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NSW election: Labor may field a team, but no 12th man

Two late polls from the NSW state election have maintained the satisfying continuity that has been evident throughout the campaign. In the six statewide polls published during March (two apiece by Newspoll, Essential Research and Galaxy), the Coalition’s two-party lead has varied from 63-37 at the bottom end to 66-34 at the top — a range perfectly accounted for by the standard 3% margin of error.

There remains an assumption that things can’t possibly be as bad for Labor as that, and that a latent sympathy vote awaits to be absorbed by them. I suspect this is a misreading of the public mood. Labor is in fact being run down by a bandwagon effect, with the election looming as a public celebration of the government’s demise — a bit like a Mexican wave at the cricket where only a few curmudgeons in the members stand decline to take part. As difficult as the polling figures may be to process, history suggests they should be taken at face value. Neither Newspoll nor Galaxy has been more than 2% astray on two-party preferred in an election eve poll since 2007, and there is no persuasive reason to expect different this time.

On the primary vote, which is generally more telling under optional preferential voting, Labor has ranged from 22% to 26%. The Newspoll and Galaxy phone polls have unfailingly had the Coalition on 51% or 52%, whereas the online Essential Research polls have had it at 54% and 55%. A complication here is that the two Essential polls are in fact largely the same poll, as the company publishes three-week rolling averages. This makes it all the more tempting to cast its higher figure as the odd man out.

The Greens’ best result was 14% in a Galaxy poll conducted on March 1-2, but it’s notable that this was the earliest of the bunch: the five since have had it at 11% or 12%. It must also be noted that the Greens vote was overstated in each of the six late polls from the federal election as well as the seven from the year’s three state elections, by margins of between 0.2% and 3.8%. This is generally thought to indicate that those who decide while walking into the polling booth tend to go with the major parties.

It is interesting to note that that the only poll last year which hit the bull’s-eye with the Greens was the Essential Research poll at the federal election, as this company has likewise had a 10.3% average for the Greens in this year’s federal polling compared with 13.5% for Newspoll. However, Essential’s state results have the Greens in much the same place as the phone pollsters, so maybe the latter are nearer the money this time.

Unfortunately, the data provided in published polling offers little scope for burrowing deeper. Local polling has been few and far between: there has been a Galaxy poll of Marrickville showing Carmel Tebbutt trailing the Greens candidate 57-43; IRIS Research polling of electorates in the catchment area of the Illawarra Mercury, which have had Labor heading for devastating defeats in normally unassailable seats; and one effort from an unheralded outfit showing independent Port Macquarie MP Peter Besseling neck-and-neck with his Nationals challenger.

The statewide polling has likewise offered little in the way of geographic and demographic breakdowns, though presumably we can expect more on this front from Newspoll in tomorrow’s Weekend Australian. Only Essential Research has provided separate figures for Sydney and the bush, publishing results in mid-February and the final week of the campaign. These confirm the impression that it is in Sydney that Labor’s collapse has taken on extraordinary dimensions. Whereas the two “rest of state” results from Essential Research have pointed to anti-Labor swings there of 6%, in Sydney the swing went from 20% in February to 26% in March. Given the overall 66-34 result from the latter poll was at the ceiling of the overall polling range, it is tempting to speculate that an unusually cranky sample from Sydney helped put it there.

If Labor’s seats were split 30/70 between Sydney and the bush and not the other way round, this disparity might offer some sort of comfort to them. For the most part though, it means they face light swings in safe conservative rural seats where they don’t have much vote to lose.

A crude exercise which averages Essential’s two figures for Sydney and applies preferences as per the 2007 result suggests Labor will go into the election with 35 of the city’s 52 seats and come out with nine: Auburn, Bankstown, Blacktown, Cabramatta, Canterbury, Heffron, Lakemba, Liverpool and Mount Druitt. To this Labor might hope to add Campbelltown, Fairfield, Maroubra, Strathfield and especially Toongabbie, where Nathan Rees is thought likely to pick up an anti-Labor vote of his own.

Then there are the two realistic prospects for the Greens, Balmain and Marrickville. Despite the Galaxy poll a fortnight ago, Greens enthusiasts are advised to believe a win in either seat when they see it. Balmain but not Marrickville appears very much a three-way contest, with the Liberals in the hunt for a once-in-a-lifetime win if Labor and Greens voters neglect to preference each other.

Beyond Sydney, the IRIS Research polls bring Labor further torment. The Illawarra’s five seats cover industrial Labor heartland — enormously different electoral terrain from the country seats that dominate the “rest of NSW” figure. The IRIS figures provide a consistent impression that the area will following the pattern of Sydney with swings of at least 20%. Only Shellharbour looks safe — Heathcote and Kiama are almost certain Liberal gains, and Keira and Wollongong are 50-50 propositions, being respectively at risk from the Liberals and an independent.

Although there has been no specific public polling data, the consensus is that swings in Labor’s other non-Sydney stronghold, the Hunter region, will be only slightly less severe. Newcastle is rated all but certain to fall to lord mayor and independent candidate John Tate. Other independents are said to be running strongly in Wallsend, Charlestown and Swansea, which are also at risk from the Liberals, while Cessnock seems as likely as not to go to the Nationals.

In the remainder of non-Sydney New South Wales, where Labor might hope to benefit from an apparently more subdued public mood, they are defending a grand total of five seats. The only one in which they have real cause for confidence is Monaro, where sitting member Steve Whan is thought likely to survive off his personal vote. There is no such luck for Labor in Bathurst and The Entrance, where the retirement of sitting members has Coalition candidates in the box seat. The odds also appear stacked against Labor incumbents in Wyong and Maitland.

On that reading, should everything fall against Labor they really will end up with that parliamentary cricket team, minus a 12th man. On the rosiest scenarios they will be able to double that, and thereby avoid the added indignity of winning fewer seats than the Nationals.

The Greens could score anything from zero to two. The likely number of independents is hard to pick — as well as the five identified earlier, Janet Mays is said to be as likely as the Liberals to take Blue Mountains from Labor, and there are other dark horses around the place who might yet come through at the finish. Against that, independent incumbents in Dubbo, Tamworth and perhaps Port Macquarie look set to lose their seats to the Nationals, with only Richard Torbay in Northern Tablelands likely to go untroubled.

Not that crossbenchers will be having much of an influence in the new parliament. The Liberals appear all but certain to wield a parliamentary majority in their own right, with the added buffer of a National Party holding perhaps as many as 18 seats.

36
  • 1
    Had Enough
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Should be the shortest count to winner in history

  • 2
    Tony
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Will, what sort of a slap-dash psephologist fails to consult Bob Ellis & his magic tea leaves of positivity?

  • 3
    Socratease
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    The outcome ought to be known well within the first hour, but will Krispy Kreme concede early, or remain in the bunker until after midnight?

  • 4
    dgh1
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    The exact make up in terms of how many seat the ALP retains, independents and Greens gain may not be known on the night - particularly in three way contests where the order in which candidates finish is critical - results will not be known in some seats till all the postal votes are in and counted and they won’t be the seat where we normally expect the attention to fall

  • 5
    michael l
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    It took the Canadian conservatives 3 terms to become the largest opposition party again and 4 terms to form a minority government after their wipeout in 1993.

    I think that electoral situation is closest to this one in the English speaking world that I can think of, although the Greens have been nowhere near as effective at taking Labor votes as Reform were taking PC votes. The total inability of the Greens this election at defending progressive politics has been near total.

    As much as Labor need to lose this time, I’m not looking forward to the total conservative domination of the social agenda in NSW for the next eight to twelve years. The CDP and the Shooters will get a bigger say in our future than the entire left D:

  • 6
    michael l
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    the total inability is near total. HMMMM

  • 7
    dgh1
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Given some of the comments on this thread on the perceived failure of the Greens as a matter of curiosity I would be interested to know how people think the Greens could have projected themselves more forcefully into the public debate in the NSW election (I am not a member of the party)- given that;

    - One of the major media organisations has openly declared that it is out to destroy them

    - the media as a whole does not give them the attention proportionate to the proportion of the population
    - to the extent that they are discussed in the mainstream media they are framed within a discourse of “extremism” or a one issue party despite have a substantial policy agenda

  • 8
    Had Enough
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    @ DGH1

    The Greens have moves so far left and extrems, that even Gillard and Ferguson are calling them extreme. I think peopel also see Christine Milne and her views as super extreme and Sarah HY is even more extreme.

    Then you have Marrickville and the anti Jewish policy from the Greens.

    Add it all together and you have super extreme.

    I think people are now seeing the risk.

    I would not be surpised to see another party emerge between Labor and Lib.NP, that is green but sensible. Then we should see a split Green and Labor vote.

  • 9
    freecountry
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    So much for the lower house (although as I said elsewhere, I’ll believe it when I see it) but what about the upper house? I’ve been hoping someone would give a bit of coverage to the Legislative Council side of the election, but the media seem hardly aware that it exists.

    I will be very glad to see the Coalition form government this time around, but I will not be giving them top billing for our state house of legislative review. I don’t think anything is gained by turning this vital institution into a remote control device for the headquarters of any major party, either Labor, Liberal, National, or Green.

    I invite readers to check out the policies of Raymond Robert Stanton Brown of the Building Australia Party (( buildingaustralia.org.au/policies.aspx )). I have no connection to Raymond or his party, but he will be getting my first vote for Legislative Council tomorrow. In my opinion the number one problem in NSW today is the land and housing markets, and I believe Raymond Brown has the knowledge and the right approach to fix it — if he can get anyone to listen to him.

    If you don’t like the Building Australia Party, I invite you to spend some time checking out some of the variety of independents and minor parties, either progressive or conservative according to your taste. All the best to everyone tomorrow.

  • 10
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Anyone having a pool on what time the result will be called.

    I’m down for 6.10pm.

  • 11
    Faye
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    It’s going to be near complete annihilation for Labor. I can’t wait.

    Concerning though that we will have far-right wingnuts controlling the upper house, but really Labor can, and should, be blamed for this. Who on earth thought it a good idea to put Roozendaal as number 1 on the upper house ticket just so he can keep his massive tax payer funded pension?!

  • 12
    Had Enough
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Put me down for 6.35pm. Will take 35 ins to open boxes and see the trend.

    Actually make it 6.40pm.

  • 13
    freecountry
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Here’s the link to that party if moderation lets it through: http://www.buildingaustralia.org.au/policies.aspx

  • 14
    moonkid
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    @HAD ENOUGH: I hardly see how various people calling the Greens “extreme” makes them so. The only reason that Gillard and co have referred to them in that way is to take the heat off themselves.

    In my view, the only thing “extreme” about Greens policy is how extremely sensible it is, a concept that the two major parties left behind long ago. I’ll be handing out for them in Marrickville tomorrow.

    As for the reason that they have trouble grabbing Labor’s votes - it’s simple. They don’t spin the same loads of horseshit that the major parties do, and honesty doesn’t sell.

  • 15
    Had Enough
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    @Moonkid

    Extreme Greens

    1. Death Taxes
    2. Hike in Mining Tax
    3. No funding for non Govt schools (43% of kids go there), saving taxpayers

    need I go on

  • 16
    moonkid
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    @ Had Enough:

    1. Would only apply to the super-wealthy. This one is debatable, sure, but it would be good news for all but the super-rich.

    2. Absolutely as it should be. Rudd’s policy was based on the Henry tax review, and it was solid. The mining companies are digging up our minerals at an insane rate, and the Australian public sees little of that wealth. The policy was destroyed by those mining companies throwing that very money at a misinformation campaign.

    3. Their policy is not “no funding for private schools”, it is to remove the extra funding that the Howard government started doling out to the privates, so that private and public schools are one again funded under an equitable system.

    Please do go on.

  • 17
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    You have to admire Bernard Keane’s independent mind- after a horror year of political predictions in 2010 he’s tipping the ALP in NSW tomorrow…

  • 18
    Andrew Bartlett
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    I mainly wanted to say to William that his description of “the election looming as a public celebration of the government’s demise — a bit like a Mexican wave at the cricket where only a few curmudgeons in the members stand decline to take part” is a really wonderful piece of writing. I will requote it often.

    (maybe it especially appeals to me because I’m usually one of the curmudgeons who shun the mexican wave - and I don’t even sit in the members stand)

    Seeing I’m commenting anyway, I’ll also add that the usual election night contest to be the first to definitively ‘call the result’ is going to be rather different on this occasion.

    Instead of the usual tortuous hour or so of endless variations on:
    “it’s early days yet”,
    “the reports I’m getting from our scrutineers suggest we shouldn’t read too much into the figures on the computer”
    “with only 1 booth counted out of 72, we may need to wait for some more data”,
    “”it’s too early to call”,
    “there is a promising trend emerging for the Opposition, but we probably need a bit more than 0.1% of the vote counted before we start to make predictions”,

    we will get something like: “good evening to our viewers, and with booths having closed 1 second ago and 0.0% of the vote counted, the result is a clear win to the Coalition by a historic majority.”

  • 19
    Socratease
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    @Andrew Bartlett,

    we will get something like: “good evening to our viewers, and with booths having closed 1 second ago and 0.0% of the vote counted, the result is a clear win to the Coalition by a historic majority.”

    Most likely, but first there’ll be the numerous early news sessions saying “our exit polls indicate that the Coalition has romped home with a historic majority.”

  • 20
    sickofitall
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    Honestly, KKK and the rest of tehm deserve the shellacking. The cowards fled, of course. Adn Roozendahl should have been relegated to fourth or fifth.

    Naturally, by leaving before, they can say ‘never lost an election…” They are that venal adn stupid.

  • 21
    sickofitall
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    @had enough… by the way, if govt subsidies were stopped for private schools, the crisis facing govt schools would end overnight, adn most students in the private schools would return to the public system. So - what’s your point there?

  • 22
    AR
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    FreeC - thanks for the buildingOz link. It was so slick and mother apple pie hood that it made my teeth ache.
    I’m also hoping that the Legislative Council, like the Senate in the Federal parliament, remains out of the clutches of either party.
    Unfortunately the deciding votes there may be Fred Nightlight and the Shooters & Fisters groupings.
    I beg all NSW voters to remember what happened when the Rodent won both Chanbers in 2004,

  • 23
    Socratease
    Posted Friday, 25 March 2011 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    AR,

    Yes, there’s a danger in giving any incoming government a massive majority but then the reaction from the electorate tends to be in proportion to the perceived performance and behavior of the outgoing mob. Absolute wallopings, and loss of seats for the long run, are needed to remind politicians of the consequences of piss poor performance.

    The NSW Legislative Council is becoming a freak show, if it isn’t already. They ought to play the Warner Bros ‘Looney Tunes’ theme at the start of each session.

  • 24
    leone
    Posted Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Just a taste of what we will get from O’Farrell. He has announced that he won’t be allowing KK to have a car and an office because she isn’t a real premier, she wasn’t elected premier by the people. This is just plain stupidity. Surely O’Farrell understands that ‘the people’ don’t elect prime ministers and premiers in Australia, we elect governments. It looks like we are in for a term of spiteful, petty, nit-picking and nastiness. Typical Coalition antics, really.

    How long will O’Farrell go before he gets rolled by the nut-jobs of the religious right? The knives are already well honed. I’m thinking 12 months maximum.

    Be careful what you wish for, people, you might get more than you bargained for. I’ve voted indepent.

  • 25
    Had Enough
    Posted Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    @ Sickofitall

    If Parent of Non Government schools took their kids out and placed them at Public schools, the Public school system would collapse.

    These parents should go to their local public schools and book their kids in for 2012 and then see what panic that creates.

    The non government parents are saving the taxpayers billions each year.

  • 26
    John Bennetts
    Posted Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Frank Campbell describing himself as a curmudgeon.

    Gotta love it. Frank, you will have to live with this handle.

    What? There’s an election in NSW? Whoda thunk it?

  • 27
    Barry 09
    Posted Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Had enough ( Astro ? ) 1 Estate Tax is for over $5 MILLION DOLLAR HOMES , $5 MILLION Business and $5 Million Family Trusts , i don’t think there will be too many people in this area .
    2 These Foreign owned companies get over $10 BILLION in fuel subsidies and pay nothing for what they take from all Australians and then leave a GREAT BIG HOLE in the ground , which the Tax payers fill in.

    3 Private schools got way too much from Howard vote buying , and state schools were left counting pennies. Who advertises schools ? Private , why ? Because they have extra money to splash around.
    Nothing Extreme about this policies Astro , the failed Telstra worker.

  • 28
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Andrew that was excellent.

    To continue” Gillard dead in the water if flood levy doesn’t pass - it passes.
    gillard dead in the water 72 other times for 72 pieces of legislation - they all pass.

    Gillard dead on BB, it passes.

    Gillard to fight to the death on carbon tax.

    It will pass on about 1 July I suspect with 41 votes to 32 because the lib/nats have been reduced to a rump.

  • 29
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    And who is Barry O’Farrell and what does he believe in or stand for?

    Will he be like Big Ted and back down on everything he said as soon as the papers are signed?

    Oh wait. Barry hasn’t said anything.

    It was dumb enough of the NSW people to vote in the cardboard cut out Yammer in 2007, now it looks like they will vote in a silhouette.

  • 30
    Had Enough
    Posted Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    @ shepherdmarilyn

    Doesnt matter what he stands for. We need to end the current corruption (lots of examples), gross waste of money (eg Sydney Metro), criminals (peadophiles etc).

  • 31
    freecountry
    Posted Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Marilyn Shepherd - Pull the other one.

    When ICAC said lobbyist success fees should be banned as has been recently done in Canada, O’Farrell said let’s do it. Keneally procrastinated and said but but but … we’ve already created a lobbyist register, isn’t that enough? And she refused to support it.

    Then she closed parliament immediately an inquiry was opened into the way she and Roozendaal were selling off the state power assets for close to nothing, while enshrining ongoing taxpayer subsidies and risk liabilities to the new owners. She warned everyone being called to the enquiry that it was illegal, they would not be protected by parliamentary privilege, and they should be think very carefully about whether to show up at all.

    And you claim that O’Farrell stands for nothing? I’ll tell you who stands for nothing: Marilyn Shepherd.

  • 32
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Sunday, 27 March 2011 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    Well it worked a treat in Canada, the PM just got the sack.

    The NSW ALP deserved to be thrashed and they were. The Sussex Street criminal gangsters will shuffle off to private enterprise and make buckets of cash and never, ever understand that they made the mess.

    I think the other really rotten and corrupt government in thie country was Joh’s and the nats. in Queensland are still trying to recover.

    But the worst of all was Howard.

  • 33
    Hogarth
    Posted Sunday, 27 March 2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Ill take a leader who stands for nothing any day over the ALP mob from NSW.

    A good outcome for NSW for the past 16 years, would have been if that state went side ways.

    @ shepherdmarilyn
    “I think the other really rotten and corrupt government in thie country was Joh’s and the nats.”

    Have you compared the number of Universities, Schools, Hospitals, Airports, Roads, Bridges, Stadiums, Dams (For those who don’t know what they are, they hold water), residential land releases and business parks built during Joh’s tenor to any other State government in Australian history? And all built while maintaining a surplus.

    Was he corrupt? Most definitely.
    Was it good for the state? The mass migration of southerns into Queensland hint to yes.

    Compared to the corruption in NSW which gave the citizens nothing in return, Joh looks like saint.

  • 34
    Had Enough
    Posted Sunday, 27 March 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    ALP almost got two teams, but the Extreme Greens had a shocker. Despite the massive swing against the Government, the Extreme Greens got crumbs.

    I suspect if you take out Balmain and Marrickville where they consumed a lot of resources, the Extreme Green vote would have gone backwards.

    Food for thought for Bob Brown as he sits under his tree and weaves baskets.

  • 35
    freecountry
    Posted Sunday, 27 March 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Legislative Council results not very inspiring. The No Parking Meters Party got more votes than the Democrats and my own pick Building Australia Party put together. I blame this on the media, which covered nothing but the predictable landslide in the Assembly. People had no guidance on voting for the Council, except the major party how-to-vote cards. Half of them don’t even know that the Legislative Council exists or what it’s for. This election has been a Fail for the media just as much as for Labor.

  • 36
    Had Enough
    Posted Sunday, 27 March 2011 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    @ FreeCountry

    The biggest losers at this election have been The Greens and Pauline Hanson, both extreme options at either end of the political grease pole.

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