If the opinion polls are accurate, then there could be two states of confusion around midnight Saturday.
There is a real chance that both state elections – South Australia and Tasmania – could produce hung parliaments; in other words with neither of the major parties having enough seats to govern in their own right.
That in itself would be a poor result for the Labor brand, given that they now govern in both states. It would continue a trend away from Labor at recent state elections.
In those circumstances, undoubtedly the analysis will be that both Labor’s grip on power around the country is in decline, and that the Liberal and National parties are in resurgence.
But that is only half true, otherwise the state parliaments would be headed for outright Liberal victories rather than the likely twilight zone of minority governments.
It seems as if the electorate in many places is ready to throw out Labor governments, but the conservative parties clearly haven’t yet done enough to demand government in their own right. They by and large have failed to provide the credible and trusted alternative required of new governments.
That is essentially what happened last year in Queensland.
After four straight wins, Labor under Anna Bligh was suddenly vulnerable. But the electorate never did warm to the alternative under Lawrence Springborg, and so the Liberal Nationals fell short.
Similarly in NSW, the Labor Government has been on the nose for years, universally judged as the worst in the country. Yet still under Kristina Keneally, they have just a sniff of mounting a remarkable comeback. If the opposition under Barry O’Farrell was more appealing, then victory would be assured, no matter what.
In Victoria, the Brumby Government leads comfortably in the polls. But it doesn’t deserve to. The new ticketing system for public transport is a hugely expensive farce, replacing a system that has irritated commuters for years. On top of that, the Planning Minister, Justin Madden, should be in real trouble over a leaked government strategy document, written by his former press secretary, Peta Duke.
It said that the Government planned to release a report on the Windsor Hotel redevelopment for comment, and then use the reaction to reject the proposal. The memo was sent by mistake to an ABC journalist.
The Minister has so far deflected the issue by insisting his staffer was freelancing. But it defies logic to argue that a staff member would either devise such a plan by herself, or mistakenly believe that such a plan was being hatched.
Either way, it is a further indictment on the ineffectiveness of yet another opposition at the state level.
Saturday night might mark the beginning of a real and genuine resurgence by the Liberals, but the figures will need to reflect more than just a dissatisfaction with the government of the day.
And how dissatisfied are voters at the federal level?
Much was made of the booing of Kevin Rudd at Brisbane’s Lang Park during a rugby league match a week ago. It struck some observers as significant because the Prime Minister is a Queenslander and up until that moment, there had been little to suggest that he wasn’t continuing to travel well in his home state.
It was difficult to make too much of it because the crowd was simply reacting to a shot of the PM that had suddenly appeared on the big screen.
No such ambiguity when Gough Whitlam strode out onto Lang Park with the late Senator, Ron McAuliffe, in 1975.
With the crowd giving him a genuine bollocking, Whitlam turned to McAuliffe and said: “Ron, if I knew you were this unpopular, I would never have come to the match.”
Bob Hawke was having similar problems in the 80s, routinely booed when he stepped on to the MCG to present the cup to the AFL premiers.
So his political adviser Geoff Walsh proposed to the AFL that they nominate a living legend each year to present the cup, and the prime minister would then simply accompany the legend to the stage. A keen Bulldog fan, he suggested Ted Whitten be the first.
It worked a treat. Nobody was prepared to boo the prime minister in the presence of such greatness.
Walsh has recently joined the Bulldogs’ board and with initiatives such as that, he could be the off field equivalent to Barry Hall.
Barrie Cassidy hosts Insiders and Offsiders on ABC1.