Monday, August 16, 2010
THE bookies still say it's Labor but only just. And despite appearances, the polls are converging, and pointing towards a cliffhanger result in Saturday's election.
A new Morgan poll, a very interesting Tasmanian poll for Launceston's daily, The Examiner, and a brace of polls in marginal seats published at the weekend all imply that Labor leads narrowly.
But the swings to the Coalition in Queensland and New South Wales states where Labor has 22 marginal seats to defend could see the Liberals make enough gains to force a hung parliament, or even snatch victory despite Labor winning more votes.
The Examiner poll added its spice to the mix showing the Liberals are polling so badly in Tasmania that the Greens have a chance of overtaking them and winning Hobart's two seats, Denison and Franklin, off Labor, on Liberal preferences.
The bottom line is that the election remains very open. All the polls agree that Labor is gaining ground in Victoria, putting Liberal MP Jason Wood at risk in La Trobe. But the Coalition is making gains in NSW, Queensland and WA, while South Australia is reporting no change.
The outcome will be decided in the campaign's final week and a hung parliament, with Greens and independents holding the balance of power, is a strong possibility.
That is not how the bookies see it. They still have Labor firming even though its majority would be reduced to just four seats.
Last night the four online bookies Betfair, Centrebet, Sportbet and Sportingbet on average were offering $1.31 for a dollar punted on a Labor win, and $3.58 on the Coalition.
But Centrebet and Sportsbet agree that Labor is likely to lose 11 of its notional 88 seats going into the election including five of the six seats that the redistribution notionally shifted from the Coalition to Labor. It would gain just one seat McEwen, on Melbourne's north-east fringe but lose Melbourne to the Greens.
If the punters are right, Labor's majority would be cut to four seats in the new Parliament. Labor would have 77 seats, the Coalition 69, independents three and Greens one. But two of Labor's seats are seen as virtually lineball: Lindsay in Sydney's outer west, and Darwin's seat of Solomon. If it loses them, it loses its majority.
Conversely, the bookies think Labor still has a decent outside chance of taking Hughes (NSW) from the Coalition, retaining Hasluck (WA), and holding the Mackay seat of Dawson, where the Liberals' George Christensen has been damaged by the publication of undergraduate writings in which he declared women "stupid".
Yesterday's Galaxy poll was reported as showing the Coalition ahead by 51.4 per cent to 48.6. In fact, that was just the outcome in the 20 marginal seats polled.
On average, it found a swing to the Coalition of 1.6 per cent, implying that if its choice of seats was representative Labor leads 51-49 nationwide.
But its four Queensland seats showed a 5.4 per cent swing to the Coalition, which it translated as a gain of 10 seats. In NSW it found a 2.4 per cent swing (seven seats) and in WA a 2.1 per cent swing (two seats). While Labor would claw two seats back in Victoria (McEwen and La Trobe), this would give the Coalition a bare majority in its own right.
Of course, statewide swings are not uniform, and the Coalition would need a lot of luck to win 17 seats on a swing of just 1.6 per cent.
A separate sample of marginal seats last week by Newspoll closely resembled Saturday's Age/Nielsen poll, which found Labor ahead by a 53-47 margin with a strong swing to the government in Victoria offset by smaller swings against it in NSW, Queensland and WA. Victoria does matter. As does Tasmania. A poll of 1000 Tasmanian voters late last week for The Examiner found Labor with a massive 60 per cent of the two-party vote. But while it was in no danger of losing any seats to the Liberals, it is at risk of losing the two Hobart seats to the Greens, on Liberal preferences.
WHAT THE POLLS SHOW
Swings against Labor in NSW, Queensland and WA put it at risk.
Forecasts hung Parliament.
Labor losses in NSW, Queensland and WA.
In 20 marginal seats, swings averaging 1.6% to Coalition. Big losses in Queensland and NSW could see hung Parliament or Coalition win.
Marginal-seat survey finds big swing to Labor in Victoria, smaller swings against it in NSW and Queensland. Implies Labor win with reduced majority.
Tasmanian poll finds Coalition doing badly, Labor at risk of losing two seats to Greens.