Rural seats, unsurprisingly, are predominately held by the Coalition.
But their marginals are many; nine (ignoring Calare, certain to stick
with independent Peter Andren) would fall to Labor with swings of three
percent - almost enough for victory.
Electorates today have about 90 to 95 thousand voters apiece. So, all up, less than ten thousand country people in nine seats
between the government and, as the PM put it, "electoral
Watch the regions.
Why rural seats
This exercise requires a broad sociological
brush. There, I've dipped it and ...
Close Australian federal elections are decided by two groups of voters:
(1) swingers in the outer suburbs and (2)
those in regional seats.
Although both are
socially conservative, their demographics differ greatly.
Outer suburbanites are "aspirational" four
wheel drivers, and with their private health rebates, appreciating houses and
often double incomes, they're doing not too badly. While they might, egged on by
politicians, think they're battling, median income statistics say otherwise.
Take Lindsay, around Penrith in
western Sydney. The media represents it as Battlersville,
but the 2001 census showed Lindsay as the 26th highest income earners
(out of 150) in the
country. Lindsay has strongly backed the Howard
government since 1996.
Compare Lindsay (unemployment
in census: 5.5 percent) with Fowler,
a stone's throw south-east
and ranked 143rd in income (unemployment: 15.1%). Fowler
really is battling and remains massively safe for Labor.
The ALP is obsessed with the outer suburbanites. They
think they can't win an election without them. But they have Buckley's of
recapturing them this side of a burst housing bubble and should cut their losses
and continue out, far away from the cities.
That is, take a leaf from Steve Bracks : peel away
rural voters who really are doing it tough, missing out on the fruits of
seats are rural ones with enough Labor voters - in the towns - to
make them marginal. Most didn't greatly participate in the big pro
government swing in 2001, and a couple even went to Labor a smidgen.
Look at the most marginal rural in the pendulum, Paterson.
Ten percent unemployment, 138th in income. Hinkler
(margin 2.3) - 132nd in income and 11.1 percent unemployment. In this they are
closer to Fowler than Lindsay
(though in other things, like ethnic makeup, not.)
Labor's acknowledgement of the bush can be seen in its Telstra
policy - no further sale.
I said the brush was broad. All "probably"s
and "perhap"es extracted.