There is now enough data available to dispel the notion that the election campaign would break the trend evident in polling throughout the year. The Labor camp is accordingly lifting its barrage from the front line and taking aim at the reserve trenches. The following apparently safe Liberal seats are said to be raising hopes in one camp and fears in the other:
• Ryan (10.4%): After a period where it was “believed Labor leader Kevin Rudd was having difficulty making headway in his own state”, Tony Wright of The Age says Liberal strategists are now “charting new disasters in the sunshine state almost every day”. Astonishingly for a seat held by a margin of 10.4 per cent, Wright goes so far as to say the western Brisbane seat of Ryan has been “virtually written off”. It appears there has been a violent reaction against the government’s attempt to buy votes in neighbouring Blair with a freeway bypass through the south of Ryan, with some in the affected area saying the move will halve the value of their homes. The endangered sitting member is Michael Johnson, who has earned his fair share of critics since muscling his way to preselection in 2001. Johnson recovered the seat at that year’s election following Labor’s by-election win nine months earlier, which proved to be Kim Beazley’s electoral high-water mark.
• Leichhardt (10.3%): With the retirement of local hero Warren Entsch, it was always known that this seat was much less secure than its margin made it appear. It is nonetheless surprising to learn from Tony Wright that this too is now considered a “lost cause” by the Liberals.
• Forde (13.0%): A similar to story to Leichhardt, except that retiring Liberal member Kay Elson was perhaps less of a vote-winner than Entsch. On Wednesday, Tony Wright wrote in The Age that Liberal polling was “whispered to have sent a bolt of fear through the party”. It has been said on more than one occasion that the Coalition will be damaged here and in Leichhardt by three-cornered contests, which is this case is pitting Liberal candidate Wendy Creighton against Hajnal Ban of the Nationals. However, the supposedly harmful effect of such contests on the Coalition is debatable.
• Macarthur (11.1%): Pat Farmer’s outer western Sydney seat has received not one but two campaign visits from Kevin Rudd, with Simon Benson of the Daily Telegraph reporting last week that Labor pollling pointed to a swing of “up to 14 per cent”.
• Dunkley (9.4%), Flinders (11.1%) and Aston (13.4%): Beyond the range of the usual Victorian suspects, these three were included by Simon Benson of the Daily Telegraph in a list of seats which “Labor insiders now claim are in play”. Peter Costello appeared in Dunkley on Sunday promising $150 million in funding for the Frankston Bypass.