Another look at Victorian odds

Victoria goes to the polls this Saturday, in an election that has failed to excite most observers. Some pundits have called it the dullest campaign they’ve seen, suggesting that their memory does not go back to 2006, and certainly not to 1976.

There has been no more statewide polling since the last the last time we looked at this, but there’s been some interesting movement in the betting odds for individual seats.

Three weeks ago, I pointed out that Sportsbet’s odds tipped only one seat to change hands – Brunswick, to move from Labor to Greens. Another three have now joined it: Richmond (also Labor to Greens), Prahran (Greens to Liberal) and Morwell (Nationals to independent). In addition, one Liberal-held seat, South Barwon, is line-ball between Liberal and Labor.

So if every seat was won by its favorite, the numbers would be Labor 44, Coalition 37 (30 Liberal and seven National), Greens four and independents two, with one seat too close to call.

That puts Labor at a serious risk of losing its current majority and having to rely on the Greens or independent(s) for matters of confidence. Nonetheless, the general trend of the odds has been very much in Labor’s favor.

That’s clear from looking at the marginal seats. At the beginning of October, the odds gave Labor only an implied probability of 46% of holding its most marginal seat, Frankston. That figure is now up to 54%. There are similar improvements right down its side of the pendulum: Carrum 43% to 59%, Bentleigh 47% to 65%, Mordialloc 49% to 60%, Cranbourne 58% to 62%, Eltham 56% to 63%.

The movement is just as striking in the Coalition-held marginals. South Barwon started with only a 31% chance of a Labor win; it’s now improved to be equal with the Liberals on 43%. Labor has also become more competitive in Bass (from 27% up to 46%), Ripon (34% to 41%), Burwood (26% to 34%) and Eildon (15% to 26%).

But the Coalition has other worries too; the punters are quite liking the chances of independents in a number of regional Coalition seats. Russell Northe (who is actually the sitting member, having been elected as a National) is given a 38% chance of winning Morwell; Ali Cupper is given a 27% chance in her second attempt at Mildura, and Tammy Atkins 22% in Ovens Valley.

Labor has one seat with a similar problem – Pascoe Vale, which nominally has a 16.8% margin, but where the odds give independent Oscar Yildiz an implied probability of 32%.

If the odds are to be believed, the tightest contests look like being those involving the Greens. They are favorites in four seats: Melbourne and Northcote (which they currently hold) and Brunswick and Richmond (held by Labor). But none of them look really solid; the probabilities range from 63% in Northcote down to just 46% in Richmond.

Prahran, also held by the Greens, is shaping again as a classic three-way contest. The odds give the Liberals a 35% chance of winning it, Labor 33% and the Greens 29% – a substantial movement since early October, when the Greens started out as 49% favorites.

There’s one other curious feature of the odds, and that’s the movement towards the Greens in a number of seats in which they have, to put it politely, no chance at all.

For example, take Narre Warren North, a classic outer-suburban Labor marginal. The Greens got 5.7% of the vote there last time; they might improve on that on Saturday, but obviously they’re not going to win it. Yet their odds have moved in from an already-stingy 25-1 to be currently 15-1.

And that’s been happening quite a bit. In Narre Warren South they’ve come in from 17-1 to 11-1; Cranbourne 20-1 to 9-1; Buninyong and Macedon both 20-1 to 11-1. It looks as if several Greens candidates have friends or relatives with more money than sense.

If you were not already sceptical about election betting, that would give you an additional reason to take these odds with a fairly large grain of salt. Nonetheless, on the whole they add to the general impression that Labor is well placed to win a second term.

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