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For Andrew Gee to lose, 15,000 Calare conservatives need to change their vote. Will they?

Andrew Gee (left) handing out flyers at the pre-polling booth on Endsleigh Avenue this week. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

May 21, 2022

By Peter Holmes

Voting queues were moving at a steady clip on Saturday morning as the people of Calare went to the polls.

At Orange Public School there were cakes, steak sandwiches, bacon and egg rolls, and democracy sausages for sale. The sausages were the fat sort, cut in half. Good call.

Around a dozen volunteers - including some not old enough to vote themselves - were at the school's Sale Street entrance handing out flyers for lower house candidates Sarah Elliott (ALP), Andrew Gee (Nationals), Kate Hook (independent), Adam Jannis (UAP), Kay Nankervis (Greens) and Stacey Whittaker (One Nation), plus Senate candidates including Jane Caro (Reason Party).

One betting agency has sitting member Andrew Gee as clear favourite at $1.08, with independent Kate Hook at $7 and Labor's Sarah Elliott at $26.

Another, meanwhile, is not even taking bets on Calare, suggesting the unusual subset of gamblers who wager on federal elections are not interested in this race.

There are a few points worth noting here.

First, the miserly return for Gee doesn't point to how close - or otherwise - the result might be. All it suggests is that Gee is very, very likely to hold Calare. Whether by 500 votes, or 20,000 doesn't matter.

Second, it's unlikely betting agencies have had people on the ground in Calare gauging the mood.

One agency has a market for the closest result in the House of Representatives (lower house).

The once blue ribbon Liberal seat of Kooyong in Melbourne, which treasurer Josh Frydenberg is desperately trying to cling onto, is framed as having the closest result tonight at $7.

At the other end of the market is a swag of seats at $251, including opposition leader Anthony Albanese's Sydney seat of Grayndler.

So where is Calare on this list? Of 150 seats nationally, it is tipped to be the 36th closest contest, paying $21.

Voters lined up at Orange Public School on Saturday morning. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

There are elements that make the 2022 contest a little unusual:

  1. The rise in popularity of independents in select seats across the country, including Kate Hook in Calare;

  2. The tens of millions of dollars tipped in by United Australia Party's Clive Palmer for wall to wall advertising.

  3. The extent to which PM Scott Morrison's lack of popularity will drag MP Gee's vote;

  4. The Labor Party's decision to give its candidate Sarah Elliott almost no chance at winning over voters

At the last federal election, in 2019, once preferences had been distributed 63 percent of voters had backed conservatives. That left 37 percent backing progressives.

There are six candidates in Calare. Three are conservative (Gee, Jannis and Whittaker) and three are progressive (Elliott, Hook and Nankervis).

The votes may slosh around via all six candidates but ultimately they will fall on the side of one conservative candidate (Gee) and one progressive candidate (likely Kate Hook).

The question is whether 14 percent of Calare voters are prepared to shift from a conservative candidate to a progressive one.

(L-R): Adam Jannis, Kate Hook, Sarah Elliott, Kay Nankervis and Andrew Gee. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

There is fear among some in the progressive column that Hook's presence will simply carve votes off Labor and the Greens, and that 50.1 percent of progressive votes just aren't to be had in these parts.

Best case scenario, they say, is the progressive side moving from 37 percent of the 2PP vote into the mid-40s. Not enough to win, but perhaps close enough to strike next time.

Hook needs two things to get close to a miraculous victory - a lot of new voters embracing her climate policy, and for a swathe of solid National Party voters to jump ship. It is highly unlikely that when the latter get to the booth enough will follow through.

Nationally, Labor is short-priced favourite to win the election.


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