Counting continues in the remaining undecided seats of the Victorian election. In the lower house, Labor is now out of danger in Forest Hill and Gembrook, while the Liberals have clearly won Hastings. Attention is focused on three seats in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs: Ferntree Gully, Kilsyth and Mount Waverley.

Labor is holding on to a narrow lead (now 108 votes) in Mount Waverley, and yesterday took the lead for the first time in Ferntree Gully, by just 19 votes. No new figures have been posted for a while in Kilsyth, where the Liberals are ahead by 131 votes. (Check the VEC website for latest results.)

If the current lead holds in those three, then the Liberals will have gained five seats, and Labor will have retained three of the seven ultra-marginal eastern seats that were “must-wins” for the opposition.

(Narracan is the one Liberal gain that was not on that list.) But further counting could yet change the picture.

Control of the upper house still hangs in the balance. The key region is Southern Metropolitan, where three candidates are fighting for the final two positions: Labor’s Evan Thornley, Liberal David Southwick, and the Greens’ Sue Pennicuik.

On the figures posted on the night, and ignoring the effect of below-the-line votes, Pennicuik would win the fourth spot and her surplus, tiny though it was, would be enough to elect Thornley. Late counting however has boosted the Liberals, and on the most recent figures Southwick would edge out Thornley — by just 114 votes, according to Antony Green’s most recent simulation (again ignoring leakage from below-the-lines).

But Pennicuik’s election is very close as well — just 247 votes over quota — and if she falls behind, Southwick could be elected fourth, and his surplus would elect Thornley. The Liberal decision not to preference the Greens would thus give Labor control of the Legislative Council.

The effect of below-the-line votes is hard to judge. The tickets that are preferencing Labor or the Greens have a lot more of them than the tickets preferencing the Liberals — Stephen Mayne for example has 1,639.

That would suggest that Pennicuik and Thornley have more to lose from leakage, but because they are swapping preferences the leakage also matters less — a gain to one is indirectly a gain to the other.

This looks like the only region still in doubt: barring late surprises, Labor will win the fifth seat in Western Victoria and Western Metro, and the Liberals will edge out the Greens for the last spot in Eastern Metro.

Peter Fray

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