Instead, each reinforces the message, and it’s bad news for Peter Debnam’s opposition.
Nielsen puts Labor in the lead 57-43, a swing of just under 1% in its favour since the 2003 election. Newspoll goes further, 59-41, off a primary vote of 45% to 33%.
The best response Debnam could manage was: “I can’t explain the polls and I wouldn’t attempt to”. ALP state secretary Mark Arbib was holding out defiantly against overconfidence, saying “Our research … shows the election on a knife edge.”
A quick recap of recent state results will help put these polls in perspective. From 1995 to 2002, every state narrowly elected a new Labor government. Except for Western Australia (which had the most comfortable win to start with), every one of those governments was re-elected in a landslide.
Those landslide majorities have now been tested five times: twice in Queensland, and once each in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. So far, they’ve held up very well. In terms of votes, the best opposition performance was a swing of almost 4% in Queensland in 2004. Last year’s Victorian election was a slightly smaller swing, but a bigger gain of seats.
For state oppositions these days, that’s about as good as it gets. If the precedents hold, then Debnam, needing a swing (even with independents’ support) of 8.4%, was never going to be in the running.
Whether the ALP can actually get a swing in its favour is another question – it did, just slightly, in 2003, but it’s a much more tired looking government four years later.
Even so, the marginals on the Coalition side of the pendulum will now be the subject of renewed interest: Terrigal (formerly Gosford) on 0.6%, Murray-Darling (Labor-held, but notionally a Nationals seat after redistribution) on 1.4%, and maybe even South Coast (the only Liberal gain last time) on 1.6%.