I’m going to get a head start on this, given that it’s a guarantee now that we are going to the polls in a double dissolution election on July 2. At present in the House of Representatives, 90 seats are held by the Coalition, 55 are held by the ALP and five crossbenchers including 1 Green, 1 Palmer United, 1 Katter’s Australia and 2 independents. In order to regain power, the ALP need to win 21 seats. Can it be done? Let’s have a look.
First, I am in no doubt that Clive Palmer won’t hold Fairfax. However I can’t see it being gained by the ALP as it has a solid Coalition history. I can’t see Adam Bandt or Bob Katter losing their seats (although personally I think Katter should be out of there) and just today Cathy McGowan has almost been handed Indi for a second term after that loose lips effort from Sophie Mirabella. Andrew Wilkie’s position in Denison is hard to predict, but if the ALP are to gain a seat that isn’t presently held by the Coalition, Denison may be the one.
Here are the 21 seats that are the most marginal that the ALP theoretically should win in order to gain government;
New South Wales: Barton, Eden-Monaro, Dobell, Reid, Banks, Page, Gilmore, Lindsay, Robertson
Victoria: Deakin, Corangamite, Latrobe
Queensland: Petrie, Capricornia, Bonner
South Australia: Hindmarsh
Western Australia: O’Connor, Durack
Tasmania: Lyons, Braddon
Northern Territory: Solomon
Not surprisingly, 16 of the 21 are seats that the ALP lost in 2013. The only exceptions are Gilmore, Bonner, O’Connor, Durack and Solomon. Out of those remaining seats, I’m not sure that the ALP could pick up O’Connor. But the 22nd seat on the knife edge was also lost by the ALP in 2013 – Bass in Tasmania. And it would only take a uniform swing of 4 percent to have the Coalition in trouble.
But as 1998 proved, such a swing needs to translate into seats – and clearly the key is New South Wales. There is also the current litmus test seat in Eden-Monaro. That is the one seat that has remained in the hands of the incumbent government since 1972, changing every time the federal government changed – in 1975, 1983, 1996, 2007 and 2013. The last time the member for Eden-Monaro sat on the opposition benches was when it was held by the ALP during the Gorton/McMahon term prior to Whitlam’s win. Another point important to note is that the party that gains the most seats in New South Wales overall has also gained power every election since 1963. New South Wales has 48 seats. Presently the Coalition hold 30 seats and the ALP hold 18, so if the ALP gain all nine seats on that 4 percent margin that will give the ALP 27 seats to the Coalition’s 21.
Looking at it from a distance at present, it is entirely possible to see a five percent swing against the Coalition let alone a four percent swing. So at present I have to say that the Turnbull government is in trouble. What has protected them in the past is picking up seats from the ALP. Seats like Parramatta, Bendigo, McEwen and Moreton could be vulnerable (I can’t see Lilley or Lingiari being lost), although local popularity of the Andrews government may protect Lisa Chesters in Bendigo. Likewise who they pre-select for Chisholm after Anna Burke’s retirement.
I’m feeling pretty good at the moment about the one term government trend started in Victoria in 2014 and continued in Queensland in 2015 may be repeated federally. Mind you, there is an X Factor – the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT! Seriously!) – who are running federally for the first time. They could be strong in South Australia, and they can harm both parties there.
As far as the Senate goes, it remains to be seen with the changes that were made. It’s far too early to make predictions at present. Jacqui Lambie is confident she’ll keep her seat as is Glenn Lazarus. The Greens are quietly confident. I know one thing for sure – Palmer United will not be a factor. But that’s all I’m confident about there!
It’s going to be an interesting couple of months.