So what’s the difference between South Australia and Tasmania? Why is
Labor expecting a big swing in one but just holding its ground in the
other? Various reasons could be proposed, but the obvious one is the
states are at different points in the electoral cycle.

Labor in Tasmania is going for a third term, putting it in the same
category as New South Wales (2003) and Queensland (2004). Both those
governments were returned with their large majorities basically intact,
and Victoria looks like joining them later this year. (The majority in
Tasmania doesn’t look as impressive, but that’s because of proportional
representation; to compare with the other states, you really need to
add the Labor and Greens totals together.)

South Australia, on the other hand, is at the trailing end of the
cycle; it’s the last of the Labor governments narrowly elected between
1995 and 2002 to come up for a second term. The others, with one
exception, all won landslides, and every indication is that the Rann
government will join them tomorrow.

The exception was Western Australia, where Labor last year was returned
but suffered a small swing against it. So there’s some justice in the
report that the Liberal leader who achieved that result, Colin Barnett,
could be in line for a comeback. As this morning’s Australian reports:

Mr Barnett resigned as leader last year after losing the
February state election which many blamed on his support for an
uncosted Kimberley to Perth water canal proposal.

A number of senior Liberals believe Mr Barnett was made a scapegoat for
the canal fiasco that he was forced to endorse after it was imposed on
the party by Canberra Liberal strategists.

In my view there’s nothing very mysterious about the pattern: these are
good economic times, and modern governments have huge resources at
their disposal, so you would expect incumbents to be doing well. If the
federal ALP had won at its point of the cycle, in 1998, no doubt the
Beazley government would now be enjoying the same sort of success.

Peter Fray

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