Labor is the favourite to win Saturday’s NSW election but it won’t be able to form a government without the Greens or independents, based on betting odds and expert predictions.
Chris Minns, the likely next premier of Australia’s most populated state, would only be the fourth state Labor leader to win from Opposition since World War II – ending 12 years in the political wilderness for the ALP.
Online gambling group Sportsbet predicts Labor will pick up the Sydney seats of East Hills, Parramatta, Penrith and Riverstone from the Liberal Party, plus the notionally Labor electorate of Heathcote.
That would leave Labor with 42 seats – five short of the magic 47 number needed for a majority in the 93-member lower house, as the Coalition was left with 41 seats.
This would make three Greens MPs the kingmakers, along with former gay marriage campaigner Alex Greenwich, regional independents Greg Piper and Joe McGirr, and former Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party members Helen Dalton, Phil Donato and Roy Butler.
Labor is the favourite to win Saturday’s NSW election but it won’t be able to form a government without the Greens or independents, based on betting odds and expert predictions
Mr Minns and Liberal Premier Dominic Perrottet have both vowed to avoid asking former Liberal communities minister Gareth Ward for support, as he fights sexual abuse charges but remains the favourite to retain Kiama on the south coast as an independent.
Labor goes into the election with 36 seats it already holds, but two more with redistributions including the new seat of Leppington and Heathcote, taking its existing tally to 38.
The Coalition starts with 44 seats, following an unfavourable redistribution, a by-election loss and the loss of two Liberal MPs to the crossbench because of scandal since the 2019 election.
Crossbench MPs who could decide next premier
GREENS: Jenny Leong (Newtown), Tamara Smith (Ballina) and Kobi Shetty* (Balmain)
FORMER SHOOTERS, FISHERS AND FARMERS: Helen Dalton (Murray), Philip Donato (Orange) and Roy Butler (Barwon)
INDEPENDENTS: Alex Greenwich (Sydney), Greg Piper (Lake Macquarie), Joe McGirr (Wagga Wagga)
* Preselected but not yet elected
But unlike the Coalition, Labor would be able to rely on the Greens plus just two independents to form a minority government in the Legislative Assembly, with the left-wing minor party unlikely to help a Liberal Party premier from the right faction remain in power.
Bruce Hawker, who was chief of staff to former Labor premier Bob Carr in 1995 when the ALP won from Opposition, said Mr Minns could easily work with independent MPs to have confidence and supply, and become the state’s 47th premier.
‘I think you’ve got to assume that a minority government is a real possibility and that was something we had to think about in 1995,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘At the moment, there are nine independents or minor parties in the lower house – you could even have more than that at the next election.
‘So I don’t think the challenge of whoever is going to be the premier on (Saturday) or the days after is going to be so difficult because there will be a broad spectrum of people who they can sit down and talk to.’
The NSW Greens want an immediate rent freeze, a 15 per cent pay rise for teachers and legalised cannabis, with the minor party favoured to retain the Sydney inner-west seats of Newtown and Balmain, along with the north coast electorate of Ballina covering Byron Bay.
Mr Hawker cautioned Mr Minns to be mindful of former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard’s political error more than a decade ago, when she promised no carbon tax in 2010 only to introduce legislation in 2011 after forming a minority government with the Greens and regional independents.
Chris Minns, the favourite to become the next premier of Australia’s most populated state, would only be the fourth state Labor leader to win from Opposition since World War II – ending 12 years in the political wilderness for the ALP
‘If you go ahead and make changes which you said you weren’t going to make, then that can cause problems – that’s what happened to Julia Gillard,’ he said.
The former political adviser, who now chairs Bruce Hawker Consulting, isn’t advising Labor on this campaign but was confident Mr Minns would be wary of breaking an election promise to appease crossbench MPs.
‘It’s impossible to say from here how an incoming government would deal with those issues except to say that in Chris Minns, you have someone who is very principled,’ Mr Hawker said.
Veteran election analyst Malcolm Mackerras, a visiting fellow with the Australian Catholic University, is expecting Labor to end up with 44 seats, as it regains Balmain from the Greens where sitting MP Jamie Parker is retiring, along with Holsworthy in south-west Sydney, where sitting member Melanie Gibbons lost local Liberal preselection.
The former Liberal Party researcher described Mr Minns as a ‘well regarded’ leader benefiting from the Coalition having been in power now for 12 years.
‘That’s the reason why I think Labor will win,’ Mr Mackerras told Daily Mail Australia.
If the betting odds are right, Dominic Perrottet would be the first Liberal premier to lose an election since John Fahey in 1995 (he is pictured with his wife Helen and three of their seven children)
The Coalition lost its majority after the 2019 election when the Liberal members for Kiama and Drummoyne moved to the crossbench, before Labor won the south coast seat of Bega in a by-election, sparked by former minister Andrew Constance resigning to unsuccessfully contest a federal seat.
Key seats that could decide NSW election
EAST HILLS: Liberal margin of 0.1 per cent in south-west Sydney electorate with Labor at $1.25 odds to win it, compared with $3.50 for the Coalition
PENRITH: Former Liberal deputy leader Stuart Ayres has a 0.6 per cent margin in far western Sydney with Labor at $1.30 odds to win it, compared with $3.25 for the Coalition
RIVERSTONE: Liberal margin of 6.2 per cent in north-west Sydney with Labor at $1.40 odds to win it, compared with $2.75 for the Coalition
PARRAMATTA: Retiring minister Geoff Lee leaves a Liberal margin of 6.5 per cent in western Sydney with Labor at $1.15 odds to win it, compared with $5.50 for the Coalition
HEATHCOTE: Sitting Liberal MP Lee Evans is running for re-election in outer southern Sydney seat where Labor now has a notional 1.7 per cent margin following a redistribution. Labor at $1.15 odds to win it compared with $5 for the Coalition
UPPER HUNTER: Nationals margin of just 0.5 per cent but Coalition still the favourite at $1.55 odds compared with $2.30 for Labor
GOULBURN: Liberal margin of 3.1 per cent but it’s still the favourite to retain this marginal seat in southern NSW, with odds of $1.65 compared with $2.15 for Labor
KIAMA: Former Liberal minister Gareth Ward is the favourite at $1.35 to be re-elected in this South Coast seat even though he is contesting sex abuse charges. His former Liberal Party is at $5 compared with Labor’s $5.50. The Liberal margin was 12 per cent in 2019.
The Liberal Party is expected to regain Drummoyne in Sydney’s inner west, where former minister turned independent John Sidoti isn’t running, following an adverse Independent Commission Against Corruption finding against him that he is appealing.
The betting markets regard Labor as the underdog in Upper Hunter, even though the Nationals hold by it be just 0.5 per cent, and Goulburn in the state’s south, where the Liberal Party margin is just 3.1 per cent.
The Liberal Party is also favoured to keep electorates in south-west Sydney, including Badgerys Creeks, previously known as Mulgoa, where the margin is 9.7 per cent.
But it is facing a threat from teal independent candidates on the lower north shore, northern beaches and the southern highlands, with only narrow odds spread between the Liberals and independents.
This is occurring in the seats of Willoughby, previously held by former premier Gladys Berejiklian, Wakehurst, where former health minister Brad Hazzard is retiring, and North Shore and Wollondilly.
Three of those four seats overlap with federal electorates that last year threw out sitting Liberal MPs in favour of a climate change-focused independent.
But Mr Mackerras said the teals would fail to unseat any Liberal MPs at the state election, arguing Mr Perrottet wasn’t as unpopular as former prime minister Scott Morrison was last year.
This would see a repeat of last year’s Victorian election result where the teals failed to defeat any Liberal candidates.
‘In Victoria, they bombed out disastrously, they’ll bomb out even more disastrously in New South Wales because of optional preferential voting – it does not help independents,’ he said.
Labor is an outside chance in Ryde, where retiring Liberal MP Victor Dominello had an 8.9 per cent margin in an electorate that overlaps with the federal Labor seat of Bennelong that switched sides in May last year.
Should Labor prevail on Saturday, or afterwards depending on negotiations, Mr Minns would be joining William McKell in 1941, Neville Wran in 1976 and Bob Carr in 1995 as the only New South Wales Labor leaders to have won from Opposition since World War II.
Mr Minns would also be the first state Labor leader since 1995 to have won from Opposition when Labor was in power federally.
This would make Mr Perrottet the first Liberal premier to lose an election since the late John Fahey, leaving him as the only living former Liberal premier to have been defeated.
A different premier has fronted every NSW election since 2007, with Mr Carr in 2003 the last state leader to contest consecutive elections.
Mr Minns would also be the first state Labor leader since 1995 to have won from Opposition when Labor was in power federally (he is pictured with Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese)