Forget MacKerras and his big swinging pendulum. The most useful graphical representation of the political state of play is at Simon Jackman’s Australian psephology site, where he’s sorted the seats by states and represented the swing line as an advancing front.

The result makes crystal clear both the opportunities for Labor, and some of the challenges it faces. Six seats are behind the 1% line, another two behind the 2% line, and another 5 behind the 3% line. If Labor can’t get those 13, spread evenly across the country except for Victoria (3 NSW, 2 Qld, 2WA, 3SA, 2Tas, 1 Territories) on its current figures then it may as well give up and buy a carpet shampooing franchise.

What the graph makes crystal to us non-psephs is that Labor’s sprint to the finish line – assuming, which of course you can’t, a uniform swing – is all in NSW and Victoria.

Victory alley for Labor is Eden-Monaro, Bennelong and Dobell in NSW, with a safety shoulder being Victorian seats Deakin, McMillan, and then Corangamite and the SA seat of Boothby as a ring-in.

Bennelong we’ve heard far too much about and Eden-Monarites are so used to being electoral guinea-pigs they all speak in 15 second sound-bites. What about the others? And leaving out minor stuff – joke, people – like sitting members, candidates, boundary shifts and the like, what does their social and cultural complexion tell us about the weeks ahead?

Deakin is a Melbourne eastern suburbs no-place, by which is meant no insult to the good burghers of Bayswater, Blackburn and Mitcham – just that it lacks any sense of definition or genuine boundaries. Held by the Libs since proclamation in 1937 except for 1983-84 when J Saunderson, Hawke’s Minister for Regional Aerodrome Servicing had it.

Yet that deep blue pedigree will be affected by several factors. First it seems the sort of seat which voted Liberal only so far as the party observed the compact – don’t touch arbitration – secondly, the Bracks premiership may have re-assured it about the respectability of Labor, and thirdly its social composition has changed, as living tastes have changed. Increasingly the middle-middle-middle class live elsewhere, leaving it to the middle-middle lower and middle-lower-middle groupings (funny word, middle, when you say it a lot ‘vehicle’ is also really strange).

Places like this used to have shopping streets, with people living around them. Increasingly they have shopping malls people commute to, and some pretty tumbleweedy streets.

Culturally, their liberalism was anchored in low church protestantism. 2007 might be the year they realise the Libs are spiv turds, and Rudd’s smoothie piety might connect better with the remnants of that tradition – always supposing that porn and partner-swapping hasnt dissolved it entirely.

Dobell is one of those city-country interzones on the Coast, taking in imaginatively-named berg The Entrance and stopping at Terrigal – which produces more Labor history than it can locally consume – at the southern tip. It was held by Doogie Howser attorney-general Michael Lee from proclamation in 84 to the Tampa/911 election.

Shaun Cronin is blogging Dobell – the seat lying exactly on the ALP’s 4.8% victory uniform margin swing – throughout the campaign, but the key point to observe here is that Dobell is one of those areas that used to have an identity centred around itself, ie actually producing, farming, fishing etc, with all that entails, and now has a identity centred around Sydney. More exactly, round not being Sydney, but a dornitory etc for it, refuge from etc. The main effect of such ex-urbanisation I would suggest is that such places tend to be relatively less-influenced by old question of class, region etc – since not much is now rooted there (except of course manufacturing in the other sense) – and so the ‘nation’, as conveyed by the media, is increasingly seen as the community.

In other words, the place is twitchy.

Tomorrow: McMillan, and wife (Corangamite).

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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