So much for the battle. Now for the night in front of the TV. Once you take in the headline result, which mightn’t be all that long in coming, here are eight things to keep an eye on.
ONE. The fight for the Victorian seat of Indi. Well-respected independent candidate Cathy McGowan, locally born and bred, has run a formidable campaign and is a real threat to feisty Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella, who has lost popularity in her seat. Mirabella is an Abbott favourite; it would be an irony if he had a thumping win and she lost the chance to share it. Well informed local sources say Indi is too close to call.
TWO. What happens to treasurer Chris Bowen. He helped restore Kevin Rudd as leader, but has been struggling in his western Sydney seat of McMahon (7.8%). Labor MPs are sounding desperate out there: Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare (Blaxland 12.2%) in an eleventh hour appeal said: “Whatever happens tomorrow, you’re going to need people like me, people like Chris Bowen that will hold Tony Abbott to account if he becomes prime minister.” Both Bowen and Clare are possible future leadership material.
THREE. First indications of who will win the sixth Queensland Senate seat. It’s a contest that could see a victory for Clive Palmer’s PUP (his candidate is ex-rugby league player Glenn Lazarus) or Bob Katter’s KAP (he’s running singer James Blundell). Or it could end up with someone else emerging out of the byzantine preference flows.
If the Greens lose their sole balance of power in the Senate an Abbott government would be negotiating with assorted minnows. Hence the interest in the Queensland seat, though it could be quite a while before the result is finalised.
FOUR. Will Eden-Monaro retain its status (since 1972) as a “bellwether” seat, always held by the government? Local member Mike Kelly, Minister for Defence Materiel has been “pretend” defence minister since Rudd promised him that post if Labor was re-elected. (The actual Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, is not recontesting his seat of Perth. He finds himself in a rather odd position: he’s no longer an MP but continues as a minister until a new government is formed.)
Kelly knows he won’t now be getting the defence ministry; tomorrow will determine whether he holds his seat against the challenge from Peter Hendy, former Liberal staffer and one-time chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
FIVE. Whether Greens Adam Bandt (Melbourne) and independent Andrew Wilkie (Denison) can hold on. Unlike 2010, Bandt doesn’t have Liberal preferences, but has dug in; the anti-gambling Wilkie is favourite to hold his seat on current betting odds. He is being preferenced by the Liberals although a risk for him is that the Liberals poll better than Labor and sneak across the line on ALP preferences.
SIX. How high can he fly? South Australian senator Nick Xenophon is expected to get well over a quota (14.3%) in his own right, a remarkable achievement. Xenophon was elected in 2007 on a no pokies platform – but neither he nor Wilkie were able to secure reform on that front. (Scrapping the proposed ACT pre-commitment trial is one of Tony Abbott’s savings – Xenophon says he will fight it.) One of the best retail politicians around, Xenophon shared the balance of power in 2008-11 with Family First. Depending on the wider Senate result, he could be in a balance of power position again from June.
SEVEN. How Rudd fares in Griffith. The PM hasn’t been able to spend much time on his home turf where eye surgeon and former Australian Medical Association president Bill Glasson has mounted a formidable assault on his 8.5% margin.
(The Liberals have blitzed voters with last minute reading matter; the Glasson Gladiators have posted an entertaining “One Day More” video on YouTube.)
Labor says it’s confident of holding Griffith but what will Rudd do after the election? Surely he wouldn’t serve another three years in Parliament. Doesn’t some international job beckon? If not, it should – Labor needs to put the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era behind it. If Rudd did quit his seat, prompting a byelection, Glasson could have a good chance of winning it.
EIGHT. Dummy spits. A highlight of election nights, because you never know where they might come from. Cheryl Kernot did a great one in 1998, when she lashed out at the Labor party for not giving her a better seat. The special interest in this election is how the old Gillard forces, people like former deputy prime minister, Wayne Swan, who have been quiet as mice during the campaign, will react when it’s all over.