Glenn Milne reports in the Sunday News Limited papers that definitive Labor polling shows voter reaction to Mr Howard’s retirement plans has become a ‘blocker’ to the Coalition’s other campaign messages, devaluing the Government’s promises and policies in all key areas.
In the wake of Wednesday’s interest rate rise, much was said of marginal seats suffering high levels of mortgage stress. Nassim Khadem of The Age pointed to a concentration of such seats in the 5 per cent to 10 per cent range in Victoria, including La Trobe, McMillan, Corangamite, Deakin and McEwen. The Sydney Morning Herald noted that affected seats in and around Sydney included Lindsay and Parramatta, now all but written off for the Liberals, along with Dobell, Robertson and Macarthur.
Michelle Cazzulino of the Daily Telegraph wrote on Wednesday that confident Labor strategists are predicting an upset victory in Danna Vale’s electorate of Hughes, held with a margin of 8.5 per cent. Joe Hildebrand of the Daily Telegraph named it with Macarthur and Paterson among seats Labor was targeting in a strategy to spook the Government and draw precious resources away from a handful of must-win seats namely Lindsay, Dobell, Macquarie and Eden-Monaro.
Dennis Shanahan of The Australian is always good for a dose of cold water. On Wednesday he related suggestions from state front-bencher John Aquilina that NSW Labor Party polling in marginal seats is not as strong as published polling. Aquilina would only say that Labor would win the western suburbs seat of Lindsay and had a chance in Macarthur, Dobell and Eden-Monaro, but he doubted they could pick up more. Labor’s chances in Bennelong and Wentworth were not rated, and talk of Robertson was dismissed as a lot of hype.
The Coalition has nonetheless targeted Robertson with a promise to repair a section of the Old Pacific Highway at Somersby, which has been closed since a family of five was killed following a road collapse in June. The Newcastle Herald reports that no dollar figure has been attached to the promise, but it is expected to be around $10 million.
In Eden-Monaro, Labor has promised to spend $23 million from Defence Department funds upgrading the road from Queanbeyan to the Joint Operations Command headquarters, which the government stationed in Bungendore in an especially shameless act of marginal seat pork-barrelling. Andrew Fraser of the Canberra Times notes Labor has failed to provide funding for the more dangerous section of the road from Braidwood to Batemans Bay, the business end of which has been redistributed to the almost-safe Liberal seat of Gilmore.
Tim Colebatch of The Age detects good news for Labor in an enrolment boom in McEwen, La Trobe, Corangamite and McMillan. This is because the increases have been concentrated in the urban areas of these mixed electorates, which are the stronger for Labor. Even bigger increases have been recorded in Bennelong and Wentworth, though the impact here is harder to read. Jenna Price of the Canberra Times also notes a sharp increase in enrolment in the Australian Capital Territory, suggesting this increases the chances of a Greens Senate win at the expense of Liberal incumbent Gary Humphries.
Andrew Burrell of the Australian Financial Review reports that the Labor Party has launched a prime-time television advertising blitz aimed at saving the highly marginal Western Australian seat of Cowan, amid mounting fears that the retirement of popular MP Graham Edwards could deliver it to the Coalition. With further Labor advertising focusing on Stirling, Burrell discerns a sign that Labor is behind in those seats, and is conversely confident of gaining Hasluck and retaining Swan and Brand (the latter of which has been the subject of some slightly surprising recent chatter). The report also says ALP figures privately doubt the veracity of the recent Westpoll survey showing them trailing in Cowan, Stirling and Hasluck. Those three electorates plus Swan have been the targets of the Perth variations on Liberal marginal seat television ads.
Michael Bachelard of The Age reports that the Greens decided on Friday to direct preferences to Labor in every Victorian seat, which it has never done before. The decision was apparently made after Lindsay Tanner succeeded in embarrassing the Greens over split-ticket how-to-vote cards being distributed at a pre-poll booth in Menzies, held by bete-noir of the left Kevin Andrews.
Sam Strutt of the Courier-Mail reports of polling indicating a huge swing in the Sunshine Coast seat of Fisher, which Peter Slipper holds for the Liberals on a margin of 11.4 per cent.