Kevin Rudd was elected as Leader of the Labor Party on Monday, 4 December 2006. For me that was a signal. I should have stopped prevaricating about the result of the general election due a year from then, an election likely to be held on the last Saturday of November or the first Saturday of December in 2007.
The reason for my prevarication had been the weakness of the leadership of Kim Beazley. I had developed a strong sense that WorkChoices would destroy the Howard Government in the end but Beazley’s weakness in the polls meant I had to be cautious about writing off John Howard.
However, as soon as Rudd took over my doubts disappeared. Consequently I had published in The Canberra Times an article titled “Why Rudd will become PM”. It was published on Friday, 15 December 2006, and the editor’s brief description was “Psephologist Malcolm Mackerras is now convinced that the new Labor leader will succeed in toppling John Howard”. My reasoning was quite simple: WorkChoices would destroy Howard.
I should mention that I had previously written several articles denouncing WorkChoices, not so much the substance of it, rather the arrogance of these men who pretended to have an electoral mandate for it.
One week after my article appeared in The Canberra Times there was an article in The Australian by Dennis Shanahan. It was titled “PM will peruse diary and prevail in 2007”. It was published on Friday, 22 December 2006 and the editor’s brief description was “Expect John Howard to lose seats but still win a federal election in late October or early November”.
My article had not dealt with Bennelong so I made up for that omission in Crikey on Tuesday, 20 February 2007. My article was titled “Howard will lose Bennelong, Liberals will lose the poll: Mackerras“. Its opening lines were:
Let me be the first pundit to predict that the Liberal Party will lose this year’s general election as a whole, and Bennelong in particular.
A week later it was announced that Maxine McKew would be Labor’s candidate for Bennelong. I responded by a commentary in The Canberra Times titled “Only one PM knew when it was time to go”. That one Prime Minister was, of course, Sir Robert Menzies. However, the article was largely about cases of previous Prime Ministers contesting marginal seats and included a good amount of detail on the circumstances under which Stanley Melbourne Bruce lost his safe seat of Flinders in 1929. The article was published on Monday, 26 February 2007.
On many occasions since then I have been invited to give my opinion on these things. At no stage have I ever expressed any serious doubt that I would be proved right about either Bennelong or the general election as a whole. The question now is: how often should I stick my neck out from here to polling day? So I have decided upon three further such actions – two for the House of Representatives, one for the Senate.
In South Australia this election will see Labor’s numbers rise from three to nine seats in the House of Representatives. The six gains Labor will make from the Liberals will be Boothby, Grey, Kingston, Makin, Sturt and Wakefield. The Liberal Party will be left with two seats, Barker and Mayo.
In Western Australia the Liberal Party will lose the seat of Forrest to the Independent candidate, Noel Brunning, who is a local newscaster, much like the late Peter Andren. So there will be three Independents in the House of Representatives, in the seats of Forrest, Kennedy and New England.
In the Senate I predict that Gary Humphries (Liberal) will lose his ACT seat to the Greens candidate, Kerrie Tucker. My opinion here is worth rather more than those expressed in my previous paragraph. I live in the ACT but my knowledge of South Australia and Western Australia comes only from conversations with contacts.
My four reasons for pessimism for Gary Humphries are these. First, in the ACT there is a widespread view that Howard has abused his Senate majority. Second, a recent opinion poll has shown the vote for Humphries down to 24%, where he needs 33% for a quota. Third, the group voting tickets are against him. With one trivial exception it is the case that everyone else is ganging up on him. Fourth, an exceptionally large number of young, first time, voters will be going to the polls in the ACT.
These are the voters least likely to vote Liberal and most likely to vote for the Greens.