Newspoll has retained its ability to ruin political leaders’ breakfasts this week. After Shorten’s comments about happy pills and the lack of scrutiny on the Prime Minister, this correspondent imagines the Opposition leader ‘flipping tables’ last Monday morning after confirming 51-49 Two Party Preferred in the morning’s papers.

On ABC’s 7:30 this week Shorten conveyed that Labor hadn’t won the election, nor had it lost it; a pretty good summation if ever there was one.

We all know the primary votes tell the big story and the methodology of giving UAP voters’ preferences 60% to the Coalition might be very generous but are the numbers really that surprising?

Labor has had three convincing wins that took them to power in modern times; Whitlam with 52.7% Two Party Preferred (1972), Hawke with 53.23% (1983) and Rudd with 52.7% (2007). These are the Labor lions of electoral success. Shorten is no Whitlam or Rudd and we could wonder if he would even be a Minister in a Hawke Government.

Shorten is probably still capable of threatening a confident win, say 52.2%, approximately 82 seats in the House, but that is presuming the wheels don’t come off the Labor campaign. Sunday night’s Newspoll does suggest this election might be tighter than 52% flat.

Down in Cowper we have internal polling suggesting the Nationals’ Pat Conaghan and independent Rob Oakeshott are 50/50, according to Barnaby Joyce speaking to his local newspaper. In light of this heightened contest we can be assured the Nationals are pleased with the Ballot Paper candidate order.

Conaghan finds himself second after the Christian Democrats’ Ruth Mead, whose preferences can be expected to flow almost in their entirety to the Nationals. The United Australia Party’s Alex Stuart secured the third position, and their preference deal with the LNP is positive for Conaghan.

While Labor are the natural threat to the Coalition nationwide, here in Cowper, with Oakeshott polling so well and with a ground game that will dwarf Labor’s, approximately 1000 volunteers and counting, Labor’s placement above Oakeshott is also a boon to Conaghan. The Greens in sixth place is just gravy.

Pre-poll started off in Cowper in Kempsey while expanding to Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour the following day. The Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce had a ‘Meet the Candidates’ breakfast on the Tuesday morning ensuring Conaghan, Labor’s Andrew Woodward, Stewart and Oakeshott all made a visit to Coffs pre-poll the same day.

Oakeshott interestingly had stated to the ABC’s Patricia Karvelas the day before that he opposed Labor’s Franking Dividend policy, which he restated at the breakfast forum.

No doubt this causes a little heartburn in Labor circles given they preferenced Oakeshott above the Greens and Oakeshott didn’t preference anyone.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack made another visit to Cowper on Wednesday for an announcement of the 10 million Coffs Harbour Airport Enterprise Park.

The week ends with things remaining fairly even between Conaghan and Oakeshott, however if this election really is decided on climate change, Conaghan may well be in trouble.