While Tony Abbott is poised to become Australia’s next prime minister, the size of his majority is uncertain, with minor parties and Clive Palmer’s party in particular threatening to turn a number of Queensland seats into a lottery.

Essential Research’s most up-to-date state breakdown figures, over the last three weeks and including yesterday’s final pre-election poll, give the Coalition a 52-48% national lead and a 2.1% swing since the 2010 election. That will be enough to deliver an Abbott government.

However, after that, things become less clear. In New South Wales, the swing to the Coalition is 3.8%. A uniform swing of that size will hand the Coalition Greenway (unless International Man of Mystery Jaymes Diaz has completely blown his chances), Robertson, Lindsay, Banks and Reid. With the Coalition picking up New England and Lyne, that’s seven seats in NSW for the Coalition. That list, you’ll notice, doesn’t include McMahon, Treasurer Chris Bowen’s seat, which has been mooted as falling to the apparent Roger Rogerson associate Ray King.

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In Victoria, the swing to the Coalition is 5.3%. Normally a swing of that size would deliver a swag of seats, but because of Labor’s strong performance in 2010, that will only, on a uniform basis, deliver Deakin, Corangamite and La Trobe. That’s 10 additional seats for the Coalition so far — although if Sophie Mirabella loses Indi, as most of her colleagues most likely are fervently praying for, that’ll be one fewer.

In South Australia, off a small sample size, there’s still a swing to Labor and has been now for three weeks’ worth of state breakdowns. It’s only 1.8%, ostensibly enough to knock  Andrew Southcott off in Boothby (a shame; Southcott is one of the nice guys). That’s nine seats for the Coalition.

In WA, there’s still a swing to Labor, of 5.4%. This is more plausible, because of how wretchedly Labor did in 2010 there. For argument’s sake, that would give Labor Hasluck, Canning and Swan. That’s six seats for the Coalition. Those WA numbers look unlikely to me, but that’s what a uniform swing would deliver.

Now to Queensland. Again, Labor underperformed in 2010; currently it is trailing 51-49, but that’s a swing to Labor of 4.1% on 2010. That delivers seven seats to Labor, and eight if you throw in Fisher.

National net result — Labor gains one seat.

But before Labor types start cheering, there’s Tasmania, where Labor is expected to lose a couple of seats. That tilts it back to a net Coalition gain of one. They’ll probably pick up Dobell, which is two, and Bendigo in Victoria due to the retirement of Steve Gibbons. That’s three. And we don’t know what will happen in the Northern Territory, but if Warren Snowden loses Lingiari (margin 3.7%) that’s four.

The complicating factor is the strength of the minor party vote in Queensland. Clive Palmer’s party is polling around 8% in Queensland and the rest of the minors, including Katter, are polling another 6%. That means that where Palmer and Katter voters direct their preferences will be crucial to Labor’s chances: if they follow normal minor party trends and split 60:40 to the Coalition, that will nullify a number of Labor’s Queensland gains. And without those Labor seats in Queensland, Tony Abbott’s majority is easily in double figures — especially if that WA swing fails to materialise for Labor. There’s a reason why Gary Gray hasn’t been seen for most of the last few weeks.

In the Senate, the strength of the minor party vote in Queensland means there’s a good chance a minor party candidate, maybe Glenn Lazarus, will get the sixth Queensland spot. Sarah Hanson-Young looks well-placed to hang on South Australia, where the Greens are polling 17%; Others in SA are polling 12%, which suggests the obvious, that Nick Xenophon will be returned. And the Greens should pick up another Senate spot in Victoria, where they’re polling 14%. In WA, however, Scott Ludlam is in trouble, with the Greens on only 8%. Ludlam looks like he’ll need that big swing to Labor to materialise and get him across the line.

As for Pauline Hanson’s chances in NSW, “others” are currently polling 8%; the Greens are on 9%.

The wash-up? Essential’s numbers suggest a net national outcome that ranges from an Abbott House of Representatives majority in low single figures through to a strong majority closer to 20 — depending how those minor party preferences flow in Queensland.

If that sounds like fence-sitting, blame Clive Palmer …

*Essential Research is a part of Essential Media Communications. EM Advertising, a business wholly owned by EMC, is contracted by the ALP to provide advertising for the federal election campaign. Directors, staff and contractors working on the EM Advertising business have no involvement in the production of the Essential Report. Your Source manages Essential’s online research panel. Essential Research and Your Source are ISO accredited market research companies.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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