policy will matter most.


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