Although most observers of state politics will be concentrating on
South Australia and Tasmania for the next few weeks, it’s worth taking
a moment out to look at the Newspoll released this morning for New South Wales. As has been the trend for more than a year now, it shows Labor in trouble.

Labor’s primary vote is on 34%, unchanged from the last poll but down
8.7% since the 2003 election, and 9% behind the Coalition. It improves
with preferences, but Labor is still behind on the two-party-preferred
vote, 51-49, a swing of 7.2% since the election. Labor’s Morris Iemma
still leads opposition leader Peter Debnam as preferred premier, 42% to
22%, but even there the gap has narrowed.

Newspoll has put the Coalition ahead more often than not since it first
took the lead in January last year. Both parties have changed leaders
since then, but it doesn’t seem to have helped Labor. A few mid-term
polls can be safely ignored, but with just over a year to go to the
next election, Iemma and his team must be starting to worry.

However, the task facing the NSW opposition is still massive. The 2003
election gave Labor 55 seats, as against 20 Liberals, 12 Nationals and
6 independents. (The Liberals have since lost one seat to an
independent at a by-election.) Labor also succeeded in entrenching
itself in its marginal seats, so for the Coalition to win a majority,
even with the support of all the rural independents, it would need a
uniform swing of 8.9%, or 52.7% two-party-preferred. (See Antony
Green’s analysis here.) The polls are good, but they’re not that good.

But according to Imre Salusinszky (now billed as “NSW political reporter”) in today’s Australian,
the opposition is setting itself the even more ambitious task of not
relying on the independents: “Andrew Stoner, Deputy Opposition Leader
and Nationals leader, warned yesterday that votes for independents, who
are almost all Left-leaning, were votes for a minority Labor
government.”

Peter Fray

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