Heard any good election predictions lately? Most pundits have been playing it safe: Labor is favoured to win, they say, but it could go either way. This is of course reasonable, no-one wants to look silly if they’re wildly wrong.

As well, anyone who has dealt with media outfits during a campaign knows that all media favor a hung parliament scenario; it just makes for a better story.

The Sunday Age‘s Jason Koutsoukis recently revisited pundits’ calls before the 1996 election.

The general sentiment back then was similar to today’s: yes, Howard would probably win, but plenty were not sensing a “strong mood for change”, and instead believed it would come down to “a seat or two”. Malcolm Mackerras was almost alone in predicting a big result.

This election, Malcolm is going for a 28-seat Labor majority. 

I’m nudging Malcolm up to a 30-seat majority, which would mean Labor holding 90 out of 150 seats. How might those seats fall state by state? Here’s a possible combination (all numbers post-redistributions, ie “notional”):

New South Wales: Labor to net nine seats, so increasing their tally from 21 to 30 out of 49. Proportionally, this would be larger than the 25 out of 44 at Bob Hawke’s 1983 win, but below the 1993 high water mark of 33 out of 50.

Victoria: a three seat gain, meaning they end up with 22 out of 37. This would be less than their 1983 result (22 out of 32) but similar to 1987 (25 out of 39).

Queensland: a 10 seat gain for Labor. Don’t laugh, it would still only take them to 16 out of 29 – a little over half the seats. In 1990 they got 16 out of 24 Queensland seats with only 50.2 of the two party preferred vote.

Western Australia: two (net) extra seats for Labor, taking them to seven out of 15.

South Australia: three seat gain to Labor, taking them to six out of 11.

Tasmania: two seat gain, so Labor holds five out of five, as they did from 1998 to 2004.

ACT and Northern Territory: one extra seat, Solomon (NT).

Which actual seats would fall? That’s too difficult. On the experience of past elections, a national swing of, say, seven percent would probably include some seat components about twice that size, with others, perhaps, moving a little to the government. And if those double digit swings are in the right electorates – prepare for the unexpected.

That seven percent swing would put Labor on about 54 to 46 two party preferred, and plotting it against the Mackerras pendulum also takes you to the same result: about a 30-seat gain.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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