The Palmer effect

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Clive Palmer's resurrection of the UAP today has tipped the election into Labor's favour, says Bob Ellis.


HEADLINES WE WON'T SEE this weekend include Palmer V Abbott: Coalition In Civil War; or Queensland In Chaos: Gillard Now Favoured To Win. For the scenario which Murdoch has been touting for two years, Abbott Inevitability, Gillard Illegitimacy, is being replaced by that worst of conjunctions, Opposition In Turmoil, Support Bleeding: Election In A Hundred Days.

Abbott has a dire week ahead of him. He must oppose the morning-after pill — or not. He must scare Newman out of Gonski — or not. He must spin three former Nationals who now join Palmer, or Katter, as expendable. He must curse O’Farrell for favouring gay marriage; or not. And he must come up with ninety billion dollars in cuts without seeming to wreck the economy. Nearly all these choices will be, to some Liberal voters, the wrong ones.

Palmer’s money will assure him Fairfax, as Turnbull’s money assured him Wentworth. It is likely he will win two other seats in the South, one of them probably Slipper’s. It is likely Katter will win two seats, apart from his own, in the North. It is likely Katter’s preferences will win Labor three or four seats in the Central Coast and Brisbane.

It is certain Labor will pick up one seat in Victoria and one in South Australia — Gonski, accepted or rejected, has assured them of that. It is likely they will lose, because of Gonski, and broadband, no more than one seat in Tasmania. It is likely things will stay as they as in WA, the Northern Territory and the ACT. It is likely, though not certain, that Labor will lose three seats in Western Sydney, and Thomson will keep Dobell as an Independent.

This puts Labor on seventy-two plus Thomson plus Oakeshott plus Windsor plus (probably) three Katters, with three Palmers dangling, and the Coalition on sixty-eight.

To get it to the seventy-six they need the Coalition will have to win both Katter and Palmer across, and they can’t, plus Thomson and Bandt, and they can’t.

Yet this is close to their best-case scenario. In these last hundred days Abbott will go on trial in Brisbane; Thomson and/or Slipper will sue him; Brough will go on trial in the Sunshine Coast; Napthine may lose government if one of his Nationals defects to Labor; and Hockey’s figures will be shown to be hopeless.

This will cost him, at minimum, two more seats, and the ball-game.

Luck has played some part in this, but much of it is due to what he would call the Character Issue, in this case the character of Newman. Ever the cruel sarmajor he has spifflicated the LNP, always a dodgy mix, in the first three years of its existence, with his politics of the parade ground. By ignoring simple reality (people hate losing their jobs unexpectedly) he has ended the adventure and smirched with his sadism Abbott, a nicer man.

It will be won or lost in Queensland, and, that said, believe me or not, it is now lost.

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