The godfather of poll

Malcolm Mackerras emerged on Monday, as he always does at times like these, to deliver his curmudgeonly assessments of the state of play in The Australian and the Financial Review (subscriber only, but there’s no telling what might happen if you click here). Typically he has no more than this to say on the House of Representatives: "I have no idea how the Australian people will divide their votes and nor does anyone else. However, this ignorance does not lead me to predict a close result. In truth, a close result is merely one of the possibilities. It is just as likely to be a landslide one way or the other". On the subject of the Senate he is rather more forthcoming, predicting that only a bad turn for the Coalition will prevent them achieving their "magic 38" blocking majority in the Senate.

This seems a reasonable assessment. Usually the six seats up for grabs in each state will split evenly between the right and left, and while one of the left seats will usually go to the Greens or Democrats, the Coalition have few natural predators on their side. Therefore, the Coalition need only turn in two reasonably good performances in succession, which they have not achieved during the current government due to a very modest performance in 1998 when they were lucky to win their House majority. In the Senate they won only two seats in New South Wales, where the result was Labor three, Democrats one and Liberal two; in Tasmania, where one went to independent Brian Harradine; and in Queensland, where One Nation edged out National Party Senator Bill O’Chee.

Fred Nile, Hetty Johnston and Family First arguably represent threats to third place-holders on Coalition tickets in New South Wales, Queensland and elsewhere, but by and large Harradines and Hansons are thinner on the ground this time. If the Coalition is to be denied its 38 seats, it will more likely be the 1998 New South Wales scenario where it is they rather than Labor that drops a seat to the Greens or Democrats. For that to occur the Coalition vote in the relevant state would need to fall substantially below 40 per cent, in which case the Government will be in trouble.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.