• Hannah Phillips

Super Saturday By-Elections are too Close to Call

Of the five super Saturday by-elections three are problematic.

The Liberals are not running candidates in the two Western Australian seats so they should stay with Labor.

There is no polling in the South Australian seat of Mayo but research by Michelle Grattan indicates that it will stay with the Centre Alliance at least until the next general election.

However the seats of Longman in Queensland and Braddon in Tasmania are too close to call.

In Longman a ReachTEL poll, commissioned by ‘The Courier Mail’ and published, shows the LNP’s Trevor Ruthenberg with a narrow 51-49 lead over Labor’s Susan Lamb on a two-party-preferred basis which suggests that the dramas surrounding Ruthenberg’s claim to a military award to which he was not entitled have not proved fatal as far as the electorate is concerned.

His fulsome and early apology appears to have resonated with the community.

At the same time the Labor mantra that the government is cutting funding to schools and hospitals in order to give a $17 billion hand out to the big banks appears to be generating a certain level of scepticism in the electorate.

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, was in the electorate over the weekend to launch the final week of campaigning for Susan Lamb.

In a sign that the by-election will be decided by preferences, Mr Shorten mounted an attack on Pauline Hanson and her One Nation Party.

“She certainly doesn’t like us calling her out for being an imposter and pretending to be a friend of the battlers, when all she wants to do is get back on the plane to Canberra and vote with the big end of town,” Mr Shorten said.

“I think every day that goes on, more and more people are learning the truth about One Nation and their leader. What she says on ‘Sunrise’ she does not do in the Senate. What she says in Caboolture is not what she does in Canberra.”

The ReachTel poll shows that One Nation is polling at 14% in Longman.

The Prime Minister said the contests for Longman and Braddon looked as though they would be tight races.

“The by-elections on all the evidence appear to be very close but we have got to recognise that Labor should be streets ahead in these by-elections,” Mr Turnbull said.

“By-elections historically always swing away from the government, particularly if it’s an opposition seat. “The last time a government won a seat in a by-election from the opposition was about 100 years ago, there’s a reason for that.”

A new poll taken in Braddon shows Labor on 52 per cent of the two-party preferred vote with about two-thirds of voters expected to preference the opposition over the government.

In her Friday column in ‘The Conversation’, Michelle Grattan reported on the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis research which analysed the responses of four focus groups of swinging voters which shows that the Centre Alliance candidate, Rebekha Sharkie, is seen as part of the “heart and soul” of Mayo whereas Georgina Downer is seen as a privileged outsider.

This confirms soundings that Inside Canberra has made with Mayo voters which show that lifelong Liberal supporters have become strong supporters of Ms Sharkie because of her commitment to the electorate.

This poses a risk for Ms Sharkie: if Centre Alliance drifts too far to the left on national issues the electorate may turn on her.

She would do better to stick to local issues.

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