Latest dispatches from the front line of the July 28 by-elections:
• The Courier-Mail had a ReachTEL poll yesterday of 814 respondents from Longman, and as with earlier such polls, it showed Liberal National Party candidate Trevor Ruthenberg with his nose in front of Labor’s Susan Lamb, with a two-party lead of 51-49. However, this is actually the narrowest of ReachTEL’s three results so far: a poll for Sky News on May 30 had it at 52-48, and one for the Australia Institute on May 10 had it at 53-47. Furthermore, this is Labor’s best set of primary vote numbers so far: after exclusion o the 4.1% undecided, the results are LNP 37.0%, Labor 40.7%, One Nation 15.3% and Greens 3.4%. With preferences flowing as they did in 2016, these results would convert to a 54-46 lead to Labor – although One Nation were directing preferences to them on that occasion, which doesn’t seem likely this time out. The Sky News poll had 53% of all independent and minor party preferences going to the LNP, compared with 63% in this poll: on that basis, Labor would leave 51-49.
• Dennis Atkins of the Courier-Mail further relates that the paper has drilled 200 local residents face-to-face, presumably by collaring them in public places, which suggests the biggest issues to be Caboolture Hospital, particularly in relation to lack of parking, and congestion on Bruce Highway. Labor has promised a $10 million chemotherapy clinic for the hospital, and accused the government of cutting funding to it by $2.9 million over four years. The latter claim was described by Malcolm Turnbull in parliament a few weeks back as an “outrageous lie”. Jared Owens of The Australian reports One Nation is “campaigning on the notion that local hospitals „can’t cope‟ amid a surge of immigrants”.
• According to Graham Richardson in The Australian, “Labor insiders believe they have no hope of holding on to the Tasmanian seat of Braddon and are worried that Longman is running at 50/50 while the momentum has swung against them”. Similarly, Paul Bongiorno wrote in the Saturday Paper a fortnight ago that Labor has “no illusions” about retaining the two seats. Given Labor also thought they were on 38% of the primary vote in Darling Range, my piece for Crikey cast doubt on the proposition that Labor insiders are much better placed than the rest of us to pick byelection results in advance.