'Diabolically bad' poll: Abbott facing 12 per cent swing to lose seat

| 08.04,19. 05:28 AM |




'Diabolically bad' poll: Abbott facing 12 per cent swing to lose seat



The Australian


Internal Liberal Party polling is "diabolically bad" for Tony Abbott in Warringah, according to senior Liberal sources, with the former prime minister facing a 12 per cent swing that could sweep him out of his blue-ribbon seat.


But with Prime Minister Scott Morrison poised to call an election any day, the Liberal Party is increasingly confident of a positive or neutral result in NSW by regaining Malcolm Turnbull's old seat of Wentworth and even winning Lindsay from Labor in the western suburbs.


Rocked by the disastrous state election loss last month, Labor hardheads now hope to hold steady on 24 federal seats in NSW. A Labor loss in Lindsay could be offset by victories in the South Coast seat of Gilmore or the Strathfield seat of Reid.


A very senior NSW Liberal source said Wentworth was "looking good" and Liberal candidate Dave Sharma was "tracking well". But the same source said polling was "diabolically bad" for Mr Abbott in Warringah against independent challenger Zali Steggall.


The former prime minister faces a swing of about 12 per cent, the size of his current margin.


Mr Abbott recruited newly minted NSW cabinet minister Gareth Ward to help doorknock in Allambie Heights on Saturday. Many Liberals believe Mr Abbott will cling on, and even those familiar with the "diabolical" polling argue he can still win.


He has a $1 million war chest from fundraising and his Advance Australia lobby group allies - although he also faces a well-resourced campaign against him by activist group GetUp!


In Wentworth, it is expected the Liberals will win back a chunk of their traditional voters who supported independent Kerryn Phelps in the byelection last October because they were angry about the ousting of Mr Turnbull.


But Dr Phelps - who now enjoys a higher profile as an elected MP - could also attract new supporters who have seen her in action and applaud her for the so-called medevac laws.


Holding just 74 seats in what will be a 151-seat Parliament, Mr Morrison goes into this election in the unenviable position of having to win seats to form a majority government.


Although polls point to a likely Labor victory, the Coalition remains hopeful of picking up a number of seats, thanks to a combination of local factors and favourable circumstances.


While success in this handful of electorates would not protect the government from the sizeable losses it expects in Victoria, it could take the shine off Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's victory or even deny him a parliamentary majority.


Liberal sources said they believed they were ahead in Lindsay, the Penrith-based seat held by Labor's Emma Husar held on a slim 1.1 per cent margin. The first-term MP is leaving politics against her will following a series of scandals.


Liberal candidate Melissa McIntosh is close to Mr Morrison's key ally Alex Hawke, and will benefit from significant head office support. She was on the hustings on Friday spruiking the "congestion busting" elements of last week's budget - a sensitive issue in Lindsay as voters confront choked roads in Sydney's west.


The government has its eye on other outer suburban seats: Macarthur in the south-west and Dobell on the Central Coast, though both are long shots given Labor's current margin.


In Gilmore, the Liberal Party hopes to win by striking a preference deal with its former candidate Grant Schultz, who was dumped by Mr Morrison in favour of the high-profile businessman and former Labor Party president Warren Mundine.


The key state of Queensland - where the government holds eight seats on a margin of 4 per cent or less - could be a fizzer, with both sides braced for a status quo result. A senior Liberal source said the state remained "messy".


The Townsville-based seat of Herbert is low-hanging fruit for the Coalition - it is the most marginal electorate in the country, held by Labor's Cathy O'Toole by just 37 votes.


Liberal National candidate Phillip Thompson is a former soldier who served in East Timor and Afghanistan, where he was wounded by an improvised explosive. Since then he has worked in mental wellbeing and suicide prevention.


Mr Thompson is running a campaign that focuses strongly on jobs, including strident support for the Adani coal mine and opening up the Galilee Basin. He says he is not worried about the party's poor national polling because Mr Morrison has been a boon locally.


"He has turned and - and is continuing to turn - the ship around," Mr Thompson said.


"He sat in the pub, had a beer and spoke with people. He answered every question - it didn't matter if some of them were wrong, which they were. He is a phenomenal leader, he is the only way this country will go in the right direction."


Victoria is a weak spot for the government, and Mr Morrison has recently spent significant time there focusing on infrastructure.


Labor is eyeing gains in Melbourne, with the seats of Corangamite, Dunckley, Chisholm, La Trobe and Casey up for grabs. But Labor operatives in other states fear the swing in Victoria will not be reflected elsewhere.


One bright for the Coalition in Victoria is the regional seat of Indi, which it hopes to pick up from retiring independent MP Cathy McGowan.


The seat was in Liberal hands for 35 years until Ms McGowan defeated Sophie Mirabella in 2013 after building up a significant community support base, and it will be difficult for her anointed successor Helen Haines to retain that loyal following.


As ABC election analyst Antony Green noted, "many former Liberal and National voters who gave personal support to Ms McGowan may gravitate back to their traditional political home" now that she is leaving.


SMH


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