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So, I never got around to finish my 4 part series on the NSW Election, but I thought it would be worthwhile jotting down a few things to watch out for tomorrow night.

Tomorrow’s election coverage will be incredibly dull. Some people recommend a drinking game – one shot for every time a Labor MP concedes his seat is lost and two shots for every Minister who loses. But that’s a recipe for a very painful hangover. That’s in the order of 40 shots, I think. But there are important things still left to fight over in this election.

Will the Labor Left survive?

I don’t have the best handle on who’s who within the NSW Labor Party but my understanding is that many key players within the Labor Left will be annihilated tomorrow – foremost being Deputy Premier Carmel Tebbutt and second being rising star Verity Firth. Both stand to be eliminated by the Greens. But others, such as David Borger, also stand in the firing line in the lower House, opposed by Liberal candidates. Ironically, Nathan Rees, whose seat is well within the 15% uniform swing may be the only Labor Left icon left in the lower house. Penny Sharpe, a Left MLC also stands for re-election (though in the very winnable 3rd spot). I regard Firth, Tebbutt and Sharpe to be some of the few shining lights within the Labor Party and I think the Labor Left is one of the sole things keeping the NSW Labor Party falling into utter corruption. If they are eliminated, the rebuilding process within NSW Labor could take even longer.

Who will control the Upper House?

The SMH has written a last minute op-ed recommending that people not only vote for the Liberals in the Legislative Assembly but also with the explicit purpose of giving them a majority in the Legislative Chamber as well. The argue that the process of renewal in the State, making tough choices that shouldn’t be subject to populist criticism.

Naturally, I disagree. Our liberal philosophy of government holds that we should give power to no one person or party, and that divided power makes for a stable society. O’Farrell’s strong mandate for change should carry the day against any but the most stringent and worthwhile criticisms. That’s why I would encourage anyone undecided (I doubt any undecideds read my blog) to vote either for Labor or the Greens.

In terms of what to look for, I would wonder whether the Liberals may govern outright or with the support of minor parties.And who might those minor parties be? With 42 seats in the LC, a majority is 22 seats. On current polling, it seems unlikely the Liberals will get more than 19 seats. It seems unlikely that either the CDP, Family First or Shooters alone will get the remaining 3 seats. Each of these parties only has 1 MLC not up for election, and therefore must win two seats to gain 3 seats. On the other hand, the Greens have 2 MLCs not up for election and can easily gain 3 seats. Projections show it will control 4 seats.

Therefore for each Bill before the LC, the Liberals have a choice of partnering either with two (or more) right-wing parties, or with the Greens. This is the same choice that has been faced by the Labor Party and they have opted to partner with the Shooters and the CDP as often as not. But that is because the danger for the Labor Party is appearing to veer to the left and losing valuable swinging voters. The Liberals fear the appearance of veering to the right, so perhaps it is more attractive to ally with the Greens occasionally.

Furthermore, whilst Fred Nile and the Shooters might (occasionally) get along, he strongly dislikes Gordon Moyes the Family First candidate (and former CDP candidate, until he was expelled for criticising Nile and the CDP as being Nile’s pet party). So forging a coalition from these parties in individual circumstances may be possible, but remaining difficult. It all depends on which minor parties win which seats. If each holds one seat, then the Greens have the upper hand (for all 3 must agree together). If Nile holds 2 seats, then he may choose to partner with either FF or the Shooters on an issue by issue basis. Possible, but slow and difficult for the Liberal Government.

Needless to say, having a populist right-wing LC is not a recipe for good policy. Unfortunately, these right-wing minor parties embrace the worst of conservative ideology whilst rejecting the belief in individualism and liberty that defines the best of conservatism. Perhaps voting for the Greens might be best.

The Greens

This is an interesting election for the Greens. They stand a very strong chance of holding 2 lower house seats and gaining as many as 6 upper house seats. But what I will find important is their primary vote. Will it be the record high 17% vote recorded in the Federal election? Or will it be the dismal and quite ordinary 11% recorded in the Victorian state election? Either will have implications for the Greens’ long term ability to grow. If the latter, perhaps the Federal election was a fluke. Perhaps the electorate has seen a hostile Greens Parliament and been frightened away. If the former, then the Greens have demonstrated an ability to capture an increasing share of centre of the road voters. That could spell real trouble for the Labor Party in the long run.

Independents

An unremarked aspect of this election is the number of independents contesting the election. I would categorise them into two groups. Firstly, are the rural independents challenging National Party seats (or seats formerly Nationally held). They are akin to the Federal rural independents and their survival will prove an imperfect proxy for the electorates’ attitudes towards those federal independents. Here is a good SMH summary of the issues and why they are such imperfect proxies.

Another set of independents are those challenging traditional Labor seats. Newcastle, Charlestown, Maitland, Wallsend are the ones most often named as they have less than 10% margins (measured against the Liberal Party’s result in 2007). But there is also a strong challenger in Wollongong, a seat with a 25% margin (against the Liberals) who is far less reported. What ties these seats together is their regional status, in industrial cities whose swathes of working class people were a surefire vote for Labor. Whether these independents win or lose has less long term consequences for Labor but it may be a symptom of the permanent decline of Country Labor. (Of course, the last election, Country Labor was one of the few things that saved Morris Iemma from defeat, so the jury is not yet in).

Politicians’ Reactions

Finally, the election coverage is always great to watch as politicians struggle with conceding or not conceding their own seats. Personally, I think trying to create a theme from these reactions is ephemeral at best and not dissimilar to examining the entrails of goats.

Edit:

My attention has been drawn to the fact that the Australian Sex Party is actually running a candidate in the upper house, namely Huw Campbell. However, he’s technically an ungrouped independent and hell will freeze before enough people vote beneath to line and enough of those people preference Campbell for him to be of any consequences whatsoever.

On the other hand, the Australian Sex Party fills a valuable niche in NSW politics. They are quite distinct from the NSW Greens, who I’ve continually emphasised have far deeper roots in the fringe, crazy left (as opposed to the human rights left or the libertarian left) than the Victorian Greens or Federal Greens. And they’ve polled well accordingly, with stronger support in their first election than the Greens had in their very first election. They’ve made a strong media impact, because of their provocative nature, but that belies their reasonable progressive views (as opposed to the Greens whose progressive social views are saddled with highly impractical solutions to just about any problem).

I wonder why they’re not running proper candidates this election. Were they unable to get enough members to run as a Grouped Party? (Not to mention being registered as a proper political party). Even the Australian Democrats managed that.

On the other hand, the Sex Party is just a mouthpiece for the sex industry and the prostitutes union (literally), so perhaps they felt it didn’t give them an effective return on investment.

Lower House:

Not that it matters, but I’ve revised my predictions for the Lower House as well. It seems that the ALP will not get a last minute bump in the polls due to a sympathy vote, and it seems like the Liberals have been able to get feet on the ground in formerly super safe Labor seats (in which Labor has the political infrastructure to wield a frighteningly effective campaign).

My new seat tally is that the ALP will hold 16 seats (cf my previous estimate of 20 seats), down from the 51 seats they hold currently. The 4 seats lost were in the 10-15% margin range. However, because the Greens’ vote hasn’t increased in recent polling, I am still holding out for a Labor victory in Balmain.

My upper house prediction is Liberal (19), Christian Democrats (2), Shooters Party (2), Family First (1) will hold the balance of power but that the shifting array of beliefs between these minor parties will ensure the Greens (4) will hold considerable sway over Parliament as well.

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