‘Tough Fight’: By-election Campaign Enters Final Week

‘Tough Fight’: By-election Campaign Enters Final Week
A person puts their vote into a ballot box at a polling centre at St Kilda Primary school in Melbourne, Australia, on Oct. 14, 2023. A referendum for Australians to decide on an indigenous voice to parliament was held on Oct. 14, 2023 and compelled all Australians to vote by law. (Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Candidates in a federal by-election are making their final pitches to voters as the government gears up for its first major ballot-box litmus test.

The Dunkley electorate, located in Melbourne’s southeast will go to a by-election on March 2 after Labor MP Peta Murphy died in December following a battle with breast cancer.

Labor holds the seat with a 6.3 percent margin, but during by-elections, the swing in government-held seats is generally around 7 percent, putting the electorate within reach for the Liberal Party.

Standing alongside Labor candidate Jodie Belyea, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese acknowledged the difficulty of the battle.

“We know that it’s a tough fight,” he told Seven’s Sunrise from Frankston on Sunday.

“But we’ve got the best candidate for this seat.

“Jodie will be that and ... there’s lots of volunteers out here who want to make sure that Peta Murphy’s legacy is carried on in this fantastic community.”

But the by-election will not be a cake walk for the coalition either, opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson said.

“There’s been some disingenuous expectation,” he told Sky News.

“This is a tough by-election for the Liberal Party.”

Senator Paterson said the swing expected in Dunkley had been overstated.

When a former MP dies, voters are less likely to aim their ire at the government.

“I’ve been on the pre poll booths in Dunkley, there’s no anger towards the government for this by election, which is obviously understandable,” Senator Paterson said.

“That’s not what I’ve experienced in other by-elections where a member has resigned or retired early—where there is often anger at the very existence of the by election.

“I think we'll get a strong swing, but it will be an extraordinary thing to get a swing of more than 6.3 percent and win the seat.”

A community advocate, Ms. Belyea is going head-to-head with Liberal candidate and local mayor Nathan Conroy.

With pre-polling already underway, voters have begun making their opinions known but the prime minister remains confident that his government’s much-discussed changes to tax cuts have been well-received.

“Every single taxpayer here ... will receive a tax cut and that will make an enormous difference,” he said from the Dunkley electorate.