By Stephen Senise Posted Thu Aug 8, 2013
While betting odds show the Coalition remains on track for a long-expected election victory, they also reveal Labor is within striking distance, writes Stephen Senise.
It's been getting interesting down in the betting ring ever since emergency runner Kevin Rudd earned a late berth for the big race, replacing late-scratching Julia Gillard.
With competitors about to jump, the bookies will tell you Labor is no hope, going out at the fat price of $4, the Coalition odds-on at $1.24. However, a seat-by-seat look at where the satchel-swingers expect the seats to stand and fall would belie such an expected tearaway win by Tony Abbott.
Rudd looks to have injected confidence in those punters expecting a good Labor result north of the river Tweed - a case of horses for courses. Indeed, the bookies tell the tale of a remarkable turnaround in Labor fortunes since Rudd's maroon coloured silks were sighted in the mounting yard.
Set to lose all but one or two Queensland seats six weeks ago, Labor now seems set to pick up the electorates of Brisbane and Forde from the Coalition, with the former tracking at $1.75 favouritism and the latter at $1.20. A third, Longman, is also in play, with both parties even at $1.85.
With Peter Slipper's seat of Fisher, the Coalition can expect to mitigate some small part of their losses in the sunshine state by reclaiming the electorate from the column of the independents.
With no significant betting moves in either direction in South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory or the ACT, the eastern seaboard can rightly claim to be the fast lane for seats expected to change hands. While patchy, the going would seem less than favourable for the incumbent PM in each of Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales.
In the garden state, Labor seem unlikely to hold out Liberal Party challengers in Corangamite, La Trobe and Deakin, but are short odds to regain the seat of Melbourne from the Greens.
In Tasmania, Independent Andrew Wilkie is expected to secure his grasp on the formerly Labor seat of Denison. The bagmen predict little comfort for Rudd in other parts of the apple isle either. The fairly safe Labor seats of Braddon and Bass are under serious pressure, with the Liberal Party candidates pushing the incumbents' odds out the door.
In New South Wales, the tide of money has been steadily against Labor in the marginal western Sydney electorates of Lindsay and Greenway. Another, Robertson, is set for a photo finish according to the latest fluctuations, while candidates from either Liberal or National Party stables seem set to replace independents in Dobell, Lyne, and New England. It is an expected gain for Tony Abbott on home turf of at least five seats.
So Australia-wide, the race preview translates into a plausible scenario where Labor is down a net three seats, while the Coalition adds a net eight to its ledger. Expected wins by independents Katter and Wilkie aside, in a 150-seat parliament the mail from the betting ring suggests Labor will win 68 to the Coalition's 80 - a buffer between competitors that is barely modest. Six seats going the other way, in Labor's favour, would have them level pegging.
Emergency runner Rudd would seem to have made a contest of it, if only against the backdrop of what might have been had he not managed to bullock his way to the starting gates.
Former prime minister Paul Keating once said that the best place to be in the run home is "one out and one back". Kevin Rudd might not be so perfectly placed, but with a slogging run down the straight due to stretch out a while yet, he is certainly "close enough if good enough", as the old saying goes.
Punters will tell you something more besides: the winning post won't be looming into view a second too soon.
These betting odds were correct at the time of publication.
When freelance journalist Stephen Senise isn't chasing the ponies he is a keen amateur psephologist. View his full profile here.