Dutton accuses Albanese of playing political games by lowering expectations in Aston byelection

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the Coalition is in a much stronger position to win Aston – a former Liberal stronghold – than Labor in the federal byelection on Saturday, but the opposition leader accused him of strategically setting a high benchmark.

Meeting volunteers and voters at Bayswater Primary School on Saturday morning, Albanese urged residents in the outer-eastern Melbourne electorate to turn up and vote as the ballot was an opportunity to send a message to the Liberal Party.

Liberal leader Peter Dutton visited Lysterfield Primary School for the Aston byelection on Saturday.

Chris Hopkins

“We’re giving it a crack today,” he said.

“I’m very hopeful of as good a result … we’re taking this campaign seriously. But history tells us that the Coalition, the Liberal Party, should be in a very strong position.”

In a history-making election, Labor’s Mary Doyle and the Liberal’s Roshena Campbell will battle it out to become the first woman to represent the electorate, which takes in the suburbs of Wantirna, Bayswater, Boronia, Ferntree Gully and Rowville, after former education minister Alan Tudge resigned from the seat and the Liberal Party in February.

But neither candidate was able to cast a vote for themselves on election day as neither Doyle nor Campbell were living in the electorate when the register closed. Doyle lives in the neighbouring electorate and Campbell, who lives in Brunswick, has recently rented a property in the seat.

Three Liberal MPs told there was some concern about Campbell’s inner-north residency, citing former Labor senator Kristina Keneally’s unsuccessful run in Fowler as an example of locals rejecting candidates parachuted into seats.

In Ferntree Gully, 49-year-old small business owner Brett said he was in the Young Liberals when he was a university student but didn’t vote for Campbell as she wasn’t a local.

“You’ve got to have skin in the game and the candidate has to be from the local area,” he said.

“People aren’t stupid – they want to know you’re representing them and [that] you’ll be a local voice.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited the Bayswater Primary School polling station on Saturday in the Aston byelection.

Annika Smethurst

“If you are going to support a community, if you’re going to represent a community, you’ve got to live in the community.”

But there was support for the Liberals in nearby Boronia, where several voters who arrived at a polling booth at Boronia Primary School late Saturday afternoon said Campbell had their vote.

Retired factory worker Jan Jonker, 77, and his wife, Eileen, 76, have voted for the Liberals for the past 50 years and did so again in the byelection.

But the couple said they were concerned the party was losing its power and relevance across the Australia.

“To be honest, the Libs desperately need a boost. Dutton’s trying, but they really need this,” Eileen said. “I really hope Roshena can be that boost.”

But by 3pm, the Boronia Primary School polling booth was a ghost town, except for a group of political volunteers mingling at the front entrance and a small rush of last-minute voters.

Banners for Campbell and Doyle had been pulled off the fence and were strewn on the grass in the nature strip outside the school.

Among those rushing to get their vote in was Boronia couple Sam and Matthew Winnett, who didn’t vote Labor or Liberal, citing both parties’ failure to adequately address climate change.

Sam’s vote went to the Greens for their polices on childcare and health, while Matthew voted for the Fusion Party.

“Fusion are addressing the urgency of climate issues better than any of the major parties, who are just using buzzwords or attacking each other rather than providing any details of how they are going to fix things,” he said.

The Liberal Party holds the seat by a margin of 2.8 per cent, down from 10.1 per cent before last May’s federal election, when the party suffered a backlash against former prime minister Scott Morrison and personal scandals involving Tudge.

But a defeat for the Liberal Party in the Aston byelection would buck a century-old trend – no national government has won a seat from an opposition at a federal byelection since 1920.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton joined volunteers at Lysterfield Primary School at midday and accused Albanese of playing political games by setting a high benchmark for the Liberal Party in the marginal seat.

“Today is not about a general election. It’s not about changing the government. It’s about electing a strong local representative,” Dutton said.

“The Labor Party has spent the last month throwing mud – they haven’t explained to the people of Aston why it is that they cut road funding as their first act in government.”

While Labor’s campaign has focussed on Dutton, the Liberals have attempted to harness unrest about cost-of-living pressures and road funding cuts made in Labor’s first budget.

At a polling booth in Lysterfield, Bayswater receptionist and mother-of-one Laine told the cost-of-living pressures were starting to hurt local families in the area.

“The cost of living is starting to scare us a little bit … the future is so unknown,” she said.

“We’ve got friends that are looking at now selling their homes because of interest rates, which is scary. That’s obviously not something you think’s going to happen when you buy your first home, that interest rates are going to go up so much.”

With early voter turnout down ahead of polling day, federal MPs have inundated polling booths in Aston.

Labor MPs Andrews Giles and Raff Ciccone were spotted at polling booths in Aston on Saturday morning, as well as Liberal frontbenchers Dan Tehan and Jane Hume and backbench MP Keith Wolahan.

Former Liberal MPs Tim Wilson and Josh Frydenberg, who lost their electorates to teal independents last year, also volunteered on polling booths.

The polling booths close at 6pm.

( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )

Leave a Comment

Share to...