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NSW election a bleak choice between flat white and a latte

By Graham Young - posted Tuesday, 21 March 2023

The coming NSW election feels like a third act of Waiting for Godot, the absurdist drama, written in the ashes of World War II, featuring two tramps whose only vaguely coherent, but tantalisingly allusive, and repetitive, conversations fill in time, and not much more.

Labor leader Chris Minns and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet: similar age, conservative Catholics, political careerists, married with kids who were first elected in their mid- to late-20s. Kate Geraghty / NCA NewsWire

In the Tweedledum/Tweedledumber proscenium arch of Australian politics we have two politicians facing each other, with nothing of substance to separate them.


Similar age, conservative Catholics, political careerists, married with kids who were first elected in their mid- to late-20.

Slight class differences – one's father is a schoolteacher, the other an adviser with the World Bank; one worked as a firefighter and a union official, and the other was a lawyer. But these are like the differences between flat white and latte.

The NSW government is currently a minority government, holding 46 seats out of 93. A number of the independents are Liberal leaning, so they can achieve their legislative agenda, with some co-operation.

For Labor to win outright they need a swing of 6.3 per cent, which equates to a uniform two-party preferred (2PP) vote of 54.3 per cent statewide. However, swings are never uniform and Riverstone, a boundary seat in north-west Sydney, was polled by Freshwater Strategy and showed a lead to Labor of 54-46 2PP. That is a swing in that seat of 9.7 per cent.

But Labor doesn't need 6.3 per cent to form a minority government; 3.3 per cent would give them five seats and the opportunity to form a minority government supported by the Greens.

Calculating real 2PP results in New South Wales is complicated by its optional preferential system, which allows voters to just vote one. According to our polling (carried out between February 28, 2023, and March 6, 2023), 18 per cent of Greens will not distribute preferences, compared to 53 per cent of independents, 55 per cent of nationalists (right-leaning minor parties) and 33 per cent of others (left-leaning).


This gives Labor an edge, and also puts Mark Latham's One Nation, which is running in the lower house in a number of outer-urban and regional seats, in the role of disruptor (Pozzo, if you know Waiting for Godot).

One Nation might not win, but they could help the Liberals to lose.

So Labor is numerically in the box seat. They also have momentum with them.

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This article was first published by the Australian Financial Review.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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