NSW election: Labor hopeful of win as leader Chris Minns eyes ‘mood for change’ across state
The New South Wales Labor party believes it will end its 12-year stint in the electoral wilderness on Saturday, pinning its hopes on the 43-year-old former firefighter and political staffer Chris Minns to return it to government after a gruelling three-month campaign.
But while the polls have consistently pointed to a Labor victory, the party still faces a daunting electoral map: it must pick up nine seats to govern in its own right, meaning a uniform swing of about 6.5% is required.
Both leaders spent the final day of the campaign on Friday campaigning in key seats in Sydney’s west, but it was the premier, Dominic Perrottet, who covered the most ground.
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Facing the prospect of seeing the Coalition swept from power in its last stronghold on mainland Australia, Perrottet’s final day on the hustings was spent fending off a series of challengers from both sides of Sydney’s political and economic divide, embarking on a sandbagging tour stretching from the north shore to Penrith.
Sources on both sides of the political aisle said Perrottet had succeeded in running a disciplined campaign – earning plaudits for his stance on gambling reforms – but the baggage of 12 years in government, a series of scandals and a relentless campaign on privatisation by Labor, meant the Coalition was favoured to lose on Saturday.
It came as the final Newspoll of the election on Saturday pointed to a Labor majority. The poll of 1205 voters, conducted for the Australian, showed a two-party-preferred result of 54.5% to 45.5% to Labor, a 6.5% swing since the 2019 election and enough to secure 10 seats for the opposition.
Minns, who has at times struggled for airtime as opposition leader, said he thought voters were “increasingly” recognising him and that there was “a real mood” for change. However, he predicted the election would “come down to the wire”.
“I do believe it’s going to be tight,” he said.
“My view is that it’s now in the hands of the people in NSW. And really, it’s redundant whatever I say, it’s up to the people of the state.”
As the Coalition’s hopes of retaining government slipped, Perrottet had spent Friday morning shoring up support in the Liberal-heartland seats of Willoughby and North Shore, where independents hope to repeat the teal wave seen at the federal election.
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The afternoon was a whirlwind tour of Sydney’s west and south, with visits to the key marginal electorates of Penrith and East Hills, as well as battleground seats of Oatley, Ryde and Holsworthy.
His only visit to a Labor-held seat during the final week of the campaign was a stop-off in the ultra-marginal seat of Kogarah, held by Minns.
But in his final pre-election press conference, Perrottet denied he was protecting the furniture, saying he was “traveling right the state around because it’s an important choice at this election”.
“I say to the people of NSW today … back our plan. Protect you and your family,” he said.
Perrottet was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Helen, baby Celeste and former deputy party leader and MP Stuart Ayres at the Penrith Valley Regional Sports Centre to reannounce 10 new indoor basketball courts at the centre.
Funded by the Coalition $5bn Westinvest program, the government sought to use the final day of the campaign to raise the prospect that dozens of community projects funded by the sale of the WestConnex motorway could be reallocated if Labor is elected.
“Chris Minns wants to rip it out of the heart of every single kid and family who comes to this centre every single week,” Ayres said.
“You could not get a better example of why the Labor party doesn’t care about western Sydney.”
But that attack was blunted after the Parliamentary Budget Office, the independent agency charged with costing both parties election promises, issued a rare statement on Friday contradicting Liberal party claims that Labor had “cut” money from the fund.
The PBO said some Liberal party election material was a “misrepresentation” of its costings, saying only that Labor’s commitments would “require changes involving some previously announced projects”.
“An alternative government – or indeed a re-elected government - would be able to put in place processes to discontinue, change timing, or alter the scope of projects announced to be funded from WestInvest where there is no legal obligation to proceed,” it said in a statement.
“The PBO has pointed out to the Liberal party that a government announcement is not a legally binding commitment.”
Earlier on Friday Minns had refused to be drawn on whether those projects could be dropped, saying Labor would prioritise a series of health investments in western Sydney with the fund.
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“It’s a difference of opinion, a competition if you like between the parties,” he said.
Anthony Albanese also appeared on the campaign trail for Labor on Friday, visiting two key western Sydney seats in Penrith and Riverstone.
The prime minister, whose frequent campaign stops have been in stark contrast to that of the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, will also be in Balmain on Saturday as part of the campaign.
After 12 years in opposition, Labor needs nine seats to form a majority, and has spent its final days homing in on a clutch of western Sydney seats including Penrith, Parramatta, East Hills, Ryde and Camden.