Monday, November 8, 2010

Cliffhanger as swing against Victorian Labor looms

VICTORIA could be heading for another cliffhanger election. A swing against Labor on election day of just 3.7 per cent would be enough to force it into a minority government, relying on the Greens for support.

With opinion polls reporting swings of between 1.5 and 3.5 per cent to the Coalition, for the first time since Steve Bracks dethroned Jeff Kennett in 1999, Victorians are entering an election in which there is a real chance that Labor could lose its majority or even lose government.

In 2006, with Bracks still at the helm, Labor won 43 per cent of first preference votes, and 54.4 per cent of all votes after preferences. The Liberals and Nationals under Ted Baillieu actually won a swing of 3.4 per cent, but with Labor retaining 55 of the 88 seats in the House, it seemed nothing had changed.

This time a swing of about that size would mean real change. But the Coalition needs a swing of almost twice that size 6.5 per cent to win government in its own right.

If the swing is too large for Labor to retain its majority, but too small for the Coalition to win a majority, Victoria, like Australia, would have a minority government, with new Greens MPs joining independent Craig Ingram in holding the balance of power.

Most assume this would result in some form of Labor-Greens coalition but no one has yet ruled anything in or out.

In the Legislative Council, where the Greens already hold the balance of power, the odds are that they will retain it with expanded numbers, probably taking the DLP's seat in Western Victoria and maybe a Liberal seat in the eastern suburbs.

But let's look first at the seats on the front line of this election. As a rule, the party that holds the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne forms government. Labor broke the rule in 1999, when, with three independents, it won half the seats in regional Victoria. But in 2010 it will have to hold most of those eastern suburban marginals to hold power.

Mount Waverley was retained by Labor's Maxine Morand last time by just 0.4 per cent. In neighbouring Forest Hill, former Olympic ski champion Kirstie Marshall held her seat by just 0.8 per cent.

Mitcham is Labor's by just 2 per cent, Burwood (Jeff Kennett's old seat) by 3.8 per cent, and in the distant Dandenongs Gembrook by 0.8 per cent.

These five seats are must-wins for the Coalition if it is to win government. Gembrook aside, they are middle-class, middle-suburban seats, whose voters are better off than most, and normally would be expected to go with the Liberals.

To the city's south are inner suburban Prahran (3.6 per cent), bayside Mordialloc (3.6) and outer suburban Frankston (3.3). And in Geelong's southern suburbs, there's South Barwon (2.3).

Winning these nine seats would not be enough to put the Coalition into power, but it would be a start. Most are traditional Liberal seats. If it doesn't win most of them, it is hard to see it winning government.

Its problem is that the next swag of seats those it needs to win power require much bigger swings: 6 to 9 per cent. And many are in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo, which have been solid Labor territory in recent elections not least, at the 2010 federal election.

Labor now holds all four seats in Geelong, and to win back Bellarine (8.0) or Geelong (8.4) is a big ask. Ballarat East (6.7) and Ballarat West (6.6) are equally tough, when Labor won 61.7 per cent of the Ballarat vote in the federal election. And while Industry Minister Jacinta Allan holds Bendigo East by a less daunting 5.4 per cent, Labor lifted its federal vote there to almost 60 per cent. The federal election, however, experienced swings against Labor in the more rural seats. But Agriculture Minister Joe Helper is alone on the front line, in Ripon (4.4) around Ararat.

Seymour (6.7) and Macedon (8.2) sound like natural Liberal seats, but their names are misleading. Half the Labor vote in Macedon is actually in Sunbury, and in Seymour, most of its vote is in townships on Melbourne's outer fringe, such as Healesville, Wallan and Kilmore. If Black Saturday costs Labor any seats, Seymour should be it.

But to win government, the Liberals will have to win some of the hard-asks in Melbourne's middle and outer suburbs: Bentleigh (6.4), Eltham (6.5), Monbulk (6.7), Carrum (6.8) and Yan Yean (8.0). The first four are the kind of seats that change when governments change. If they don't go Liberal, Victoria won't either.

The Nationals are not part of this contest. They are contesting only four seats they don't hold already, and only in Craig Ingram's seat of Gippsland East (8.5) do they have a realistic chance if they beat the Liberals into third place.

But there is a quite different battleground that many will focus on. After taking the federal seat of Melbourne off Labor in August, the Greens have set their sights on four state seats in the inner suburbs: Melbourne (where they need a swing of just 2.1 per cent), Brunswick and Richmond (both 3.7) and Northcote (8.6).

On federal voting, they would win Melbourne and Richmond easily, but just miss out on Brunswick and Northcote. If the latest polls are right, and Liberal preferences go their way, they will win all four. If so, the Liberals would have to win just seven seats from Labor to force it into minority government while a 10-seat shift to the Coalition would put it in the driver's seat to negotiate a minority government.

But while one poll put the Greens support as high as 19 per cent, it is hard to see any other realistic chances for them.

At this election, Ted Baillieu will be swimming uphill. Governments normally win elections. The Coalition has never led in the polls. The Greens are natural Labor allies. And the Coalition needs a landslide to win. And yet, this could be close.









Source: Victorian Electoral Commission. Figures show two-party swings needed to change seats between Labor

and Coalition, except in seats marked (*G) where the swing shown is between Labor and the Greens.

In Gippsland East, the Liberals would need a swing of 9.2 per cent to unseat Craig Ingram.


Labor 54.4%

Liberals-Nationals 45.6%

Swing to Coalition 3.4%


Labor 43.1 %, Liberal 34.4 ,

Nationals 5.2 (Coalition 39.6),

Greens 10.0, Family First 4.3,

independents and others 3.0.

to end Labors majority, Coalition

and Greens need to gain a net 11

seats (3.7% swing).

to win majority of their own,

Coalition parties need to gain a

net 13 seats (6.5% swing).

to win majority of its own,

Liberals need to gain a net 22

seats (8.4% swing).


Percentage swing

needed to lose seat


31.9% Broadmeadows

31.1% Thomastown

25.6% Kororoit

25.4% Preston

24.7% Footscray

24.3% Derrimut

24.3% Williamstown

22.8% Pascoe Vale

21.5% Lyndhurst

20.8% Mill Park

20.3% Clayton

20.3% Altona

20.2% Yuroke

19.4% Keilor

18.7% Dandenong

18.0% Lara

15.8% Mulgrave

15.2% Bundoora

13.6% Melton

12.5% Tarneit

12.4% Oakleigh

11.8% Essendon

11.3% Cranbourne

11.2% Niddrie

11.0% Narre Warren Sth

10.6% Bendigo West

10.5% Ivanhoe


9.7% Albert Park

9.3% Narre Warren North

8.6% Northcote (*G)

8.4% Geelong

8.2% Macedon

8.0% Bellarine

8.0% Yan Yean

6.8% Carrum

6.7% Monbulk

6.7% Seymour

6.7% Ballarat East

6.6% Ballarat West

6.5% Eltham

6.4% Bentleigh


Percentage swing

needed to lose


Rodney (Nat) 24.9%

Shepparton (Nat) 24.7%

Swan Hill (Nat) 23.4%

Lowan (Nat) 22.1%

Murray Valley (Nat 21.8%

Mildura (Nat) 20.7%

Benalla (Nat) 17.6%

Gippsland South (Nat) 15.9%

Hawthorn 12.3%

Mornington 11.9%

Malvern 11.4%

Scoresby 11.2%

Brighton 11.0%

Polwarth 10.7%


Kew 9.6%

Nepean 9.4%

Warrandyte 9.0%

Sandringham 8.7%

Bulleen 8.5%

Doncaster 8.2%

Benambra 7.8%

Caulfield 7.7%


Bass 5.6%

Box Hill 5.3%

South West Coast 4.1%

Bayswater 2.9%

Evelyn 2.8%

Narracan 2.7%

Morwell (Nat) 2.2%

Hastings 1.0%

Kilsyth 0.4%

Ferntree Gully 0.1

0.4% Mount Waverley

0.8% Gembrook

0.8% Forest Hill

2.0% Mitcham

2.1% Melbourne (*G)

2.3% South Barwon

3.3% Frankston

3.6% Mordialloc

3.6% Prahran

3.7% Brunswick (*G)

3.7% Richmond (*G)

3.8% Burwood

4.4% Ripon

5.4% Bendigo East