‘This election isn’t about me or Malcolm Turnbull’
MALCOLM Turnbull and Bill Shorten will face off in Tasmania today as both leaders make a last-ditch attempt to secure the knife-edge seat of Braddon ahead of this Saturday's by-election.
In a desperate bid to hang on to Braddon and Longman in Queensland Mr Shorten has spent 20 days on the campaign trail across the two seats - more than double that of the Prime Minister.
The Opposition leader has hit the road with an open cheque book in the two key battlegrounds as Labor has outspent the Government $270 million to $170 million in pledges.
The latest Labor internal polling in Braddon shows voters view former MP Justine Keay much more favourably than her Liberal rival Brett Whiteley. Ms Keay has a +20 rating while Mr Whitely was sitting on a negative -6.
Liberal polling, however, had the Mr Whiteley pulling ahead on a two-party preferred basis 51 per cent to 49 per cent.
Despite intense internal briefing and The Daily Telegraph polling this week which showed Labor would be ahead if Anthony Albanese was leader, Mr Shorten yesterday denied that the by-election was a referendum on his leadership.
"This election isn't ultimately about me or Malcolm Turnbull," Mr Shorten said.
Even if Labor wins in Braddon and Longman, Mr Shorten would be concerned at a close race given that historically in federal by-elections there is an average 4 per cent swing against the government of the day.
Mr Whiteley denied that the Government's cash splash in Braddon was pork-barrelling. "They're the pieces of infrastructure needed to continue to help businesses grow their business," he said.
Much of Labor's spend was focused on health commitments, which the party has made the focus of its campaign around the country.
"Labor stands firmly and squarely on the side of putting hospitals before banks, putting patients before multi-millionaires, putting Medicare ahead of the corporate tax cuts which Mr Turnbull so desperately wants to give the big end of town," Mr Shorten said.
A total of 400,000 Australians will cast their vote across the five Super Saturday by-elections - four of which were sparked by forced resignations amid the citizenship fiasco.
More than 50,000 people have already voted ahead of Saturday, including 22,000 in the Longman poll.
In addition to postal votes it could mean more than a quarter of votes in the tight battle for the Queensland seat cannot be counted on the night, delaying the overall result.
It remained unclear if One Nation leader Pauline Hanson would break from her family cruise off Ireland to be at the polling booths in Longman on Saturday in support of candidate Matthew Stephen, whose preferences would likely decide the winner.
There were revelations yesterday that Australian People's Party candidate for Braddon Bruno Strangio was unlikely to be eligible to sit in parliament after being declared bankrupt in 2008. In South Australia's seat of Mayo, Centre Alliance's Rebekha Sharkie was set to be returned to the crossbench. Her rival Liberal candidate Georgina Downer, daughter of former minister Alexander, admitted the six-week campaign had been "really, really tough".