Malcolm Turnbull’s coup in Canberra is expected to help minimise the swing against the Liberals who are likely to keep the seat of Canning with a slightly reduced majority.
Early polls before Saturday’s by-election were pointing to a swing of 10 per cent against the government under Tony Abbott, which still would have given Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie a narrow victory in the West Australian seat.
However, Mr Turnbull’s elevation to the prime ministership on Monday is expected to halve the swing, based on the latest polling.
This would deliver Mr Hastie about 57 per cent of the two-party vote.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who campaigned in the seat on Friday, said Labor is doing all it can to get its candidate, lawyer Matt Keogh, across the line.
Mr Shorten said that while voters did not like Mr Abbott as prime minister, more importantly they did not like the government’s policies that Mr Turnbull also fully endorses.
“We asked Mr Turnbull in parliament this week: will you change the reckless Abbott approach on universities and $100,000 degrees? And what Mr Turnbull said is they’re keeping all the same policies,” Mr Shorten said.
Mr Hastie, a former SAS captain, said the leadership swap has not affected his campaign.
“My life hasn’t changed – my boss will be the people of Canning,” he said.
The issues dominating the campaign include tackling the scourge of ice and the potential impact of the China free trade agreement.
The by-election is being held after the death of sitting Liberal member Don Randall.
Mr Randall held the seat with a 12 per cent margin in 2013 after narrowly seeing off Labor 52-48 in 2010.
A redistribution before the 2016 federal election is set to take a swathe of voters out of Canning, Hasluck, Swan and Tangney to create a new seat of Burt.