In the event that we do face an election sooner rather than later, one difficulty Labor will have to factor in is what looks like an unfavourable redistribution in Victoria, draft boundaries of which were released during the election campaign. Despite the fact that the number of electorates in the state has not changed, the redistribution commissioners propose a radical overhaul that will abolish the rural electorate of Murray and create the new electorate of Burke in Melbourne’s northern outskirts. While this involves the abolition of a safe Liberal seat and the creation of a new one with a notional Labor margin of 10.8 per cent (as calculated by Antony Green on the basis of the 2007 results), knock-on effects make Corangamite and Deakin notionally Liberal, and McEwen (newly acquired by Labor at the recent election) very safely so.
According to the redistribution commissioners, the sweeping changes have been deemed necessary because relative population decline has made it unfeasible to preserve the existing northern regional trio of Murray, Mallee and Indi. However, this has been disputed in a highly critical submission from Tim Colebatch, a senior journalist for The Age, who calculates that one-in-six Victorian voters will be transferred to different electorates. Colebatch complains there has been a failure to account for future growth in outer suburbs and the inner city, which in partisan terms will mean bloated enrolments in nine Labor seats by 2018 and deficient ones in four middle suburban Liberal seats. It is tempting to speculate the commissioners have been influenced by the fact that redistributions of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia turned Labor’s 83 seats from the 2007 election into a notional total of 88.
However, another submission from Jenni Newton-Farrelly of the South Australian Parliamentary Library reaches a very different conclusion. Newton-Farrelly has brought to the process her jurisdiction’s enthusiasm for electoral fairness, with reference to margins she has calculated from both the 2007 election and preliminary results from 2010. When these are adjusted to a 50-50 two-party outcome, Labor is found to receive more than its fair share: 20 seats to 17, with no margin in any seat lower than 1.4 per cent. On the results from the recent election, Newton-Farrelly finds the Liberals would have won Corangamite by 0.8 per cent and McEwen by 6.6 per cent, while Labor would have gained Aston by 1.5 per cent.
Antony Green crunches the numbers from seven electorates where there were only Labor, Liberal and Greens candidates and finds little difference between the 2010 preference flows and the flows in the same seats at the 2007 election. This comes as a profound shock, as we were repeatedly warned not to trust two-party opinion poll results based on exactly this assumption. Dennis Shanahan of The Australian, for example, wrote on August 2 that Labor’s primary vote had fallen into the fatal zone below 40 per cent, where the party has only a slight hope of winning, and then based only on heroic assumptions about the results and the delivery of Greens preferences. I like to think that the moral of this story is that even in this jaded and cynical age, heroism can sometimes still win the day.
Amusingly, Labor has pulled ahead at the time of writing on the AEC’s meaningless national two-party vote figure, which excludes results from eight electorates. In the past few days I have heard Andrew Bolt, Barnaby Joyce, Kerry Chikarovski and Kenneth Wiltshire (no doubt there were many others) use the progress score on this count to assert that the Coalition had won, which is very clearly untrue. As Peter Brent of Mumble points out, it is almost certain that the complete figures which will be available in a few weeks’ time will show Labor the winner, by however narrow a margin. Smarter Coalition operatives have been limiting their pitch to the perfectly reasonable observation that the Liberal and National parties won more votes and seats than Labor.
In the comments thread from the Mumble post linked to above, Peter Brent tells a reader that Newspolls will take a breather for a little while. Speaking of Newspoll, here’s an exchange from Sunday’s edition of Insiders:
Barrie Cassidy: (The Australian) ran the results of a poll on Saturday, not talking about individual seast but country-wide, that more people were in favour of a minority Labor government than a minority Coalition government. Now Glenn, you’ve had some experience with this, they actually polled a week ago and published six days later. That’s unusual, isn’t it?
Glenn Milne: Well, it’s clear they didn’t like the poll results.