Thursday, August 26, 2010

Brisbane could give either side the edge

AFTER a fifth day of counting, the result of the election is little clearer.

More than 2 million votes remain to be counted and, last night, three seats were too close to call: Corangamite in Victoria, Hasluck in Western Australia, and Brisbane, where Labor's Arch Bevis halved his deficit with a surprising haul of postal votes.

Labor looks better placed to win Corangamite. The Liberals look better positioned to win Hasluck. And in Brisbane the strong swing to the Coalition on Saturday is being offset by a small swing to Labor in postal and absentee votes.

If Labor wins Corangamite, and the Coalition wins Hasluck (and the backing of WA National Tony Crook), the two sides will have 72 seats each, with the result in Brisbane deciding which will end up with more seats.

With Green MP Adam Bandt already declared for Labor, victory in Brisbane would, in effect, give Labor a 74-72 lead. Conversely, victory for the Coalition in Brisbane would make it 73-73, leaving the four independents with a delicate choice.

Last night, former Liberal MP Teresa Gambaro led Mr Bevis by only 382 votes, down sharply from Monday's lead of 870. But with as many as 15,000 pre-poll, postal, absentee and provisional votes still to be checked, it is too early to pick a winner.

The trend was moving the opposite way in Corangamite, where Liberal Sarah Henderson polled well on postals to claw back another 64 votes, narrowing the lead of Labor's Darren Cheeseman to 573. But with most postals now counted, and absentee votes favouring Labor, Mr Cheeseman will probably just squeeze back.

Postal votes in Hasluck also ran well for the Liberals, with former Aboriginal health director Ken Wyatt lifting his lead over Labor's Sharryn Jackson to 704. The Liberals are also doing better in absentee votes than in 2007, and there are 6000 of them left.

Liberal frontbencher Bruce Billson is now out of danger in Dunkley. The Liberals have also kept Boothby, the only close seat in South Australia, and won the Blue Mountains seat of Macquarie.

Barring bizarre shifts in late counting, only two other seats remain in doubt, Greenway and Lindsay, both in the outer west of Sydney.

In Greenway, no new counts have been posted this week, as officials spent three days on a "fresh scrutiny" of those counted on Saturday. The net effect has been to reduce both sides' tallies by about 200.

In Lindsay, 2000 postal votes were finally counted yesterday, and Labor increased its lead to 1250 votes, virtually putting the seat out of danger.