For reasons which I’ll explain in greater detail tomorrow, I’m not a big fan of making election “predictions”. I do like to have a punt though, and because of the sorts of data we have indicating the movement of public opinion, I think that the sort of “informed speculation” that a canny old bloke in a porkpie hat down at the TAB engages in is about the best we can really do in forecasting what’s going to happen on election day.

Generally, a lot more modesty in punditry would be desirable, I think, though refusing to say what you think is going to happen is also a cop out in my view. After all, those of us who are politics tragics are all going to have a view.

But I’m more confident about my understanding of my local patch. I can claim bragging rights on the number of seats Labor won in the state election last year, and putting a spread on 58-60 won me about $1500 with Centrebet. All the money was following the almost unanimous prediction of the press punditariat – about 50-52 seats.

Let’s start with the state based and marginal seat polling we’ve seen on Queensland. If you’d been following it closely for a while, you’d have seen swings anywhere between 5% and 11% indicated. There are two points to be made about this. First, and it shouldn’t need saying but I suspect it does, public opinion can be highly dynamic during a campaign. There are seats that were probably in play early in the piece, but are probably more or less decided now. Secondly, my feeling from what I hear on the ground is that the race is tighter in the “true” marginals than in some seats that should be “safe” for the Coalition.

It’s also always worth remembering that Queensland is a very diverse state – sociologically and demographically. The south east corner is much more like the rest of Australia than it used to be, in terms of things like wages, education and occupation profile and ethnic diversity, but there are large parts of the state which are still well behind the national eight ball in terms of income and ahead of the curve in terms of casual employment.

Even though there are big bucks to be made in some quarters from mining (which is much more unionised here than in the West), the resulting labour and housing market distortions have soaked up a lot of those dollars and made it very difficult for people not working in mining to get by. And I could go on, but there are good reasons for thinking WorkChoices is a particular cross for the Coalition to bear in the deep north.

Thinking about individual seats, it’s worth dividing them into several concentric circles, as it were. The marginals in and around Brisbane’s south are going to fall over like nine pins – Bonner, Moreton and Blair in that order. Labor were confident of the first two, and hopeful in the third, even before Rudd came along.

Then there are the north Brisbane seats in play with safer margins. This is where it starts to get interesting. Longman and Dickson may be held by Brough and Dutton, though Brough’s in with the better chance. The other ministerial bailiwick, Petrie, is a better chance for Labor, though Teresa Gambaro is a tough nut to crack and Redcliffe parochialism over Council amalgamations may be in her favour.

Leafy Ryan, with spectacular own goals by Michael Johnson and the Libs, combined with the rise of the Rudd wets, is in a class of its own. I’d be a tad surprised if Labor’s Ross Daniels doesn’t win it.

In North and Central Queensland, Leichardt and Herbert look pretty safe Labor gains, as does the new and notionally National seat of Flynn. Dawson and Hinkler just might go Labor’s way, with De-Anne Kelly slightly more likely to lose than her Nats colleague Paul Neville despite his smaller margin.

The latter two are wild cards, but then if the swing is really on, some or all of the ministerial seats might fall as well – Mal Brough might be in need of some divine intervention. The vacant seat of Forde is also in play, but I suspect it’ll stay with the Libs, and down on the Gold Coast, McPherson is a remote possibility, but I have the sense that the chances of Labor ousting a notoriously invisible local member have receded. But the other story is that none of Labor’s marginals are remotely threatened – although there were some noises about Kirsten Livermore in Capricornia early on. Members who’ve in the past hung on by the skin of their teeth, like my local MP, Arch Bevis in Brisbane, should be entirely untroubled this time around.

So what’s going to happen? Worst case scenario for Labor – four or five seats. Likely scenario – seven or eight. But it’s eminently possible that Labor could do better than that – expect a few who you might expect to fall over like Brough to hold on, but some who might be expected to hang on, like Johnson, to fall over. There could be more surprises in store, and it’s going to be really interesting watching what happens.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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