Nationals supporter Marge Graham (left) with Elma Stewart, who supports Labor
Nationals supporter Marge Graham (left) with Elma Stewart, who supports Labor

SWINGING VOTERS THE KEY TO PAGE

By Alex Easton alex.easton@northernstar.com.au LABOR is within reach of victory in Page for the first time in more than a decade, an exclusive poll by The Northern Star and Grafton's Daily Examiner has found.

But the Nationals could easily overwhelm Labor's slender lead in Page, with the seat's fate in the hands of a big group of undecided voters.

The poll, conducted between Tuesday, October 30, and Tuesday, November 6, shows Labor candidate Janelle Saffin leading Nationals candidate Chris Gulaptis 44 per cent to 41 per cent, with 15 per cent of voters polled still uncommitted.

Mr Gulaptis and Ms Saffin, whose parties have flooded the suddenly marginal seat with close to $100 million each in promises over the past week, both said they always expected a tight battle for Page.

"I never thought it was going to be easy," Mr Gulaptis said. "It's going to come down to the most credible candidate on the day."

Ms Saffin rejected suggestions that Labor's strong showing was closely linked to the retirement of Page MP Ian Causley, saying people in the seat 'feel forgotten by the Nationals and John Howard'.

"(Labor leader) Kevin Rudd and I both said this election will be close," she said. "I'm working really hard to get out and about and meet as many people as I can."

However, the real loser in this poll is the Greens, whose primary vote has collapsed from a respectable 10.8 per cent in 2004 to only four per cent in The Northern Star and Daily Examiner poll.

Page Greens candidate Theo Jongen said he was not surprised at the result internal Greens polling had the party's vote running at six per cent but said he would be disappointed if the same figure carried through to election night.

Mr Jongen blamed the drop in the Greens vote on a rush of former Greens voters to Labor and the focus of big media on Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd.

"The big message we have to get out is that it's a wasted vote if you give it to a major party first," he said.

Mr Jongen said the Greens needed to convince voters to give their first preferences to them and/or the Democrats.

The real danger for the Greens would be if the Page poll result carried through into the Senate.

Mr Jongen said the Greens had not yet begun its advertising campaign and said the party could still turn things around.

The poll of 300 people across the electorate is not intended to be scientifically accurate, but does provide a general snapshot of voters moods last week and into the early part of this week.



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