Entries to the New South Wales election guide have now been appended with predictions; taken together, these point to comfortable Labor majority with 52 seats out of 93, down from 55 at the last election. The Liberals are tipped to go from 20 to 21, with the Nationals steady on 12; eight seats are down for independents, compared with six in 2003. I do in fact anticipate a fairly solid drop in the Labor primary vote, particularly in Sydney, and for a lot of fat to be trimmed from Labor two-party margins. However, this will not produce a big haul of seats because of the lack of low-hanging fruit. Camden is rated as the sole metropolitan exception, due to the profile of the Liberal candidate (local mayor Chris Patterson) and the substantial boundary changes that will curtail sitting member Geoff Corrigan’s incumbency advantage. By contrast, I am tipping the new seat of Wollondilly to go Labor’s way despite a smaller margin (4.6 per cent compared with 8.7 per cent), due to a) their coup in landing formerly independent mayor Phil Costa as candidate, and b) its location in Sydney’s semi-rural hinterland, which I imagine will make public transport less of a factor. Elsewhere in Sydney, the verdict on Penrith, Drummoyne, Menai, Miranda and Londonderry is "close but no cigar".
Outside Sydney, I am tipping the Nationals to gain Tweed while suffering a notional defeat in Murray-Darling, where Peter Black’s larrikin charm will reverse the effects of a redistribution that has put him 1.4 per cent behind the eight-ball. My assessment is that there will be a net decrease of one in the number of independents, if you include Steven Pringle in Hawkesbury and Bryce Gaudry in Newcastle (respective Liberal and Labor members who quit their parties after preselection defeats). Former Liberal member Peter Blackmore is marked down to win Maitland from Labor, while John Tate gets the nod in Newcastle (although it was a tough choice between him and Gaudry). The Liberals will finally recover Manly due to the appeal of their candidate Mike Baird and the low profile of the incumbent, David Barr. Sitting independents in Pittwater, Dubbo, Tamworth, Sydney, Northern Tablelands and Port Macquarie are tipped to be returned; I state this with great confidence in the latter three cases, but am less sure about the first three.