The final week of the New South Wales campaign has been marked by a turn in the media narrative, with a barrage of negative headlines for Michael Daley dispelling an earlier consensus that “momentum” rested with Labor. This morning’s reports mostly relate to stumbles over education policy during the Sky News leaders forum in Penrith last night, which ended with 50 of the assembled “undecided voters” (one of whom turns out to have been an Australian Conservatives election candidate) rating themselves more likely to vote Coalition, compared with 25 for Labor and 25 uncommitted.
However, the main headline spinner over the past few days has been the emergence of video of Daley addressing a forum in the Blue Mountains last September, in which he expressed concern about the impact of Asian immigration on the employment and housing markets. To identify where this is most likely to cause Labor trouble, the table below shows the top ten electorates for Chinese ancestry, as identified in the 2016 census. The only seat here that might be described as a Labor target is Oatley, although it has not much featured in discussion of seats that are likely to fall its way. However, Labor appears to have been thrown on the defensive in Kogarah, held by widely touted leadership prospect Chris Minns, and Strathfield, which Jodi McKay narrowly succeeded in gaining for Labor in 2015.
|Baulkham Hills||18.3%||Liberal 21.8%|
Minns took to Chinese social media forum WeChat on Tuesday to distance himself from Daley’s comments, as the Liberals turned the screws by spruiking internal polling with his primary vote at 32.4%, dangerously down on the 45.4% he recorded in 2015. Multiple reports have said the poll showed a 7% swing away from Labor, although there is some confusion as to whether this is from the base of the 2015 election result, in which case the seat would go down to the wire, or if it reflects the immediate effect of the story breaking. The polling is said to have been conducted on Tuesday evening from a sample of 400, with a margin of error of 5%. The Liberals have followed this today by telling the Daily Telegraph that further polling shows it with a primary vote lead of 42.6% to 34.3% in Strathfield.
Not all the party polling chatter over the past 24 hours has been bad for Labor: a Liberal source acknowledged to the Daily Telegraph yesterday that the party still did not expect to win Kogarah; Nine News reported last night that the furore had had no impact in “marginal seats Mr Daley needs to win”; and Seven News reported the Coalition had “grown more worried about the seat of Goulburn following a steady decline in polling numbers”. Andrew Clennell of The Australian today offers that the Liberals could be looking at four losses on top of five for the Nationals, sufficient to cost the government its majority. However, the ship is said to have been steadied in Heathcote, which the Liberals have targeted with intensive campaigning after being spooked by the results of polling conducted last week.
Before the turn in the media mood had fully unfolded, I took part in a podcast with Ben Raue of The Tally Room on Monday, together with social researcher Rebecca Huntley, which you can hear below.