Activist groups are weighing up whether they will attempt to sway voters at the forthcoming super Saturday byelections or sit on the sidelines to hoard resources for a general election which could be held only a few months later.
The potential involvement of environmental groups could provide headaches for Labor, which is defending four seats in the byelections, particularly in regards to the Adani mine in Queensland.
Environmental groups campaigned hard on the issue in the Batman byelection in inner city Melbourne, forcing Labor to harden its opposition to stave off the threat posed by the Greens.
However in Longman, which is more middle and working class, voters there could be swayed by the job and economic opportunities opening up the Galilee basin to mining provides.
Left wing activist group GetUp said it was surveying its members in some of the five seats to gauge their views.
“[There is] nothing more we can really add till we get those results back,” national director Paul Oosting said.
One environmentalist said there may be some campaigns run by local Stop Adani groups but the major organisations had to weigh up whether to spend money now or wait for the “main game” to push issues, in response to signs Malcolm Turnbull could call an early election this year despite his protestations the government will go full term.
While House of Representatives Speaker Tony Smith yet to set a date for the five byelections, the major parties nevertheless cranked up their campaign machines this week with a slew of frontbench visits to help candidates, although some gaps remain.
The Liberals will select their candidate for Longman on Tuesday while Labor has not endorsed anyone yet to run in Mayo, where the Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie hopes to get back.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wouldn’t be drawn on the delay in announcing the date during a visit to Queensland on Friday.
“It is a matter for the Speaker,” he said.
“What he does is he consults with the Australian Electoral Commission, and then, after he’s done that, he will then consult with the party leaders – including myself and Mr Shorten and Richard Di Natale.”
Campaigning in Fremantle with ousted MP Josh Wilson, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he hoped the looming super Saturday votes would reject the government’s budget commitments on health and education, and planned company tax cuts.
“It’s a very clear choice that’s why I’m disappointed that Mr Turnbull is not even putting forward a government candidate to run in the upcoming byelections,” he said.
“He knows West Australians are on to the sneaky cuts that are in the budget. This byelection in the west would be a referendum, do you want to see the big banks get more money or do you want to see the cuts from the government reversed to West Australia’s hospitals, including the fantastic Freo Hospital.”
The government is considering implementing a new scheme that would encourage candidates to produce evidence of their eligibility to sit as an MP before the byelections take place, potentially contributing to the delay in announcing the date.
The move to prevent further section 44 dramas over dual citizenship could include an Australian Electoral Commission proposal for a new online tool which would give candidates the opportunity to lodge declarations about their citizenship.
The earliest the byelections could be held is June 23, although July 7 would avoid a clash with parliamentary sitting dates and allow for a week of campaigning leading up to the polls.
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