Election 2019: Can Scott Morrison's Liberals win in May?

Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

For the Coalition to win the federal election in its own right on May 18, it need to win seats from Labor and/or the independents and stave off loses in many marginal seats.

After redistributions and the addition of a net two seats, the Coalition holds 73 seats, Labor 72 and the independents six. The Coalition needs 76 seats to win majority government. How is it going to do this, when polling still shows it trailing Labor?

The seats the Coalition has the best chance of winning are held by independents, Kerryn Phelps in Wentworth, and Cathy McGowan - retiring at this election - in Indi. In last year's Wentworth byelection, more than 20 per cent of enrolled voters failed to vote. Assuming most of these were disgruntled Turnbull supporters, it could be expected that many will return to the fold. In Indi, McGowan is replaced by fellow independent Helen Haines. With the Nationals preferencing the Liberals, it would not surprise if the Liberals won back this seat, although internal troubles in the Nationals may favour Haines. The other crossbenchers - Andrew Wilkie, Adam Bandt, Bob Katter and Rebecka Sharkie - appear safe.

Labor's most marginal seats are Herbert (Queensland, 0.02 per cent), Cowan (WA, 0.7 per cent), Longman (Queensland, 0.8 per cent), Lindsay (NSW, 1.1 per cent), and Macnamara (Victoria, 1.2 per cent). Of these, Herbert and Cowan are most vulnerable. Braddon in Tasmania, is Labor's most marginal seat in the Apple Isle (1.7 per cent) and represents the Liberals' best chance of regaining a seat in that state.

If we examine the most marginal Liberal and National-held seats, things look grim for Morrison. There are eight LNP and Liberal-held seats in NSW and Queensland with margins less than 2 per cent, including Peter Dutton's seat of Dickson. The Coalition must retain all if it has a chance to win.

Queensland is the state which will make or break the government. Realistically, it will be almost impossible to hold all these seats, so I would expect Labor to win more than it loses, including Dutton's seat.

The fact the Liberals are barely putting up a fight in a seat like Bendigo (3.9 per cent), having quarantined their candidate from media appearances, reveals they are focusing their attention and campaign funds on sandbagging vulnerable metro seats.

Can the Coalition win the election? Yes, if it wins most of the marginals in play. No, as I suspect most voters have already made up their minds. This far out from the election, Labor is clear favourite and, barring a catastrophic final few weeks, will win.

Ian Tulloch, Honorary Associate (Politics), La Trobe University.