As if Newspoll wasn’t enough for you wonks… Geez, we’re generous.
Here are some more psephological facts ‘n’ figures as we ponder the
looming poll. What seats are what and where will they go?

In the 21 federal elections since 1951, nine (43 per cent) produced
seat exchanges in both directions. 2004 appears to be trending
the same way, based on published polls and the behaviour of the two
major parties.

Closeness rather than landslides is the norm in elections
federally. Of the 22 federally since 1949, 10 were in the 49-51
per cent range, including five won by the party with a lower preferred
vote 1954, 1961, 1969, and 1998 to the Coalition and 1990 to the
ALP. Labor victories tended to be narrower than for the
Coalition, and if you consider anything outside of the 47-53 per cent
range a range landslide, they favoured the Coalition six to one anyway,
with the Hawke win in 1983 being the exception.

And what are the pundits and parties doing? Dennis Shanahan of
the Australian and the campaigning approach of the ALP and Coalition is
marginals focused. Antony Green of the ABC suggested a Coalition
Government with less than a majority of the preferred vote was quite
likely. Labor is not banking on a huge swing. The Coalition
just needs to frustrate the ALP; the more likely gains for Labor are
marginals with retiring members. Only two Coalition marginals
have retiring MPs Hindmarsh in SA and La Trobe in Victoria.

Shanahan pointed out that the many marginals are in rural and regional
Australia. State and Territory Labor Governments are hurting
Labor in Victoria, WA and NSW. ALP support in Victoria is largely
maxed out. Coalition marginals there are helped by Bracks roads
debacles which may mean that Deakin and La Trobe are not so
vulnerable. McMillan whilst having a siting ALP member has been
turned into a Coalition seat. If Labor has no gains in Victoria
and possibly loses the odd seat in WA, the figures are getting hard for
a Latham victory.

Take Deakin, McEwen, McMillan, La Trobe (all Victoria) and Canning (WA)
out of the possible ALP gains and its looking like hard work for Mark
Latham to become PM. If Ballarat, or Chisholm (Vic) or Stirling,
Swan or Hasluck (WA) are won by the Coalition. Labor is going
backwards.

Labor is struggling with Iraq, needlessly so. Latham’s kneejerk
unilateral withdrawal does not sit with UN resolutions, or continued
diplomatic relations or foreign aid assistance (both need
protection). Plus it is out of step with the new Iraqi
administration. Populism and slogans (and what may have sounded
like a good idea a the time) have put the ALP in a silly
position. Latham is also out of step with US Democrat
Presidential hopeful John Kerry.

Once Iraq is off centre stage, the ALP may not have a lot of money to
splash about and the Coalition may neutralise them anyway.
Labor’s momentum may falter, the ‘It’s time’ factor may not have the
necessary lift either.

In SA the Draper debacle may mean that Makin in more vulnerable than
say Adelaide or Hindmarsh. The Budget family and tax measures are
very attractive in Makin though. Tasmania with Peter Garrett on
board is interesting; if the Coalition had a gain such as Bass (with a
forestry industry), Latham is getting further from the lodge. NSW
is full of marginals but they are largely in regional areas (such as
Eden-Monaro, Paterson, Page, Richmond), and in Queensland the ALP
usually does worse there than the rest of the country. Unless
they can make come gains in regional NSW and some gains in Queensland
they are goners.

Labor has tried the small target strategy with Iraq and got is
seriously wrong, unless they can make some serious headway with other
issues and win votes and seats the possible trend is away from
them. They may end up with a smaller seat deficit but are still
on the wrong side of the Speaker.

However, if they can get the gains a majority of one or two is all they need.

Peter Fray

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