The polls just keep on playing the same tune. This morning it’s ACNielsen, which puts the federal ALP in the lead 61% to 39% two-party-preferred. Labor’s lead on primaries is 50%-35%, and Kevin Rudd leads John Howard by 14 points (53-39) in the beauty contest for preferred prime minister.

When a Morgan poll last week gave a similar result, Bryan Palmer at Ozpolitics responded with “B*llocks!”, and this morning he says “I have not changed my view. A 61% two-party preferred vote is implausible come the election.”

He’s right; in fact, “implausible” is putting it mildly. But the trend in the polls has been so strong that it’s worth a moment to look at what that figure would mean.

A 61% vote for Labor represents a swing of 13.8% since the last election. On a uniform basis, the Coalition would lose 69 of its 87 seats, leaving just enough for a football team.

The only senior frontbenchers to survive would be Julie Bishop (Curtin), Ian Macfarlane (Groom), Brendan Nelson (Bradfield) and Philip Ruddock (Berowra) — presumably Bishop and Nelson would fight out the leadership. The Nationals would also be reduced to four members: John Cobb (Parkes), John Forrest (Mallee), Kay Hull (Riverina) and Bruce Scott (Maranoa).

Most of the Coalition’s MPs would be in the bush, with the rest confined to just two enclaves on Sydney’s north shore and Queensland’s Gold Coast. The other ten Liberal survivors would be Bronwyn Bishop (Mackellar), Alan Cadman (Mitchell), Steven Ciobo (Moncrieff), Sussan Ley (Farrer), Margaret May (McPherson), Sophie Mirabella (Indi), Stuart Robert (replacing David Jull in Fadden), Pat Secker (Barker), Sharman Stone (Murray) and Wilson Tuckey (O’Connor).

Melbourne and Brisbane would be uniformly Labor, as would all of Tasmania and all but one seat in South Australia.

Could it happen? Parties have been almost wiped out before; Labor was reduced to 14 members (admittedly in a smaller parliament) in the Depression election of 1931.

More recently, the ALP had only a cricket team in the Queensland parliament after the 1974 election, and the Liberals in the same state were reduced to three in 2001 — prompting Matt Price to say they’d have to contact Rent-a-crowd if they wanted to form a barbershop quartet.

Even so, it will take a lot more polls to lift this scenario out of the realm of fantasy.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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