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A tight contest -

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A tight contest

Broadcast: 04/08/2010

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

Kerry O'Brien talks to ABC Election Analyst Antony Green about the latest polling for the 2010


KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: It's now abundantly clear that Queensland and New South Wales hold the
key to this election, but both this week's polling - that's public polling and private polling -
for the major parties suggest that if the contest is really tight, Victoria and South Australia
could maybe just save Labor's bacon.

According to Newspoll in today's Australian, the Coalition is well in front in Queensland and
Western Australia, marginally in front in New South Wales and well behind in Victoria and South

At this midpoint in the campaign, I've asked the ABC's veteran election analyst Antony Green to
join us now to take a closer look at what's going on.

Antony, you've applied those polling figures to electorates state by state, so let's look at how
the seat count would go. Firstly Queensland.

ANTONY GREEN, ABC ELECTION ANALYST: Well in Queensland the Labor Party on the Newspoll figures
would lose eight seats. The swing is large enough to take eight of the 10 Labor marginal seats
under five per cent to the Coalition side of the pendulum - that's assuming that it's a uniform
swing. And if you apply the same - the figures for NSW as well, you also get eight seats falling to
the Coalition in NSW, which is 16 of the 17 seats that the Coalition needs to form government.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Now before we move on to some of the other states, you do have to take into account,
don't you, that in some individual seats you could quite get a different result. I think
Eden-Monaro, one of the most - traditionally a very marginal seat, held marginally by Labor, which
won it at the last election. Now there are lots of indicators suggesting that Labor would actually
hold that seat, whereas this swing would take it away from them.

ANTONY GREEN: That's right. And there was a poll last Monday in the Canberra Times indicating a 10
per cent swing to Labor in Eden-Monaro. What we might be seeing in some of these seats like
Eden-Monaro is what they call a sophomore surge - that the Liberal Party ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: A nice American term.

ANTONY GREEN: An American term. They hung on to that seat for years, the Coalition - all through
the Howard years, hung on, hung on, hung on, with Gary Nairn as a really good local member, lots of
direct mail. direct marketing to people of policies of the Government. Well, they don't have that
advantage any more. Is there sorta gonna be a sort of a drift towards Labor now. Labor's got the
sitting member; it can do that sorta tactic and it's much harder for the Coalition to get that seat
back. There might be a few of those seats around the country where that sorta thing bites.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So you're talking about the syndrome of the surge for the first termer. So, what
happens in Eden-Monaro could happen in some other seats?


KERRY O'BRIEN: So, what about Victoria?

ANTONY GREEN: Well, what the Newspoll revealed that while there is this big swing in NSW and
Queensland, then in Victoria there was a substantial increase in the Labor vote, and Labor could
potentially pick up three seats in Victoria, and a very similar story in South Australia, again a
big surge in the Labor vote; Labor could pick up two seats. Again, that's applying a uniform swing,
and you've got always the caveats with those things. But the Newspoll showed the most remarkable
difference in swings between states. We haven't seen anything like that for two decades since the
'87 and '90 election when we saw quite disparate swings going on between different states.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well in fact Victoria was extraordinary - 59 per cent Labor, 41 per cent Liberal.

ANTONY GREEN: Yeah, the Nielsen poll was published this morning also which broke down by state. It
roughly came to exactly the same figure - it had 74 for Labor instead of 76, applying the state

KERRY O'BRIEN: So, sorry, when you say 74 versus - you mean the overall figure. In other words,
that if you look at the cost in seats of these polls, with Newspoll you put Labor with 76 seats out
of 150


KERRY O'BRIEN: If you apply Nielsen, you put Labor with only 74 seats

ANTONY GREEN: She's one seat short of being able to have a comfortable government.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So 76 is one seat over, which would allow Labor to govern by the slenderest of
majorities; Nielsen puts them just slightly under?

ANTONY GREEN: Yeah. And the difference is created by Nielsen hasn't detected quite the disparity in
swing. The swing was slightly smaller in Queensland and the swing wasn't nearly as pronounced to
Labor in Victoria and South Australia. So it'll be a matter of which of those polls is right. Often
the polls accumulate the state polls, usually over several months. They've done it over a shorter
timeframe this time so the sample size is smaller. There's also the other question that what this
has accumulated in the last three polls - and of course it's third poll, the most recent, which has
been the worst for Labor. So, is there a trend or is there not a trend? Now, I think what we've
seen in the first two weeks of the campaign is polls which have bounced around a bit. There is a
bit of volatility out there.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well, a lot of volatility if you consider that in one of those polls, on the basis
of week of campaigning, Labor lost six per cent of its primary vote in one block. Now that is an
extraordinary shift in the context of an election campaign.

ANTONY GREEN: It is, and if there is volatility in the electorate that volatility can go the other
way, depending on how the next week's campaigning going. I think people are looking at it there is
still two and a half weeks to go, there are still things that are gonna happen, the Government's
struggling, has struggled through the first two weeks. It sounds to me like it's getting a bit more
onto some sorta message today and yesterday. But we've still got time to go. And I think too many
people are very eager to call the election. We are seeing ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well there are lots of things that could happen to either side over the next couple
of weeks.

ANTONY GREEN: Well, what's happening - the media has changed in recent years. It's harder and
harder - there's a lot more immediate news out there. The one thing newspapers can do each day
which nobody else has is an opinion poll and we're seeing more newspapers leading with opinion
polls, which then feed through the news for the day.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So just to complete our picture around the country: Western Australia?

ANTONY GREEN: Very little change. The 46 per cent was the Nielsen figure; slightly better in the

KERRY O'BRIEN: This is for Labor?

ANTONY GREEN: For Labor, yes, 46 per cent, which is basically is very little change in Western

KERRY O'BRIEN: The possibility of one seat being lost by Labor on - possibility?

ANTONY GREEN: And one of those is a notional safe Labor seat. I was talking about the advantage of
Labor having sitting members; one of the disadvantages they have: of their 12 most marginal seats,
there's only four with sitting Labor MPs. Five of Labor's 12 marginal seats are actually only
notional Labor; they have sitting Liberal MPs. Three others have no sitting MP, and there's only
four of Labor's 12 most marginal seats with a sitting Labor MP to defend them.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Now the conventional wisdom of this campaign seems to be that Labor will hold its
seats in Tasmania. And what about the Territory?

ANTONY GREEN: Well, the one seat up there is Solomon, based on Darwin.

KERRY O'BRIEN: It was a safe Labor seat, but ... Solomon ...

ANTONY GREEN: Lingiari will be safely held. Solomon is always a marginal seat and the voters of
Darwin are usually very good at picking who 's gonna win the election and they'll elect a member
for that party.

KERRY O'BRIEN: When you look at the difference between Victoria and Queensland, you make the point
- I can't think of a time when you've seen a discrepancy like that in the history of polling. But

ANTONY GREEN: Well, we did; we did see something in 1990, when the Cane Government was deeply
unpopular in Victoria and Labor lost 10 seats, but the recently-deposed National Party government
in Queensland was equally unpopular there and so Labor gained seats. It's - I think what's really
happening is you're seeing a real difference between the way issues bite in different states and
particularly in Sydney and in Brisbane. Clearly boat people's a much bigger issue in Sydney and
Brisbane than it seems to be in Melbourne.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And then you've got the extra factor in Queensland of a man named Rudd ...


KERRY O'BRIEN: ... and also possibly the unpopularity of the Queensland Premier.

ANTONY GREEN: And the unpopularity of the NSW State Government - the inability of the state
governments to deliver infrastructure is clearly being picked up as a federal issue, even though
the Federal Government can't actually bill the infrastructure; it's still seen as something they
have to respond to in Sydney.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Antony, thanks for that. We'll be talking to you again through the course of the
campaign, but thanks.