News Election 2016 The very long night of the long knives
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The very long night of the long knives

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After eight weeks the published opinion polls are where they have been all along. Line ball.

Australia’s 15.6 million voters will have the final say. We could well be waiting till after 8 o’clock (EST) to see what the good citizens of Western Australia have done before we get a clear idea of the outcome.

Malcolm Turnbull has no illusions – having failed to capitalise on his early stratospheric popularity he is now ringing the alarm bells: “It is close. It really is close. This is not the time to make a protest vote.”

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Saturday night will tell us if the near 30 per cent of voters who are indicating their preference for neither of the major parties have taken any notice.

Some are predicting a very long night. The prospect of a hung parliament is not out of the question. In 2010 then Prime Minister Julia Gillard appeared just before midnight to tell us she hadn’t won or lost.

AAP
Even ‘leave’ campaigner Nigel Farage was surprised by the Brexit referendum result. Photo: AAP

The fact that it has come to this is remarkable. The very long odds on a Labor victory and the short odds on a Coalition win are historically linked to the surge of bets put on the Liberals back in September when Malcolm Turnbull deposed Tony Abbott.

While some say the betting market never gets it wrong, they forget about the last Queensland state poll and the historic European Union leave result in Britain.

The market here has Turnbull’s coalition winning by holding 76 to 80 seats. 76 is a bare majority and if it gets that close anything could happen.

Labor hard heads say if a few things fall their way they could win more seats than the current government for a minority administration. The prospect of a minority Coalition government is a more likely outcome. Who would have thought it?

Independent Senator for SA Nick Xenophon on the QandA panel on May 30, 2016.
Nick Xenophon could play kingmaker after the 2016 election. Photo: ABC

The jokers in the pack are the independents, the Greens and the new kids on the block the Nick Xenophon Team. As in Queensland if they don’t win seats in their own right, their preferences will determine which major party wins.

A narrow win with the Coalition holding eighty seats or less will weaken Malcolm Turnbull’s authority and make it devilishly hard for him to manage the immediate tasks after the election: a joint sitting to pass the industrial relations bills and the marriage equality plebiscite.

If his lower house majority is fewer than nine seats there is a real prospect he will not have the numbers in the joint sitting. The indications are the Coalition will lose at least two senators.

The knives could be out for Turnbull if he just falls across the line.

Under Labor’s rules, all leadership positions are declared vacant after a loss. Shorten, who has run a campaign beyond many people’s expectations, may face a challenge depending on how close Labor gets.

Shorten says he’s not contemplating losing.

If he wins it will be a surprise, but not a shock.

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