Super Saturday: Longman a curse for Bill Shorten

Super Saturday adopted a nautical theme on Tuesday.

Pauline Hanson gave the impression she had given up on trying to influence the result in the Queensland seat of Longman by going on a cruise, somewhere off the coast of Ireland.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was in the Adelaide Hills hamlet of Mount Lofty, warning the voters of Mayo that independent Rebekha Sharkie would facilitate an influx of boat people should she hold the seat.

Mayo is, and has been for some weeks, an exercise in damage control for the Coalition. The seat for so long held by Liberal scion Alexander Downer will not be taken back on Saturday by his daughter, Georgina Downer.

The Liberals lost the seat in a landslide in 2016 to Sharkie, who was then aligned with the popular Nick Xenophon. She holds it on a two-party-preferred basis by 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

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Downer has backfired. The aim of Dutton and the other caravan of ministers who have visited the seat in recent days is to stop that blowing out and embarrassing Malcolm Turnbull.

There is a hope that the margin can be closed. Downer will have another crack at the general election but it will be even harder because a boundary redistribution will increase the Labor vote.

Meanwhile, Bill Shorten was in Braddon talking about Medicare. The expectation is Labor will hold that seat.

Even so, there was an extraordinary story running in Hobart’s The Mercury in which all Tasmanian Labor MPs issued a statement supporting Shorten for leader. Others in the party regarded the statement as hanging a lantern over the leader’s paranoia.

Which brings us to Longman, the seat no one is prepared to call. It has been established that should Labor lose Longman, it will be tricky for Shorten’s leadership because this is the type of seat Labor needs to win at the general election to take government.

Over the weekend, the goal posts began to shift for Shorten with people now saying Labor has to win the seat with a swing towards it, not just hold on for dear life.

An opposition has not lost a seat to a government in a byelection for 98 years. The average byelection swing against the government of the day is 5.5 per cent on primary votes and 3.8 per cent on two party-preferred.

People close to Shorten argue privately that Longman is a curse because at the 2016 election, Labor won it only by accident.

Labor has held the seat for only five of its 22 years and won it at the last election due to a conservative backlash against Liberal MP Wyatt Roy, who was a chief conspirator in the plot to roll Tony Abbott, and thanks to One Nation preferences.

Roy suffered a primary swing against him of almost 6 per cent and the resurgent One Nation picked up 9 per cent. Lamb enjoyed a primary swing towards her of almost 5 per cent.

The upshot was that on a two-party-preferred basis, Lamb fell over the line by 1390 votes, winning it by 50.8 per cent to 49.2 per cent. The two-party swing against Roy was 7.7 per cent.

This time, despite Hanson’s high seas high jinks, One Nation is polling around 14 per cent but is directing its preferences towards the Liberal National Party’s Trevor Ruthenberg.

Under these circumstances, a further swing towards Labor is unlikely and it will be doing well to hold on. It’s doubtful though whether Shorten will be cut any such slack.

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