Eight seats remain on the Electoral Commission’s close seats list and although the parties regard the contest as over it’s amazing to see how lucky the Liberals have been.

Labor appears to have lost the Western Australian seat of Swan, but has gained the Darwin-based seat of Solomon, the NSW Central Coast electorate of Robertson and the new, notionally-National Party Queensland seat of Flynn.

It’s generally believed that former minister Fran Bailey has hung on in the Victoria electorate McEwen and that Queenslander Peter Lindsay will just keep Herbert.

The count in another Queensland seat, Dickson, held by former minister, Peter Dutton, is tight but good enough for Brendan Nelson. Dutton was appointed to the shadow ministry yesterday.

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Another Queensland Liberal, Andrew Laming, appears to survived allegations of electorate allowance rorting to hold Bowman by the skin of his teeth.

“On election night and the following day, the best bet seemed to be that Labor would emerge with between 86 and 88 seat,” William Bowe observes at The Poll Bludger.

“After that, Labor watched leads disappear in one seat after another… Present indications suggest [the Coalition] will win five of seven seats determined by margins of less than 0.3 per cent.”

It appears that the new house will have 83 ALP members, 65 Coalition MPs and two independents. The Libs have got lucky indeed.

Even if they just win a seat, they enjoy all the advantages incumbency. Their mega marginal MPs will be able to start taxpayer funded campaigns immediately – under the guise of informing their constituents, naturally. This frees up hundred of thousands of dollars for use in the seats Labor has just won.

The Coalition also has a much smaller target to win government than the 16 seats Kevin Rudd needed.

Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan will need to start cutting spending now to keep inflation under control, then bring in further spending cuts at budget time in May. The United States economy and banks will add to their challenges.

It mightn’t be fair, but things could be tough by the time we vote in late 2010 or early 2011.

The Liberals will certainly appreciate their luck then.