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2001 Election Predictions

Check back here after November 10 to see how accurate the “experts” were.

A Sure Bet, So Long As It’s None Of My Money – Matt Price> – (The Australian, Nov 10)

This is the harsh simplicity of politics. All are subject to the whims of those pencils … except, of course, the pundits. They – we – sail on, dispensing wisdom and rolling with the punches.

Who’ll win the election? Who knows? I wouldn’t dream of risking my money but, asked to wager yours, I’d plump for Labor by eight seats. But don’t hold me to it.


The Polls May Not Tell The Whole Story – Tim Colebatch – (The Age, Nov 10)

There are a few Coalition seats (on 1998 voting) where Labor’s prospects look relatively good: Ballarat, La Trobe and McEwen in Victoria, Richmond in NSW, Herbert, Petrie and possibly Ryan in Queensland, Makin and Adelaide in South Australia and the new Darwin seat of Solomon. Labor will have to win most of these seats tonight.

There are even more Labor seats where the Coalition’s prospects look good, such as McMillan in Victoria. In NSW they should keep Parramatta and Macarthur, both notionally Labor after the redistribution, and could unseat Labor frontbencher Michael Lee in Dobell. Cheryl Kernot might be just one of several Labor casualties in Queensland, three Labor seats could fall in Perth, and the Launceston seat of Bass could change hands yet again.

And then there are the independents. Up to four of them could win seats tonight, mostly from the Coalition. The biggest focus of the night could be on Tony Abbott’s normally safe seat of Warringah, in and around Manly, where former state member Peter Macdonald will unseat him if he can beat Labor into third place.

And my tip? A Coalition majority of 12 seats.


The Howard government won 82 seats, the ALP 65, and other 3, giving the coalition and overall majority of 14.

Heaven Knows Who Will Win – John Warhurst – (Canberra Times, Nov 9)

… What would explain a Coalition victory? The Coalition clawed back a lot of lost ground between March and July, and built on this to establish a big lead, courtesy of international events, at the beginning of the campaign.

What would explain a Labor victory? After two terms the Government’s energy has evaporated and so have the memories of the negative aspects of Labor’s 13 years in office. With limited enthusiasm the electorate has embraced Kim Beazley’s domestic agenda after almost six years of watching him perform as Opposition Leader.

Both sides will lose seats, but Labor’s net gain will probably not be enough to make up the necessary ground. My tip is that the Government will win a third term with a reduced majority of eight seats.


Overall, the government increased its majority.

All Eyes On The Cross-Dressers – Louise Dodson – (The Age, Nov 9)

At this late stage it appears that although Labor was making gains last week, its momentum has stalled and it is failing to win enough seats, especially in Queensland, for victory.

Strategists who have viewed the marginal seat private polling by their respective parties report similar results:

In Victoria, the Coalition could lose three seats – Ballarat, McEwen and La Trobe.

In NSW, the Coalition could lose one seat, Larry Anthony’s north coast seat of Richmond, but win two seats, Macarthur and Parramatta, that are notionally Labor.

In Queensland, the Coalition could win two seats, Dickson, held by Cheryl Kernot, and Ryan. It may lose the Brisbane seat of Petrie, but is more likely not to lose any.

In South Australia, the Coalition could lose Makin and Adelaide.

In Western Australia, the Coalition could win Canning and Hasluck.

In Tasmania, the Coalition could win Bass.

My tip is for a narrow Coalition victory.


Preferences Will Only Cut Margin Of Defeat – Antony Green – (SMH, Nov 5)

A quick look at the NSW seats where Labor did deals with the Democrats is revealing.

By requesting preferences in seats like Dobell, Lowe, Paterson and Parramatta, the Labor Party is admitting it is struggling to hold on to its own seats, let alone win enough seats to form government.

Preferences are of little use to a party trailing badly on primary votes. In 1996, the Labor Party received more than 70 per cent of Green preferences in eight key marginal seats.

Unfortunately, the Labor Party trailed the Coalition by two to four times the percentage of vote achieved by the Greens, meaning that all Green preferences did was cut the margin of defeat.

With less than a week to go until polling day, the Labor Party looks to be in the same position. At best, the preference deals arranged will turn a devastating defeat into a bad defeat for Labor, although no doubt the Government will give the preferences deals a greater emphasis in an attempt to hang on to the underdog tag.


Third Howard Term Now Assured – Malcolm Farr – (Daily Telegraph, Nov 2)

TALIBAN ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef might lose the war but he has won the election for John Howard.

His declaration of a jihad against Australia was an announcement of a third term for the Prime Minister. It matched neatly Mr Howard’s successful campaign appeal for unity, continuity and strong leadership in a period of international instability. The timing was perfect for the Coalition.

A senior Labor figure calculates 16 per cent of voters are undecided. They are about to enter the final campaign week, during which they will make up their mind.

There is no contest between the visceral and emotional impact of a proclamation of war, and the considered and complex matter of boosting the quality of universities. The war wins.

Until yesterday Mr Howard and Mr Beazley were unhappy with the November 10 election date.

Mr Beazley wanted another two weeks to explain Knowledge Nation. Mr Howard wanted the vote held last weekend to exploit the country’s insecurity.

Mr Howard will have fewer grounds for complaint from today, thanks to ambassador Zaeef’s glib imposition of a jihad.


Election Hangs On 13 Seats – Dennis Shanahan – (The Australian, Nov 2)

Latest calculations by strategists at both Liberal and Labor headquarters suggest a net gain of three seats for Labor only three short of the six needed for government. Kim Beazley flew to Darwin yesterday, where Labor hopes to pick up a new seat in the Northern Territory, Solomon, in the gritty fight to win those six seats.

John Howard yesterday toured McEwen in Victoria which looks set to be lost to the ALP promoting the Liberals’ baby bonus and declaring the country on a heightened security alert.

Despite national polling showing a clear lead to the Coalition, strategists on both sides believe Labor is doing well in the crucial marginal seats that will decide the election, and the campaign remains tightly contested. The Coalition’s strong general support for turning away asylum-seekers headed for Australian waters has come from safe Coalition seats, where the One Nation vote is down, and in safe Labor seats.

But that support does not translate into the crucial task of winning seats. At this stage, 13 marginal seats have been identified that could change hands leaving Labor with a likely net gain of three and needing to pick up just four more seats from the others to govern in its own right.

Victoria remains Labor’s strongest state, and Ballarat, McEwen and La Trobe are seen by both sides as headed towards the ALP.

Queensland is another state promising Labor gains, and Petrie, Herbert and Hinkler are all possible captures. Adding the seat of Adelaide in South Australia, Labor and Liberal strategists agree the ALP is leading in eight of the key marginals.

But because the result is not uniform across states, the Coalition could win Stirling and Canning in Western Australia and counter the ALP’s Queensland gains by winning Dickson, the seat of ex-Democrats leader and Labor frontbencher Cheryl Kernot. There also could be Liberal gains in the Sydney seat of Parramatta, held by a Liberal but considered a Labor seat after redistribution, and the so-called government “litmus-test” seat of Bass in Tasmania.

Strategists said last night the 2001 election campaign was different to the 98 “GST election” because Coalition support was holding in safe seats but weakening in marginals especially in Victoria.


It’ll Be Down To The Wire – Dean Jaensch – (Financial Review, Nov 2)

Just over one week to go, and the pundits and polls are divided in their predictions. One or two have forecast a relative landslide, either way, but others predict a very close result.

My feeling is on the side of the latter, and that means this election will be a matter of preferences. Recent polls in this campaign emphasise this, and hence the expectation that preferences will be crucial, even in formerly comfortable and safe seats.

The polls show the Coalition primary vote around the low-40 per cent and Labor around 40 per cent. That suggests that many seats are going to depend on minor party and independent preferences.

In the 1998 election, 97 of the 148 seats were decided on preferences. This time, after the redistribution, 86 seats need a swing of less than 10 per cent to shift to the other side. Polls suggest these will all go to preferences.

Something very different this time: the Democrats have moved from their traditional “open preferences” position and have done a deal – “given” preferences to Labor in some key marginal seats, and “given” preferences to the Liberal Party in some more comfortable Liberal seats.

Given the number of marginals, this is a blow for the Prime Minister, John Howard. It means many Liberal candidates will have to get a lot closer to the magic 50 per cent share of primary votes and hope for Democrat “leakages”.

If One Nation picks up the 3 per cent the polls are suggesting, and retains its policy of preferencing against sitting members, up to 25 seats become even more unpredictable.

And if it is as close as some predict, the rest of the kaleidoscope of minor, micros and independents will also play a role. There are 10, 11 and 12 candidates in some electorates – a complexity of possible preferences (what one analyst calls “the sweepings”) which is beyond any sane analysis.

Even some comfortable and safe seats are unpredictable. In recent elections the safer Coalition seats have seen the effects of voter disaffection and strong support for independents. Safe Labor seats have a tradition of less volatility.

All of this is not good news for Labor, Liberal or National. But there seems to be more of a warning for the Coalition. Expect an “all stops out” campaign in the last week, including a heartfelt plea from both major players to ignore the minors and independents.

My feeling is that anything up to a quarter of the voters will ignore the plea, and that this will be an election which will depend on where they give their preferences.


Windbag Still The Underdog In Two-Horse Race – Barry CassidyABC (Nov 1)

So, with the election fast closing in, how’s it going?

Perhaps the best insight came with the publication of some internal Labor Party research in Brisbane’s The Courier Mail, by political scribe, Denis Atkins.

It showed that one week ago, the two-party preferred vote in the marginal seats of Petrie and Herbert had the Liberals ahead 58-42. That has now been reduced to 52.5 – 47.5. A five per cent swing in a week.

That suggests Labor is still behind its 1998 vote, but at least the momentum is with it. Whether it continues – and at what pace – is the question.

The degree of difficulty is borne out by the situation in two seats that sit side by side. Petrie is now within reach for Labor. But next door in another marginal – Longman – the gap is 60 to 40 in the Liberals favour. And that is because Longman had a 16 per cent One nation vote in 1998.

That vote – thanks to the asylum seekers issue – is now returning to the Liberals in spades. That trend distorts what federal polling is telling you, and underlines the patchy nature of the electorate’s mood.


Increased Government Majority – Bob Hogg
– (Financial Review, Nov 1)

The battle to hold the mantle of the underdog in this campaign is no contest. No matter how much the Prime Minister and his party argue otherwise, that’s one title the ALP can claim to the end, although it’s no great comfort in a contest where there is no consolation prize.

And it’s a mantle the Government doesn’t need to wear. They will win the election with an increased majority, one that will be closer to the Coalition’s 1996 victory than that of 1998.


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Malcolm Farnsworth
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