In 2011, voters brought about the political evisceration of the ALP after 16 long years in government. We witnessed some of the biggest swings against the Labor in NSW political history.
In this massive tidal shift a number of independent members were swept away as well. As we enter the final hours before the Saturday election two issues remain central: The sale of public electricity assets and land access for coal seam gas. While these two issues may not seem such a big deal to city dwellers, these electoral hurdles can and will drive the outcome of the election in the bush.
While the betting markets are already paying out on a Coalition win, that isn't quite the end of the story. The outcome on Saturday could be a potential win-win for both Baird and Foley. As I see it, the ALP should pick up at least 10 seats. However, if Foley can carve out more than 14 extra seats, I believe he can then survive the factional wolves within his own party and be within striking distance of winning the 2019 election. If Foley's ducks line up properly on Saturday, he could potentially become the future NSW Labor premier.
Success of the major parties on Saturday will not be without casualties. A victory for the Coalition will come at a loss for the Nationals. The Nationals are continually struggling to define their identity within the Coalition. Perceived as being weak and impotent by many in their electorates due to this partnership, the Nationals may lose traditionally held seats to popular, local independents and/or the Labor Party. Peter Draper in Tamworth is very likely to win that seat despite tremendous effort by the Nationals to retain it. The Nationals are also facing discontent among the voters because of the Coalition's support of privatisation of public assets and coal seam gas in Ballina, Tweed and Lismore. Barwon and Monaro are other seats to watch.
Another strong, local independent to keep an eye on is Jackie Kelly in Penrith. As a former federal member of Parliament and minister in the Howard government, she is very popular and well known within her electorate. Her grass roots campaign is providing a voice for those in the western suburbs opposed to the contentious Badgerys Creek airport proposal. With the lacklustre performance of the Liberal Stuart Ayres over the past four years, she may prove to be a real problem for the Minister of Police.
In the last election, the tsunami swing culminated in a swell of support for the Greens at the cost of many ALP seats. This coming Saturday, the Greens will join the Nationals as the other big loser. In Balmain, Jamie Parker will most likely lose his seat back to Labor. Although the Greens are putting in a strong effort in the new seat of Newtown, my gut instinct is Labor will also come away with a win there. However, if the Greens can get ahead of Labor in Lismore, they may snatch this seat from the Nationals. This would be unprecedented. Ultimately, I expect many of the voters who abandoned the ALP in 2011 to return to the fold resulting in the Greens earning only four of the six seats they currently hold.
While the focus is on who will win this upcoming election, one cannot ignore the dynamics unfolding in the upper house. Without the support of the upper house, the pressure will be elevated for Baird to create a plan B as he will be unable to fund many of his key policies without the revenue generated from the privatisation of public assets. For Baird to control the upper house, he must win nine legislative council seats. While the Shooters and Fishers Party's Robert Borsak has publicly opposed the privatisation scheme, Baird may still have the numbers he needs to push through his agenda with the support of Christian Democrats Fred Nile and Paul Green. Nile will not play ball if it involves reduced conditions for workers or a sale to the Chinese
Trouble arises if Baird acquires only eight seats as the remaining seat will likely go to another minor party. Many may ask who this party might be. Look no further than the highly coveted first column of the ballot paper and the No Land Tax Party. As was seen in the federal election of 2013, this ballot paper position can garner greater than a 1 per cent increase in expected votes. This, combined with the No Land Tax Party running in all 93 lower house seats, will provide a real chance of winning this last spot.
Depending on the outcome of Saturday's election, the NSW Coalition government may find themselves faced with a mirror image of the Federal Parliament and so-called "feral" minor parties. Let's just hope for all our sakes this government is taking notes on what not to do from Tony Abbott's federal Coalition in regards to effective negotiation styles.
Glenn Druery is an election strategist who works with minor parties.