Everything has changed in the Australian electoral landscape. Kevin Rudd has been returned to the Prime Minister-ship by the same Labor party that deposed him three years ago. In doing so Rudd becomes only the 4th Australian Prime Minister to become Prime Minster for the second time. The most recent returning Prime Minister before Rudd was Robert Menzies who, having also been forced out of his first Prime Minister-ship by his own party, returned in 1949 and held the post for a further 16 years.
Since the last election in 2010 Labor have trailed constantly and by large margins in the polls. And until a couple of weeks ago it seemed certain that Prime Minster Julia Gillard would lead Labor to a defeat ranging somewhere between heavy and catastrophic. However...
Polling now indicates the race is neck-and-neck. The model's prediction in the moments before Rudd became Prime Minister saw Labor retaining only 38 seats in the 150 seat House of Representatives. Now, two and a half weeks later, the model predicts a second consecutive hung parliament (no party has a majority in their own right).
Currently Australia is governed by the Labor party (centre-left, loves unions) with the support of a number of independents (3 conservative, 1 Laborish, 1 idiosyncratic but left-leaning) and the Greens (progressives). The opposition is known as the Coalition, with an uppercase C as their coalition is permanent, and is composed of the Liberals (centre-right, hates unions, loves free markets) and Nationals (conservative agrarian socialists, loves protectionism). The Labor party need the independent and Green support as they do not have enough seats to govern in their own right (and in fact have less seats (71) than the Coalition (72)).
Kevin Rudd has not announced when the election will be held, but the constitution dictates that it must be a Saturday some time between the 28th of August and the 30th of November.
A fair number of Labor members announced they would be retiring at the election in the days after Rudd was reappointed as Labor leader and I'll be discussing the effects of these retirements, and all other retirements, in this diary.
Voting in Australia is compulsory and uses a preferential ballot (this means that in certain seats the way parties direct their supporters to allocate their preferences will be crucial) in single-member seats for the House of Representatives.
Finally before we get to the numbers I'll just mention a few details in regards to the model I am using. The model takes into consideration the prior voting history of the electorate, incumbent strength (where applicable), and public polling. It doesn't account for potential asymmetric swings within states (not enough polling data available). I'm interested to see how much that ends up mattering.
Tables in this diary are colour coded. Shades of red reflect Labor held seats and predictions, shades of blue represent Liberal held seats and predictions (the occasionally different party names and abbreviations are courtesy of local party branches having inconsistent names), independents are grey, Greens are light green (shocker), and Nationals are dark green.
New South Wales
Labor holds a lot of seats in New South Wales by narrow margins (10 by less than 6%). Indeed it was Labor's ability to hang on in seat after seat in New South Wales that gave them the chance to form government in 2010. However now that it is 2013 even a minor swing against the government in NSW could lead to a massive loss of seats. Conversely whilst there is somewhat less upside for Labor should they receive a swing toward them there is a non-trivial chance Labor could end up winning seats in New South Wales.
Scandal soaked Laborish MP Craig Thomson (union money, hookers) is technically running for reelection as an independent, for pension related reasons, though he will be receiving, within the margin of error, zero votes. Nevertheless Labor hopes to retain Thomson's central coast seat of Dobell with a less awful candidate.
The retirement of literal rock star Peter Garrett in the wake of Labor's leadership change has had almost no effect on the model's rating of his seat of Kingsford Smith. The model considered Garrett a weak incumbent and if Labor nominate Senator Matt Thistlethwaite as their candidate, as is expected, their chances of holding Kingsford
Smith have in all likelihood increased (though the model considers Thistlewaite no stronger than a generic candidate).
Retirements of Sharon Grierson (Newcastle), Greg Combet (Charlton) and Robert McClelland (Barton) are not rated by the model as presenting a particular risk to Labor's hold on these seats at this stage.
The model actually sees a little danger for the Liberals in Hume with the retirement of popular MP Alby Schultz.
The model is very bullish on Labor's chances of finally taking Gilmore from the Liberal party now that ultra-popular incumbent Joanna Gash is retiring. However currently no other New South Welsh seats are considered particularly likely to change parties at this point.
Victoria voted rather strongly for Labor at the 2010 election, more strongly than at any other time since World War II, so Labor don't hope to pick up many more seats here. Indeed Victoria is a state where the Coalition will hope to make gains.
Melbourne is the sole house seat held by the Greens and predictions will depend on which party the Liberals choose to preference. I currently regard Melbourne as lean Greens but if the Liberals preference the Greens it will move to safe Greens. Conversely if the Liberals decide to preference Labor Melbourne will become a tossup.
Whilst Martin Ferguson's retirement in Batman offers no chance to the Liberals the Greens are talking about their prospects in this seat. The model isn't calibrated to deal with Labor-Greens contests but based on current polling I wouldn't expect the Greens to have any chance in Batman this year.
Nationals MP John Forrest is retiring in Mallee and the Liberals are running a candidate in the seat as well. It's unclear as to which of the Coalition partners will be winning Mallee, but it certainly won't be Labor.
Retirements of Simon Crean (Hotham), Harry Jenkins (Scullin), Nicola Roxon (Gellibrand), and deposed Prime Minister Julia Gillard (Lalor) shouldn't effect Labor's ability to hold their seats however the model considers Steve Gibbons' retirement in Bendigo to put that seat in a bit of danger.
Queensland is an interesting state at this election. Two new minor parties have been established on the right that seek to shake up the established order.
Katter's Australian Party currently holds the seat of Kennedy (which they will retain) and may be a threat throughout rural Queensland with their locally popular brand of agrarian socialism.
Palmer's United Party (or whatever it is called this week) has been established by mining billionaire Clive Palmer to... do something. I'm not inclined to think that it will matter much.
We really need to wait and see how Katter's Australian Party plans on allocating it's preferences to know what effect it might have in seats where it gets a significant vote but doesn't win. For now I've assumed it will preference the LNP (Coalition local name) in every seat and win nowhere except Kennedy, pending press releases or public polling (there is tell that this may be an assumption subject to change in future).
The seat of Fisher is listed as currently held by the LNP as Peter Slipper, its turncoat MP, was elected as a member of that party. Slipper is not recontesting his seat. The Liberals are running former Howard government minister Mal Brough who is under a bit of an ethics cloud for allegedly conspiring to ruin Peter Slipper's career by helping to bring false charges of sexual harassment against him.
Craig Emerson's sudden retirement in Rankin isn't considered by the model to be a problem for Labor given the statewide swing toward them but the retirement of Kirsten Livermore in Capricornia could be more of a concern given her very strong local popularity.
The model doesn't consider Alex Somlyay (Fairfax) to be a particularly strong representative and his retirement shouldn't make the situation worse for the Liberals in his seat.
Paul Neville's retirement pulls Hinkler just onto the edge of competitive.
South Australia was a very strong state for Labor at the 2010 election but is still polling as if it will swing against the government this year.
Western Australia voted strongly for the Coalition at the 2010 election and currently hold 12 of the states 15 seats. Both sides of politics hope to win seats in Western Australia this year.
at all (though they do govern the state of Western Australia in a coalition) both parties will be running candidates in both seats. The results should be close but as the model doesn't do Liberal/National match-ups both seats are labeled as safe for their incumbent parties to reflect that Labor will not be winning either.
Long-time Perth MP Stephen Smith is retiring and this will make the seat tough for Labor to hold. Fortunately for Labor they have popular former state minister Alannah MacTiernan running in Smith's stead.
Moderate and popular Liberals Judi Moylan (Pearce) and Mal Washer (Moore) are retiring and the Liberal party are running considerably more conservative candidates in their place. Probably this won't matter except to the margins but particularly Pearce could start to look very close if Labor can get a statewide swing in Western Australia.
With a population of only around half a million Tasmania should be entitled to only 3 seats based on population. However constitutional stipulations guarantee Tasmania five seats. All five seats voted heavily to the left in 2010 and Labor now hold four of the five seats with margins of at least 13.4%. The remaining seat of Denison is actually the most left leaning of all the Tasmanian seats and in 2010 elected independent (and former Green) Andrew Wilkie, with 21% of the primary vote.
However whilst polling in Tasmania looks grim for state Labor (which together with the Greens governs Tasmania at the state level) polling now suggests the federal swing against Labor may not be particularly bad.
The model can't really handle the unique situation in Denison but I have Wilkie listed as likely to win Denison once again based on the assumption that both the Greens and the Liberals will preference him once again and that he will beat the Greens on primary vote. Should either party announce that they will be preferencing Labor instead then Denison's rating will move to safe Labor.
The Australian Capital Territory consists of two completely safe Labor seats (Canberra and Fraser), whilst the Northern Territory has two very marginal seats.
The rest of the territory lies within the Labor held division of Lingiari. The model considers it to be a slight lean to Labor and that seems about right to me.
Of course there is still plenty of time for either major party to convince the electorate and secure a vote that will allow them to govern in their own right.