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Australia PM seeking ‘Super Saturday’ by-election boon

Australia’s conservative government is hoping to increase its wafer-thin majority in parliament in “Super Saturday” by-elections that are being billed as a key test of leadership ahead of looming national polls.

Five seats are up for grabs after a string of forced resignations in the opposition Labor party after the High Court reaffirmed an obscure provision in the country’s 1901 constitution that bars dual citizens from serving in federal parliament.

Picking up just one seat will double Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s parliamentary majority to two.

Two of the five are considered Labor strongholds while another looks likely to remain with the independent Centre Alliance.

The other two are on a knife-edge, according to opinion polls, with all eyes on the outcomes of Labor-held Longman in Queensland state and Braddon in Tasmania state.

If this happens, it would be the first time a government has won a seat from the opposition at a by-election in almost a century.

With national elections due by May next year, it would be a shot in the arm for Turnbull, whose government continues to trail Labor in opinion polls, although the deficit has been narrowing.

“By-elections are a test of policies, they are a test of leaders, they are a test of candidates,” Turnbull said on the campaign trail in Braddon.

Pundits have speculated that a strong showing by the government could see national elections brought forward and held this year, but Turnbull insisted Friday it will be business-as-usual regardless of the outcome.

“The election will not be held this year, the general election, it’ll be held next year. First half of next year,” he said.

The stakes are high for Labor leader Bill Shorten, with the so-called Super Saturday by-elections widely seen as a test of his leadership credentials.

Shorten’s personal popularity has been waning with ambitious frontbencher Anthony Albanese tipped as a possible replacement if seats are lost.

Turnbull has framed the weekend polls as a referendum on the government’s “jobs and growth” agenda while Labor is campaigning on better health funding.

“What I would like voters to think about as they go to the polling booths on Saturday, is whether or not they want more of the same from Malcolm Turnbull’s government, or whether or not they want to see a better government and more improvement,” said Shorten.

“Whether or not they want to put hospitals before banks. Pensioners before multi-millionaires. Schools before tax cuts for the top end of town.”

AFP

 


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