Six-seat loss could lead to minority government
THE eight-year dominance of the Liberal/Nationals is facing its biggest challenge at the upcoming state election in March, with the Coalition needing to lose only six seats to be forced into a minority government.
Minor parties and independents could also split the minority conservative vote. Labor is hoping federal exiles Mark Latham and David Leyonhjelm will help Fred Nile and the Shooters and Fishers chip away at the Liberals' voter base.
Pressure is now mounting on the Liberal/Nationals, who have been unable to win three elections in a row since Sir Robert Askin won four between 1965 and 1973.
The Coalition will be going into the state contest with its third premier since its 2011 victory over Labor.
Labor needs to win 13 seats to have a majority and requires an 8.7 per cent swing to achieve this goal.
A YouGov Galaxy poll in December found support for the Coalition had fallen in recent months, with NSW Labor leading the government 52 to 48 on a two-party-preferred basis.
The countdown to the March 23 election has begun, but both parties are expected to radically ramp up their campaigning after the Australia Day long weekend.
The most marginal electoral district in the state is the Liberals-held seat of East Hills, which Labor will be vigorously pursuing, along with the Liberals-held Riverstone and Ryde.
A senior Liberal source said they would be campaigning hard in these seats, and were also hopeful of taking Ballina from the Greens.
However a senior Labor source was confident the party would snare the seats of Coogee, Tweed and East Hills.
The Nationals look set to retain Barwon, but the seat of Lismore could be lost to the Greens or Labor due to MP Thomas George's retirement.
Most of the policies already announced by the Coalition and Labor are centred on transport, education and infrastructure.
Specific policy costings will be released by the Parliamentary Budget Office five days before the election, which will show the total impact on the Budget of both government and opposition policies.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has pledged $2 billion to knock down and rebuild Allianz Stadium at Moore Park and renovate ANZ Stadium at Homebush. Labor leader Michael Daley has refused to spend taxpayer money on these developments, saying he will instead use the cash to improve schools and hospitals.
Both parties agree to provide airconditioning for schools, and both are focused on improving the cost of living.
The Coalition will continue with the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link, introduce free rego for drivers who spend $25 per week on tolls, and ban mobile phones in public primary schools.
"Labor left behind debt and deficit - we've balanced the books, cleared the debt, and put our state back on track," Ms Berejiklian said.
Labor will provide free public transport for children, cashback for the M4 toll, and will stop the South West Metro line at Sydenham station, with the $900 million saved from this put towards updating the T1 Western line to Penrith.
"Government should be all about people and the civic good. If I'm elected Premier, I will make our people the priority of my government," Mr Daley said.