Election announcement speculation, like royal baby speculation and ALP leadership speculation before that, continues to punctuate the media. And media sources will keep on predicting an announcement until there is an announcement – and then promptly congratulate themselves on their insight and ability.
However, unlike most other speculation that takes the place of genuine news stories, there are some genuine reasons to suspect an announcement sooner rather than later. I have already discussed here some of the chief factors – more than a few weeks after Gillard’s promised September 14 date begins to look like desperately holding on to power, but to soon after taking the leadership looks like panic. We are currently in the golden period for an announcement. The earliest possible election date is August 31. The opportunity to carpe this diem elapses on Monday, and each subsequent Monday another date is scratched off the list: September 7, September 14, September 21, September 28. October 5 would be a nice option for me personally, getting to celebrate my birthday with a vote and a late night spent watching the national tallyroom, but I think that is drifting too far past the goldilocks period (no too early, not too late).
September 14, as has been pointed out here and elsewhere, is a poor choice because of a Jewish religious festival, which only leave four dates that I would consider reasonable options.
Two months ago we looked at the Labor budget and the Liberal-National Coalition’s response. Unable to simultaneously provide better programmes and greater savings, the Coalition surprised many commentators by supporting the budget. What this did was to undermine the Gillard government’s attempt to frame the discussion around their projects – the NIDS, Gonski and (to a lesser extent) the NBN among other programmes. The focus was shifted to the far more provocatively named Carbon Tax and Mining Tax, and later to immigration policy.
Rudd has since wrestled the attention back to where the ALP wants it by neutralising most of these issues. Leadership speculation seems to have finally ended – at least for the ALP.
There is ongoing suggestion of a Turnbull led Coalition emerging, but even the trigger-happy media is not going so far as to expect a shake up before the election. For all of his public support, the Liberal Party do not trust Turnbull enough to support him into the role that could land him the Prime Ministership within a month or two.
The uncertain election date encouraged the Coalition, wary of starting their campaign too vigorously too early, to keep their powder dry. This has allowed the ALP to nip their opponents’ chief arguments in the bud, undermining any ads that they had ready to go. The Carbon Tax will transition to an ETS, Labor has taken a much tougher stance on people smuggling and any suggestion that the ALP changes leaders more often than Abbott changes speedos is unlikely to gain traction after the changes to the Labor party’s rules regarding leadership selection. With the exception of the Mining Tax and the economy (which is actually doing fine, and will be discussed heavily over the next week or two with some important reviews due for release) Labor is ready for an election.
There is still uncertainty as to when the election will be locked in – and a continuing unawareness that the decision does not in fact rest with Rudd anyway. However, the time would seem to be drawing near so the next few weeks on this blog are going to be difficult to plan. I would expect, however, to begin summarising our data so far over the next week or so in preparation for predictions and punctuated with posts to ensure that you are well informed when you arrive at the ballot box. In that vein, I will spend the second half of this week’s post recapping the state-by-state summaries that bored you all stiff over the last month and a half.
Recapping the State-by-State Summaries that Bored You All Stiff Over the Last Month and a Half.
The above matrix synthesises the summaries into three distinct categories: Category 1 or ‘critical’ seats are those where the volatility of said seat significantly outweighs the security with which it held. These seats are not only in play, they are the seats that will more or less decide the election short of a massive landslide swing to one party or another. Category 2 ‘standard’ seats may still be in play, but have a distinct bias to a particular party. These are the seats that might fall in a landslide, but almost certainly not in the normal course of an election. These are generally quite volatile – and thus open to influence throughout the campaign, but with a fair bit of ground for one of the major parties to cover before they can pull of the necessary coup. Otherwise these are less easily swung (which in most cases simply means less swinging voters) but already close enough for that to be significant. Category 3 ‘bastions’ are the die-hard seats that in some cases have voted consistently for the same party since 1901. These are unlikely to be won by a non-incumbent party in even the most avalanche-esque elections. On top of these three categories are the tossups. These are the seats so closely balanced that I could not determine which party they could even be said to marginally support. These seats, therefore, are the most marginal of all and the first gains any major party is likely to try and win.
Colours below indicate the party towards which the seat was expected to pass under the previous posts (ALP, LIB, NAT, KAT), which is not necessarily the current incumbent’s.
Category 1: Critical
Adelaide (SA), Bendigo (VIC), Blair (QLD), Braddon (TAS), Bruce (VIC), Canning (WA), Capricornia (QLD), Chisholm (VIC), Dawson (QLD), Denison (TAS), Dickson (QLD), Dunkley (VIC), Forde (QLD), Flinders (VIC), Gellibrand (VIC), Greenway (NSW), Herbert (QLD), Leichhardt (QLD), Lindsay (NSW), Longman (QLD), Macquarie (NSW), Makin (SA), McEwen (VIC), McMillan (VIC), O’Connor (WA), Page (NSW), Parramatta (NSW), Paterson (NSW), Petrie (QLD), Solomon (NT), Swan (WA), Wakefield (SA).
Category 2: Standard
Ballarat (VIC), Bowman (QLD), Casey (VIC), Corangamite (VIC), Fisher (QLD), Franklin (TAS), Gilmore (NSW), Grey (SA), Griffith (QLD)*, Hindmarsh (SA), Hinkler (QLD), Hughes (NSW), Isaacs (VIC), Lingiari (NT), Macarthur (NSW), Maribyrnong (VIC), Moore (WA), Stirling (WA).
Category 3: Bastion
Aston (VIC), Banks (NSW), Barker (SA), Barton (NSW), Batman (VIC), Bennelong (NSW), Berowra (NSW), Blaxland (NSW), Bradfield (NSW), Brand (WA), Boothby (SA), Calare (NSW), Calwell (VIC), Canberra (ACT), Charlton (NSW), Chifley (NSW), Cook (NSW), Corio (VIC), Cowper (NSW), Cunningham (NSW), Curtin (WA), Deakin (VIC), Fadden (QLD), Fairfax (QLD), Farrer (NSW), Forrest (WA), Fowler (NSW), Fraser (ACT), Fremantle (WA), Gippsland (VIC), Goldstein (VIC), Gorton (VIC)**, Grayndler (NSW), Groom (QLD), Higgins (VIC), Holt (VIC), Hotham (VIC), Hume (NSW)***, Hunter (NSW), Indi (VIC), Jagajaga (VIC), Kennedy (QLD), Kingsford Smith (NSW), Kooyong (VIC), Lalor (VIC), Lyne (NSW), Lyons (TAS), Mackellar (NSW), Mallee (VIC), Maranoa (QLD), Mayo (SA), McPherson (QLD), Melbourne (VIC), Melbourne Ports (VIC), Menzies (VIC), Mitchell (NSW), Moncrieff (QLD), Murray (VIC), New England (NSW), Newcastle (NSW), North Sydney (NSW), Oxley (QLD), Parkes (NSW), Pearce (WA), Perth (WA), Port Adelaide (SA), Rankin (QLD), Reid (NSW), Riverina (NSW), Ryan (QLD), Scullin (VIC), Shortland (NSW), Sturt (SA), Sydney (NSW), Tangney (WA), Throsby (NSW), Wannon (VIC), Warringah (NSW), Watson (NSW), Wentworth (NSW), Werriwa (NSW), Wide Bay (QLD), Wills (VIC).
Bass (TAS), Bonner (QLD), Brisbane (QLD), Cowan (WA), Dobell (NSW), Durack (WA), Flynn (QLD), Hasluck (WA), Kingston (SA), La Trobe (VIC), Lilley (QLD), McMahon (NSW), Moreton (QLD), Richmond (NSW), Robertson (NSW), Wright (QLD).
Taking the bastions as the base that each party needs to build upon, the Labor and Liberal Parties have 37 seats each. Including the 8 Nationals and single Katter’s Australian Party electoral district (Katter’s own division of Kennedy) the Coalition looks to be in a slightly better position, but it is still a long sprint to get to the required 76 seats needed for a majority. By current polling this is shaping up to be a fairly balanced election, so we might also consider most of the standard seats as rather firm. If so, this gives the Coalition another 11 seats – all Liberal – and the ALP 7. 20 of the remaining 50 seats will allow the Coalition to make a majority in coalition with Katter, and 21 seats will allow them to rule in their own right. Given that 19 are Liberal leaning and two are National leaning, the ALP will need to retain its current critical seats, pick up all the tossups and then some to take power. This is partly because two of the Independents who gave Labor their support to form government are retiring in otherwise safe Coalition seats, and partly because of a strong anti-ALP swing after dropping Prime Minister Rudd. This was particularly strong in his home state of Queensland – note that all of the critical Queensland seats are leaning to the LNQ. This is based on historical data, and if a pro-ALP correction in Queensland can bring some of these seats over the line then Labor is still in with a chance.
*Griffith (QLD) is a Category 2 seat only in technical terms. This is Kevin Rudd’s seat, and it would be highly unusual for the PM to be at risk of losing his or her seat. That being said, this is exactly what happened in 2007 when Rudd won office the first time…
**Gorton (VIC) is considered a bastion for the ALP, having been won by that party since the seat was created in 2004, being composed entirely of state Labor seats and with a margin in excess of 20%. While it is too early to determine the stability of the seat, the history lends itself to a variable or stable assessment rather than a volatile one. This makes Gorton a Category 3 seat.
***Hume (NSW) was listed as ‘volatile’. After further consideration I have counted this as ‘variable’, raising Hume from a standard seat to a Liberal bastion.