Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Member for Dawson George Christensen. Picture: Glenn Hunt/The Australian
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Member for Dawson George Christensen. Picture: Glenn Hunt/The Australian

Queensland seats could make or break the election

DON'T look now folks.

This election is excruciatingly close and there are at least three seats which could throw the whole shooting match one way or another, with a twist.

The seats that are close enough to make your eyes water - in terms of a major party match-up - are Braddon in Tasmania, and two Queensland seats, Capricornia and Flynn.

Labor is poised to win easily with the betting markets dropping solidly on Bill Shorten's team in 83 seats.

The Coalition looks set to lose 10 or more seats, taking the 72 holds they have now (after redistributions) down to about 61.

However, let's look at those three squeaky close seats and a few others which might upset this apple cart.

Braddon occupies the northwest corner of Tasmania and was held narrowly by Labor at one of those pesky Section 44 super Saturday by-elections in late July 2017. After examining betting market data crunched by the fascinating and informative website Mark the Ballot, it's clear Labor looked likely to retain the seat up until 13 days ago when things narrowed to a "nothing in it" dead heat.

Labor and Liberal have fought for supremacy ever since, before a small bite at the long odds for one of the minors dragged the odds down for the major party candidates.

Liberal Gavin Pearce has kept the very tip of his nose in front since the beginning of last week, except for a shudder towards incumbent Justine Keay at the end of the week.

It looks the same in Capricornia and Flynn where incumbent Nationals MPs Michelle Landry and Ken O'Dowd are locked in fights to the death with Labor challengers Russell Robertson and Zac Beers, respectively.

Landry had a steady but narrow lead on Robertson up until three days ago when Labor jumped in front before a likely big bet shifted it back to the LNP and "nothing in it".

In Flynn, Beers was in front until a big betting shift three days ago.

Beers' lead in the betting narrowed slightly three weeks ago and settled into a reasonable winning gap after that before late money landed heavily for the LNP and today there is "nothing in it".

The Townsville based seat of Herbert now has a strong probability of being taken back by the LNP after Labor won it by just 37 votes in 2016.

The Liberals have been in front for all but one day in the last 20.

A seat which could still provide an upset result is Dawson, where local MP George Christensen has been battling bad news coverage due to his lengthy holidays in the Philippines.

Two weeks ago the feeling was the locals felt more strongly about jobs and coal mining than they did about prolonged absences of their MP from his day job.

The betting market tells another story. Two weeks ago the weight of money wagered pointed to a defeat for Christensen but things then moved towards the incumbent.

Since then there's been almost nothing in it but Christensen has kept his nose in front.

In Queensland's southeast, the LNP looks almost certain to lose three seats and might be threatened in one more.

Forde has never been in the hunt for the Coalition and Bert van Manen looks like he will finish up as an MP after nine years.

Petrie and Dickson, two seats to the north and northeast of the metropolitan area which are very similar, are also shaping as Labor wins. The betting markets give veteran minister Peter Dutton less chance of holding his seat than Luke Howarth next door.

Elsewhere, in Warringah along Sydney's northern beaches seems set to see an end to the political career of former prime minister Tony Abbott who has felt the shocks of a seesawing betting battle with independent Zali Steggall.

A word of caution - betting markets can get it wrong, as seen in the British general election in 2015.

Dennis Atkins is The Courier-Mail's national affairs editor.

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