Peter Dutton has been in the headlines this week, which can be a very touchy place to be during an election campaign. He’s been reprimanded for claiming that his rival for the seat of Dickson – Labor’s Ali France – was using her disability as an ‘excuse’ for not moving to the electorate. He’s since apologised but it’s given his opponents what can only be described as a free kick, and Labor are wasting no opportunity to bring it up.
Realistically though, Labor certainly isn’t lacking any fuel when it comes to Dutton, and it has been weaponising him for its own gain for a while now. One of its strategists went so far as to call Dutton a “vote-winning machine” for Labor.
Between orchestrating the schmozzle that was Lib-Spill back in August (and still thinking that was a brilliant idea), to claims of racism (think white South African farmers, Lebanese Muslim immigrants, and African gangs), and now suggesting that a disability is something people use as excuses, the attack ads are running hot.
Even among the swamp of campaigning we’re currently wading through, we know these ads have an impact. Dutton-based attack ads were used liberally in Victoria last year too, before Labor won the state election in a landslide – even though Dutton’s seat of Dickson is over 1000 kms away in sunny Queensland. Labor is giving the same strategy another crack too, plastering pictures of Dutton looking menacing all over the state.
New South Wales and Queensland are typically the states that federal elections are won and lost in, and after the wipeout that the Coalition suffered in the Victorian state election, you could be forgiven for not paying Victoria too much attention. This year however, Victoria could hold the key to coming away with the Prime Ministership for Labor, which is why they’re so damn interested in it.
A redistribution of federal electorate boundaries in 2018 has created a new political landscape that will be taken to the polls for the first time on May 18. These boundary changes have impacted some seats quite dramatically, affecting the margins in most seats, and even creating the brand new seat of Fraser. Adding Fraser to the mix means there are going to be up to eleven seats for Labor to potentially pick up in Victoria. The breakdown looks like this:
Five seats are looking very likely to change hands and go red. La Trobe is marginal, and will likely fall if Labor has a good result overall. Chisholm is also marginal – with Julia Banks leaving the seat, and her replacement Gladys Liu in the news for homophobic remarks, Labor are hoping to make the Liberals loss their gain. Fraser is in the Western suburbs of Melbourne, geographically a very Labor-voting area. Both Corangamite and Dunkley are currently held by Liberal members, but after the redistributions are now swinging to Labor with a margin of 0.3% and 1% respectively.
Then there are six seats that the Liberals hold by a margin of less than 8% – and Labor is eyeing them off like a hawk. These are Casey, Deakin, Aston, Flinders, Menzies and Monash. Casey in particular has fallen from a margin of 6.1% to 4.5% after the redistribution. These seats will be more of a fight than the five I mentioned earlier, but Labor is throwing everything it has at the challenge.
Even the safely held Liberal electorates of Higgins, Kooyong, and Goldstein overlap with State seats that saw a swing towards Labor. Although it’s not likely that Labor will actually win any of those particular seats, it could certainly put a dent in the big margins that the Liberals are currently enjoying.
Of course this is all predicting a best case scenario for the Labor Party, and it’s rare that a party ever gets its best case scenario. Who knows? Perhaps the onslaught of Peter Dutton related ads won’t be the tipping point Labor are hoping for, or maybe someone will dig up a video of a prominent party member making racist comments in a pub. We still have a bit under a month of campaigning to go – and stranger things have happened.