Voters have turned up in their thousands at polling booths across the Wentworth electorate to cast their vote as Prime Minister Scott Morrison sends out an appeal to put the economy first in the by-election, rather than punish the government.
Voters began turning up right on 8am on Saturday at various primary schools across the eastern suburbs of Sydney to cast their votes early.
Liberal candidate Dave Sharma told Sky News outside Rose Bay Primary School it was “going to be close”.
“Its going to be a close by-election no doubt. I am going to be pushing as hard as I can to the finish line.
“Voters face an important choice today. This by-election has local significance and national significance and what they decide will determine the fate of the government in Canberra as well as who is going to be the next member for Wentworth,” he told Sky News.
Mr Sharma earlier took to Twitter to post an earnest message to voters to remind them that a vote for him will avoid the possibility of a hung parliament.
— Dave Sharma (@DaveSharma) October 19, 2018
News Corp Australia reports internal Liberal polling suggests Mr Sharma could receive just 39 per cent of the primary vote.
Over at Bellevue Hill Public School, independent Dr Kerryn Phelps said she was hearing from the people in Wentworth that they wanted a “strong local independent who can represent the issues they care about”.
“What’s been missing from this campaign from the Liberals is a discussion about the issues. I’ve been talking about climate change, getting kids off Nauru, about the independence of the ABC, about a new high school for this area.
“The Liberal Party has been focusing on personal attacks,” Dr Phelps said.
She said voters had just witnessed the worst fortnight in Australian politics and they wanted a “game changer”.
“Today could be it,” she said.
Such a massive day for this remarkable woman @drkerrynphelps cmon #Wentworth get out there & show those political dinosaurs that we are over the instability & are ready for some real leaders to look after our country #imwithher pic.twitter.com/xswFNTnpGE
— Susie Burrell (@SusieBDiet) October 19, 2018
With Labor and Green preferences expected to flow strongly to Dr Phelps that won’t be enough to see the Liberals retain the seat the party or its predecessors has held since Federation.
ABC election analyst Antony Green says Mr Sharma needs a primary vote above 45 per cent to stand a chance of replacing dumped former-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull as the local MP.
Mr Turnbull won the seat at the last general election with a 17.7 per cent margin.
The government’s one-seat majority is under threat and the prospect of a hung parliament looms, with Mr Sharma facing fierce competition from Dr Phelps.
On Friday, Mr Morrison pleaded with voters to consider the nation’s economy when they cast their ballot at the by-election.
“We have heard that the leading independent candidate has said she could not guarantee not bringing down the government on a vote of confidence in the government,” he said.
“Now, that is serious stuff.”
He told The Weekend Australian that Australia has a strong economy, “and this is what would be put at risk”.
“We can’t put that at risk. This is the appeal we are making.
“I know people are angry about what happened, I get it. But we need to now put it behind us…it is now about something bigger than that.”