• Hannah Phillips

The Coalition is on Track to Win Wentworth

Dave Sharma, the Coalition’s candidate for the Wentworth by-election, has started to make gains in the polls.

A ReachTEL poll, conducted for independent Licia Heath’s campaign on September 27 from a sample of 727, gave the Liberals’ Dave Sharma 40.6% of the primary vote, Labor’s Tim Murray 19.5%, independent Kerryn Phelps 16.9%, Heath 9.4%, the Greens 6.2%, all others 1.8%. 5.6% of those polled were undecided.

The significance of this poll lies in the fact that Kerryn Phelps, the candidate who was deemed to be the biggest threat to the Liberals’ maintaining its traditional hold on the seat, has dropped to third in the race.

This means that her preferences, which she says are directed to the Liberals, will put Dave Sharma over the line. Bill Bowe, the author of the poll bludger blog, is sceptical of the prediction that Labor candidate Tim Murray will run second because it will require him to get 75% of the independent preferences.

If Bowe is right and Kerryn Phelps runs second, she’s likely to win the seat off the back of Murray’s preferences.

On the other hand Bowe says that, if undecided voters are excluded, Sharma’s primary vote rises to 43%, 20.7% for Murray, and Phelps 17.9%.

This indicates that, as things stand, the by-election will be decided by the distribution of the preferences of the independent Licia Heath and the Greens candidate Dominic Kanak.

The Liberals are not leaving anything to chance: they’re pushing to get Dave Sharma over the line on primary votes alone.

To this end they have started to attack Kerryn Phelps with the aim of getting disaffected Liberal voters back into the fold. They’ve circulated a leaflet that accuses Dr Phelps of being a Labor stooge.

“A vote for Phelps is a vote for … Labor?” says the leaflet, which carries an official authorisation from the NSW Liberal Party’s director, Chris Stone, in six-point text, as required by law.

It includes tear-outs from ‘The Australian’ which reported that she had hired a former Labor staffer to assist her campaign.

Dr Phelps has fought back, accusing the Liberals of not wanting to take her on over issues such as such as climate change, asylum seekers and the freeze on Medicare rebates.

However this is not where the Liberals want to pitch the battle.

They are emphasising the fact that, if the Coalition loses Wentworth, then it loses its majority in the House of Representatives.

This raises the spectre of Labor being able to prosecute its agenda for taxation changes aimed at high wealth individuals. Wentworth is the highest wealth electorate in the nation.

Meanwhile, Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) disendorsed its candidate Robert Callanan after media revealed he was a former director of a company associated with a high-class brothel.

Callanan, who lives in Bellevue Hill, was described as the owner of an accountancy business, treasurer of the Sydney United soccer club and a former member of the army reserve.

His CV did not disclose his directorship of Sydney Best Catering Pty Ltd, which has the same ABN number as ‘The Penthouse – The Ultimate Gentlemen’s Club’ in Sydney’s Pitt Street.

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