Things couldn’t be better for the Coalition, insist insiders, who swear that recent polls’ intimations of as many as 19 seats going south will be refuted by local voters ‘standing up where it counts’. One gathers those same sanguine strategists aren’t mulling the numbers from South Australia
The Australian made an elementary blunder in coming up with its Monday splash, which warned that the Coalition is set to lose government with the loss of 19 seats in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. That report assumed uniform swings, based on its Newspoll figure, when on-the-ground factors tend to produce very different outcomes.
Meanwhile, government sources remain adamant: their vote is standing up where it counts.
For once Fairfax’s poll analysis appears to be better than The Australian’s. Instead of relying on crude arithmetic, they’ve yakked to party strategists and now estimate the government will lose around 12 seats on July 2.
True, party strategists aren’t the most objective types. But there’s a certain honour among thieves — for purposes of electoral calculations you can include the media among that lot — and that 12-seat figure rings truer. Or rings truer four-and-a-bit weeks out from polling day and after almost three months of heavily ritualised election lite.
Mind you, that loss would take the government from 90 seats in the House of Representatives down to 78. No doubt the electors in the seat of Fairfax, sadder but wiser after their Clive Palmer experiment, will add another seat to the Coalition’s tally. But after supplying a Speaker and allowing that the projections are right, the Coalition will be left with just a tiny buffer in the 150-member chamber.
But that ignores one factor: government sources remain adamant that their vote is standing up where it counts – but prefer not to mention South Australia. Their Labor colleagues are similarly disinclined.
All year, the Morgan poll has been reporting that Nick Xenophon & Co. have been polling around 20% in the state. On Monday, Newspoll finally put a number on his support – or two. One report said one-in-five residents of Australia’s Rust Belt were considering sending their votes Xenophon’s way. Another sampling of sentiment gave the firmer figure of 22%. It put the government’s primary vote at 34% – down more than 10% on the 2013 result – and Labor’s on a mere 27%.
Not to be outdone, pollster Gary Morgan later that day that put Liberal support in South Australia on 31%, Xenophon on 26.5% and Labor on 25%. If — and there should be a suitable pause for dramatic effect here — those figures are vaguely accurate then Xenophon candidates could just displace both Labor and Liberal members of the House of Representatives in SA. Which makes the crystal balls the political seers are staring so intently into very cloudy indeed.
It also puts last night’s Q&A – always frightening enough in itself – up there with Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad in the terror stakes. For last night we got the “My name’s Richard, I’m from Victoria, and I’m here to help” from the Greens leader.
“Let me challenge this assertion that the previous period of the Gillard government with the support of the Greens and independents was not a productive period of government,” Richard Di Natale said. “I think history has been rewritten a little bit here. The problem with that period of government was the division within the Labor Party. You had the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd division, and people were very angry about that.”
He couldn’t have done more to explain away the problems of the Gillard years while ever so gently laying them at Labor’s feet. And he couldn’t have put his reassuring bedside-manner lessons from med school to better use when he told the Q&A crowd, “If the choice came down to who we’d support, we’d like to enter a productive, responsible negotiations with the Labor Party.”
Government sources remain adamant that their vote is standing up where it counts. But just think of an outcome where the Coalition is the largest grouping in the parliament, but falls short of a majority. Think also of an outcome where Labor is just a little behind in numbers.
Bob Katter, if returned, will remain the usual pillar of incoherent inconsistency. Andrew Wilkie and Indi’s Cathy McGowan have already declared they will not enter into formal governing arrangements, but are unlikely to line up with the Coalition. Indeed, Wilkie was speaking almost nostalgically of the 2010-2013 experience on Radio National only this morning. Potential Xenophon members are doing likewise. We now know very well what the Greens want to do.
Just think about that. There has never been a more terrifying time to be an Australian.