There doesn’t appear to be anyone left who expects parliament to sit next week. Dennis Shanahan and Matthew Franklin of The Australian report that the Prime Minister is set to call a November 24 election tomorrow. On the other hand, Maria Hawthorne of The Advertiser reckons the trigger might yet be pulled today, and that the date could yet be December 1, while Michelle Grattan and Ben Doherty of The Age think December 1 unlikely and are instead leaving open November 17. Canberra reader John Ryan fancies he can hear the continuous humming of shredders from government offices in Barton.
A summary of the state of play in The Australian contains the surprising assessment that Labor is only an outside chance of winning the crucial Darwin-based seat of Solomon, in the view of party strategists. The report also points to a mere status quo result in Victoria, and takes a bullish view of the Liberals’ prospects in Western Australia. Based on published opinion polls, Coalition sources are said to be optimistic about retaining Stirling and Hasluck, and hopeful of gaining Cowan and Swan. There is little reason this should be so, as those polls almost uniformly show a swing to Labor in WA that would win them all four. The one striking exception has been the only electorate-level poll to have emerged, a Westpoll survey from June that had the Liberals narrowly ahead in Stirling, Hasluck and Cowan. This was a considerably worse result for Labor than those that have emerged from Westpoll’s monthly statewide surveys of federal voting intention during the last six months. On the other side of the ledger, the report tells us the Coalition is expected to divert resources from a number of seats in the other mainland states which are regarded as lost causes, including Lindsay and Dobell in New South Wales, Bonner in Queensland and Kingston, Makin and Wakefield in South Australia. In Tasmania, Labor is said only to be no more than confident of recovering Bass and Braddon.
Laura Tingle notes some patterns in the Prime Minister’s recent movements in yesterday’s Financial Review:
In the past three months, Howard’s been seen in the vicinity of his barely held South Australian electorates only when he announced (at the state Liberal Party conference, not in the electorates) a $100 million road project. He hasn’t turned up in Ross Vasta’s seat of Bonner since April … the Prime Minister has been a little more active in seats held with margins between 1 and 3 per cent – notably the Tasmanian seats of Braddon and Bass.
Here’s a thought. At the state election last March, Nick Xenophon stunned everybody when he did well enough to win a seat not only for himself, but also for his No Pokies running mate. Who’s to say he can’t do it again? The vote recorded for Xenophon’s ticket at the state election was 20.5 per cent. Those who say he can’t possibly do that well again might be right but on the other hand, they might not be. If not, Xenophon will score his quota with 6.2 per cent to spare. That surplus will then go to his second candidate, henceforth to be called Xenophon 2, who would very likely emerge ahead of the Greens (6.4 per cent in 2004) after preferences. If the Greens put Xenophon ahead of the major parties on preferences, as they did at the state election, this should push Xenophon 2 into double figures. This scenario leaves at best 75 per cent of the vote left over for the major parties, and most likely a fair bit less. Unless one of the two major parties gets 43 per cent from that share, the third candidate of the weaker of the two major parties will be eliminated and Xenophon 2 will be elected on their preferences. Another possibility, noted by Penelope Debelle in The Age, is that Xenophon 2 won’t do quite well enough to overhaul the Greens, but could feed them enough preferences to put them in contention for the sixth seat.
John Wiseman of The Australian points to another possible side-effect of Xenophon’s nomination: that he might have an impact on House of Representatives marginals should he choose to endorse or support candidates as he did for some at last year’s state election. Xenophon had a direct bearing on the other big surprise of the state election, Kris Hanna’s success in retaining his seat of Mitchell as an independent after quitting first the ALP and then the Greens. Hanna had closely associated himself with Xenophon, pooling campaign resources in Mitchell and appearing at a press conference with him when he announced he was leaving the Greens.
Tamar Valley vigneron and anti-pulp mill campaigner Peter Whish-Wilson says he has decided against running as an independent in Bass. Matthew Denholm of The Australian reports that Labor polling has the Greens candidate at 18 per cent, but that the mill is not considered a vote changer as far as the major parties are concerned.