Boom times
are coming for Australia’s psephologists: in the next eight months, the
three largest states will all hold elections. Victoria on 25 November,
New South Wales on 25 March, and Queensland (which doesn’t have fixed
terms) probably in February, but maybe later this year.
Victoria’s
Labor government, still only in its second term, is immovable, but the
other two, each seeking a fourth term, are a bit more interesting.

Saturday’s Sydney Morning Heraldpublished
the latest ACNielsen poll for NSW: it shows Morris Iemma’s government
with 51% of the two-party-preferred vote, down about 5% from the 2003
election. That’s not as close as it sounds, since last time around
Labor did particularly well in its own marginal seats. A 5% uniform
swing would only deliver the opposition three seats; to win, they want
something around 9%, although a redistribution and the presence of
independents make that figure very approximate (for details, see Antony
Green’s analysis).

The most recent Newspoll, taken about a month ago, showed much the same position: Labor leading 52-48, off a primary vote of 38% (Nielsen says 40%). A Morgan Poll at about the same time put Labor on 57%, a finding that it would perhaps be kindest to make no comment on at all.

The
polls suggest that last year’s change of Labor leadership has been a
success, and Iemma’s “ordinary man” persona has stemmed the flow of
votes away from Labor. They’re not out of the woods yet, but a
government with a clear lead less than a year out is extremely
difficult to beat.

An interesting feature of the Nielsen poll, which the SMH
headlines with, is that only 20% of voters were able to name the
opposition leader, Peter Debnam; another 7% apparently got close. The
premier did much better: 68% got “Iemma” or something similar. It would
be good if pollsters asked this sort of question more often – it’s
a useful reminder to commentators of how little interest most people
take in politics.

Peter Fray

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