Pauline Hanson has been noticeably absent from the campaign trail ahead of Saturday’s five unprecedented by-elections.
But her presence was definitely felt in the crucial Queensland seat of Longman on Friday and, according to her chief of staff, that will be just as good.
Fifty life-sized cutouts of the One Nation leader were delivered to the marginal seat early on Thursday.
On Saturday, as voters turn out in a seat where One Nation preferences will likely decide whether Labor or the Liberals win, there will be a cardboard Pauline at every booth.
Senator Hanson’s chief of staff, James Ashby, told Brisbane’s Courier-Mail the cardboard Senator Hansons were “as good as her”.
“A photo visual of Pauline is as good as her being there because it is a presence,” he said.
“People will still be able to come and get a photo with Pauline.”
— Jackson Williams (@jacksonw____) July 26, 2018
One Nation’s Queensland leader, Steve Dickson, told The Australian he thought the cutouts looked “pretty good”.
“If you can’t have the real person on the day, let’s have the identity of the real person,” he said. “It’s a life-size cutout.”
Senator Hanson has been absent from the final week of campaigning in Longman. She is on holiday, on a cruise around the British Isles.
But Liberal and Labor heavyweights have been busy in Longman, where the by-election was triggered by the dual citizenship of Labor’s Susan Lamb.
She holds the seat by just 0.8 per cent and faces a tough challenge from Liberal National Party candidate Trevor “Big Trev” Ruthenberg.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Labor leader Bill Shorten, who both headed to Longman on Friday, have plenty riding on the result in Queensland.
Mr Shorten is considered under the most pressure, with Labor in danger of becoming the first federal opposition to lose a seat to the government in almost a century.
‘No’: Albanese denies leadership challenge
On Friday, Mr Shorten’s main rival for the Labor leadership, Anthony Albanese, was forced to deny he would launch a challenge if the ALP performed poorly in Saturday’s by-elections.
“I don’t know how many times I can say it. Here it is, I’ll say it really slowly – no. There you go.”
When pressed by reporters, Mr Albanese said, “There you go in a word, it’s not hard.”
The other seat that is attracting significant attention is Braddon, in Tasmania’s north-west. There, the deciding factor is likely to be independent Craig Garland, an outspoken fisherman with a disdain for major political parties.
Various polls in Braddon have Labor’s Justine Keay and the Liberals’ Brett Whiteley neck-and-neck, or either of the two in front.
Senior politicians from both major parties have also spent plenty of time in Braddon in recent weeks. Mr Shorten has visited the electorate nine times, outscoring the Prime Minister – who has focused on the line that only Mr Whiteley can deliver from government.
“Any other candidate is a risk. The worst risk, of course, is of Labor and the Greens,” Mr Turnbull said.
In South Australia, the Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie seems likely to hold Mayo, the third in the Super Saturday by-election lineup.
A YouGov/Galaxy poll in News Limited local papers on July 23 predicted Ms Sharkie would win the seat by 59 per cent to 41 per cent after preferences, ahead of the Liberals’ Georgina Downer (daughter of a previous member for Mayo, Alexander).
The other two super Saturday by-elections are in Western Australia. Josh Wilson is tipped to hold Fremantle for Labor, and Perth appears set to be won by new ALP candidate Patrick Gorman.
Perth is the only one of the five super Saturday seats where the by-election was not triggered by dual citizenship. It came after Labor’s Tim Hammond resigned from parliament, citing the pressures of constant travel on his family.
The Liberal Party has not run candidates in either WA by-election.