The New South Wales election campaign has begun without me, with the press taking Sunday’s Labor campaign launch as its cue to open festivities with pendulums, key seat summaries and in The Australian’s case Malcolm Mackerras’s too-bold-for-his-own-good predictions. Mackerras has tipped that Labor will be returned with a one-seat majority following the loss of Penrith, Port Stephens, Menai, Miranda and Wollondilly (a new notional Labor seat on Sydney’s southern fringes) to the Liberals, Tweed and Monaro to the Nationals, and Newcastle to independent candidate John Tate. He also tips four independent-held seats will fall to the Coalition: Manly and Pittwater to the Liberals, and Dubbo and Tamworth to the Nationals.
For those as keen on a punt as Mackerras, books on the election are being run by SportingBet, Centrebet, Sportsbet and Sports Acumen. They are currently offering short odds on Morris Iemma remaining Premier: $1.16 compared with $4.50 for Peter Debnam for each agency except Sports Acumen, which is offering $1.17 and $4.40. SportingBet is also taking bets on 14 individual seats, with the odds currently on offer converting into the following percentages. Note that this indicates the likelihood of winning the seat, rather than predicted vote share.
The first batch of Campaign Update entries for the Poll Bludger election guide will read as follows:
Wyong (Labor 12.3%): The Liberal campaign for this winnable Central Coast seat is off to what could kindly be described as an awkward start. Yesterday, Simon Benson of the Daily Telegraph gleefully revealed the party’s candidate, Brenton Pavier, had a profile up on Fairfax’s RSVP dating website. Pavier proved good enough of a sport to accept the paper’s invitation for a "date" yesterday with its reporter Kate Sikora. Unfortunately, it was interrupted by a call to Pavier from Peter Debnam, who told him he was about to be disendorsed. His crime was to have forwarded an SMS message containing a rude joke to his fellow Wyong councillors. The Poll Bludger finds this a little severe, and wonders whether it might underscore concerns that the state party has become unduly doctrinaire and puritanical. Debnam has moved very quickly to replace him with the party’s candidate from 2003, Ben Morton (a "federal government adviser"), who was then 21 and is now 25.
Newcastle (Labor 15.4%): The Newcastle Herald published a poll of 300 voters on Tuesday which indicated Labor was set to lose the seat to an independent, with their candidate Jodi McKay on just 24.0 per cent. The apparent front-runner was Bryce Gaudry, the sitting Labor member who had been dumped for preselection, on 22.7 per cent. The other main independent, Newcastle lord mayor John Tate, was on 20.3 per cent, with the Greens on 11.0 per cent and the Liberals on 8.3 per cent. Damien Murphy of the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the result has "come as a shock to Labor strategists who thought Mr Tate was shaping as Ms McKay’s main rival".
The Entrance (Labor 9.7%): On Wednesday, The Australian’s Imre Salusinszky reported that polling by both parties had Labor member Grant McBride in "a virtually hopeless position", with "one senior local Labor Party figure" declaring the seat to be "gone". It was also reported that Labor’s state general secretary, Mark Arbib, was going to "warn the party to expect double-digit swings against its MPs". Other seats said to be at risk included Penrith, Miranda, Menai, Port Stephens and Murray-Darling (which has become a notional Nationals seat after the redistribution).
Maitland (Labor 10.3%): Peter Blackmore, former Liberal member now running as an independent, accused Labor candidate Frank Terenzini of breaching the Electoral Act after posters were nailed to power poles without the permission of the electricity provider. Yeah, I know, big deal. What actually caught my eye about the report in the Newcastle Herald was Terenzini’s campaign slogan: "Frank Terenzini, criminal prosecutor. Someone you can depend on".