If the campaign pattern to date is anything to go by, the present opinion poll drought should be broken tonight by Morgan, albeit in the form of a fairly small sample phone poll. For something meatier we will presumably have to wait until Nielsen tomorrow evening. Talk from the Labor camp is of momentum shifting their way, but confidence is placed no higher than that. Lyndal Curtis on PM says Labor insiders are beginning to feel a little bit more optimistic, while Matthew Franklin of The Australian says his sources agree the result would be close and Queensland remained the key.
Sandbagging has emerged as the buzzword of the late campaign, with Lenore Taylor of the Sydney Morning Herald finding Labor has targeted ultra-marginal seats with $1.56 billion in grants drawn from funding set aside in the federal budget. Yesterday brought the campaign’s biggest item of targeted largesse so far:
Bennelong (Labor 1.4%) and Parramatta (Labor 9.5%): Julia Gillard yesterday promised a $2.1 billion contribution to the 14 kilometre rail link between Parramatta and Epping, which currently constitutes a missing link between Sydney’s west and north. However, federal funding will not appear until 2014-15, lest it prevent the budget getting back in surplus in 2012-13. The present state government, which promised the project a decade a go but put it on the back-burner when it announced its transport strategy in February, promises to provide the remaining $520 million upfront, allowing work to start next year with completion scheduled for 2017. However, Barry O’Farrell says a state Coalition government would prefer to prioritise a north-west link from Epping to Rouse Hill and a south-west line from Glenfield to Leppington, which Labor has chosen to overlook. It is perhaps notable that they cover the less electorally interesting terrain of Mitchell and Werriwa. Beyond the more obvious beneficiaries of Bennelong and Parramatta, Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald notes a Parramatta-Epping link would further alleviate pressure on the city-bound western line which services commuters in other key marginal seats further west such as Lindsay, Greenway and Macquarie.
Flynn (Labor 2.3%): Flynn has been the target of frenzied efforts from Labor in recent days, the town of Emerald alone (population 19,000) being targeted with a GP super clinic announcement from Nicola Roxon on Tuesday (Anna Caldwell of the Courier-Mail notes a trend of fortuitous placement for most of the state’s 13 such facilities) and a promise of $6 million to improve local sports facilities from Wayne Swan yesterday. The electorate’s dominant city, Gladstone, was targeted by Swan with $95 million for upgrading Calliope Crossroads on top of $55 million previously promised by both parties, and $50 million for the final stages of the Gladstone Port Access Road.
Dawson (Labor 2.4%): Wayne Swan was in Mackay yesterday promising $120 million to an upgrade of the Peak Downs Highway. The electorate has also been in the news due to an embarrassing student publication which Liberal National Party candidate George Christensen edited in 1998, which has come to light courtesy of (who else?) VexNews. The official newsletter of the Conservative Students’ Alliance featured the observation that women are stupid (apropos their enthusiasm for Will Smith) and a charming joke about gays and Aids. The publication has generated much discussion about the extent to which one’s adolescent silliness, as Tony Abbott would have it, should be visited upon the adult. Labor at least seems confident the electorate won’t be as kind to Christensen as Abbott, with The 7:30 Report offering that Labor was convinced George Christensen can’t win.