Somewhere, in a warehouse in Adelaide, as some usually sensible and sober-minded people insist, there sit bundles of Labor how-to-vote cards preferencing Nick Xenophon Team candidates for the House of Representatives in South Australia over the Liberals. In back rooms in Melbourne, the same people will tell you, there are Liberal how-to-votes that preference the Greens ahead of Labor in the embattled David Feeney’s seat of Batman, in Bob Hawke’s old seat of Wills, and in Michael Danby’s electorate of Melbourne Ports.
If one set appears on polling day, the other will be ready to hit the booths within half an hour, or so they say.
The folk telling the yarn have even come up with a suitably melodramatic name for the whole exercise: shooting the hostages.
For all the Prime Minister’s talk of most exciting times, the government’s campaign has failed to engage the electorate’s imagination. Bill Shorten’s attempts to sound like a statesman have come across more like initial sessions with an autocue. He’s got the words out without any eye flicker, but barely managed any modulation in his voice as he has been too engaged in the effort of everything else. What he has said doesn’t bear too close an examination, either. Much of it has either been platitudes or porkies of “the dog eat my homework” standard.
Both parties are bracing for a backlash. A backlash of a most extraordinary kind. The Coalition is terrified Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott will be rehabilitated. That’s two seats down.
Labor is terrified of the Furry Friends. One Green in the lower house is a novelty. Two starts to set a pattern. Three doesn’t bear thinking about.
And then there’s South Australia, where the mood of the electorate is as rational as the economic policies its state governments have pursued for the past half-century.
Some of the opposition leader’s inner circle may have already privately conceded defeat and decided to position themselves early before the recriminations begin. But there is no certainty for the government, despite displays of quiet confidence.
A hung parliament remains a real possibility. Shooting the hostages might be the only comfort the major parties have.