Can the government win the election?

It is most likely we will have a Labor government in six weeks time; however, an unlikely election victory for the Coalition is still possible, albeit very unlikely. Here’s how it could be done.

The following ‘predictions’ are based on a best case scenario outlook for the government, while also factoring in the inevitable swing against it. The basic premise of this article is that ScoMo’s only hope is for an uneven swing across Australia that enables the government to hold some seats while saying goodbye to others.

Remember, to form government, the magic number is 76.

Government seats: currently 73 (technically 74 but one (Dunkley) is nominally Labor after a redistribution. Also, Kevin Hogan (Nat) does not sit in the party room. So we could say 72, but we will stick with 73 under the confidence that Hogan would stay in the government’s tent.

Opposition seats: currently 71 (technically 72 but read above)

VICTORIA – Prediction: government to lose 5 seats, but gain Indi (net loss: 4 seats)

Current projections are not good for the government in Victoria. In fact, they could lose up to five seats. Here is a list of the current Victorian seats most at risk:
Corangamite (current margin 50%)
La Trobe (53%)
Deakin (56%)
Casey (55%)
Flinders (57%)
Higgins (58%)

There’s also Menzies, Monash and Aston that could potentially fall, but it’s unlikely they will all go. If they do, the election is over before 8pm.

Let’s factor in a bad scenario for the government where it loses at least 5 seats in Victoria.

There is also a pocket of good news for the government. With the resignation of Cathy McGowan, it can probably expect to win Indi back in regional Victoria, taking its net loss to 4.

This would leave the government with 69 seats, meaning it will need to gain 7 elsewhere. Labor would be up to 75 on Victoria alone. We can also assume that Labor will win back Julia Banks’ seat of Chisholm and hold Dunkley, taking it to 77. So, yes, it’s bad for the government in Victoria. That’s assuming it can stem the bleeding at five seats.

NSW – prediction: government to achieve a net gain of one seat.

Polling for the government is nowhere near as dire in NSW as it is in Victoria. In fact, the government could win back Wentworth, with polling suggesting this could be the case now that anger about Turnbull’s removal is not as potent.

The seat of Lindsay is also in play, given the unpopularity of Labor incumbent Emma Husar.

Let’s assume the government can win these seats. They are likely to lose at least one marginal seat such as Banks or Robertson, so that could offset any gain.

Noise coming from Warringah also suggests Tony Abbott is in strife. My prediction is that he will hold on. He currently holds the seat by 11 percent 2PP. He is currently running a well funded campaign and he’s also an active and still reasonably popular local member. He should hold on around 52%. That’s still a sizeable swing of 9-10% against him though.

So my forecast for NSW is fairly positive for the government overall. Like the state election, it should return a fairly status quo result.

If the government did achieve a net gain of one (Wentworth), this would take it to 70, after accounting for the net loss of 4 in Victoria. Labor would still be on 77 assuming it might lose Lindsay but gain one elsewhere.

QUEENSLAND – prediction: government net gain of one.

Queensland, as ever, is the most volatile and unpredictable state. There’s marginal seats on both sides that are in play.

The government holds Capricornia, Flynn, Forde, Petrie and Dickson all on margins of less than 52% 2PP. Put simply, it must hold all of these in order to have any chance to make government.

There’s also hope. Labor holds Herbert on a wafer thin margin and it’s also possible that it could snatch Longman from Susan Lamb.

The best case scenario for the government is that it snatches these two seats to offset losses in others.

Essentially, it is hoping for uneven swings across the electorate. That’s how the Coalition won in 1998.

So, let’s assume it achieves a net gain of one in Queensland. That would take the count to 71 for the government and 75 for Labor.

This is an optimistic forecast. Then there’s the other states to consider. The Liberals will be eyeing Braddon in Tasmania (held by Labor on 51.5%). Some Liberals are confident this seat could fall. There’s also Cowan in WA, held by Anne Aly on 50.7%.

If by some miracle the government holds its incumbents across WA, Tasmania and South Australia, but win these two seats, it would sit on 73, trailing Labor on 74.

This would mean negotiations with the 4 crossbenchers:
Adam Bandt
Bob Katter
Rebekah Sharkie
Andrew Wilkie

We could safely assume Bandt will not back the government, so it will need Katter, Sharkie and Wilkie to promise supply and confidence in minority government. Sharkie and Katter, maybe. Wilkie, unlikely.

So, even with optimistic forecasts for the government, it does not look good. Its only realistic chance is a minority government. If it is to have any chance, any chance at all, it will need to stem the bleeding in Victoria. If it can achieve that, then all of a sudden the election will be very interesting indeed.

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