So far as the outcome on seats is concerned, two questions from the federal election remain to be answered: who wins Macquarie, which could potentially deliver the Coalition a 78th seat, or – more likely – a 68th for Labor; and who gets the last Senate seat in Queensland. No new numbers have been added to the count in Macquarie since Wednesday, apparently because they’ve been gathering everything together for one last heave. Labor leads by 282; I make it that there are about 950 votes outstanding; the Liberals will need nearly two-third of them to close the gap. Their more realistic hope, if any, is that an error shows up during the preference distribution, but that’s highly unlikely after all the checking that’s been done already.
Out of the other lower house seats, I’ll be particularly interested to see the results of the preference distribution in Joel Fitzgibbon’s seat of Hunter, where there is a chance the One Nation candidate might draw ahead of the Nationals candidate to make the final count. The Nationals have 23.5% of the primary vote to One Nation’s 21.6%, but by applying Senate preference flows from 2016 to allocate the minor parties, I get this narrowing to 27.1% to 26.3%. If nothing else, One Nation making it to second will provide us with hard data on how Coalition preferences divide between Labor and One Nation, a circumstance that has never arisen before at a federal election. The result in the seat of Mirani at the Queensland election in 2017 suggests it should be a bit short of 80%. If so, Fitzgibbon should emerge with a winning margin of about 2%, compared with his 3.0% lead in the Labor-versus-National count.
As discussed here last week, I feel pretty sure Labor’s second Senate candidate in Queensland will be pipped to the last seat by the Greens, though God knows I’ve been surprised before. That will mean three seats for the Coalition and one apiece for Labor, One Nation and the Greens. We probably won’t know the answer for about a fortnight, when the data entry should be completed and the button pressed.
There are other questions we’re still a while away from knowing the answer to, like the final national two-party preferred vote. All that can be said with certainty at this point is that it will be nowhere near what the polls were saying, but the most likely result is around 52-48 to the Coalition. The AEC’s current count says 51.6-48.4, but this doesn’t mean much because it excludes 15 seats in which the two-candidate counts are “non-classic”, i.e. not between the Coalition and Labor. Only when separate Coalition-versus-Labor counts are completed for those seats will we have a definitive result.
We will also have to wait until them for a definitive answer on exactly how many United Australia Party and One Nation preferences flowed to the Coalition. This has been a contentious question for the past year, since pollsters recognised recent federal election results were unlikely to provide a reliable guide to how they would flow this time, as per their usual practice. As Kevin Bonham discusses at length, this was one of many questions on which certain pollsters exhibited an unbecoming lack of transparency. Nonetheless, their decision to load up the Coalition on preferences from these parties has been more than vindicated, notwithstanding my earlier skepticism that the split would be as much as the 60-40 used for both parties by Newspoll.