Asian immigration, controversial stadiums and frustration with delayed tram construction is set to decide the future of Australia’s biggest state as 5.3million voters head to the polls today.
Labor is hoping to seize power, after eight years in the political wilderness, by capitalising on anger at New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejikilian’s plan to spend more than $1.5billion replacing stadiums built in the 1980s and 1990s.
Opposition Leader Michael Daley, however, appears to have lost momentum in the final days of the campaign after he struggled to say, in a live TV debate on Wednesday, how much extra a would-be Labor government led by him would spend on schools and TAFE.
In a Sky News People’s Forum debate, he mistakenly claimed Labor would spend another $3 billion on TAFE, when the Opposition policy is to increase spending by $64 million over four years.
The man who wants to be the next premier of NSW had his sums wrong by a staggering 47 times.
Asian immigration, controversial stadiums and frustration with delayed tram construction could decide the future of Australia’s biggest state as 5.271million voters head to the polls today (pictured is NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian holding a baby at Blacktown in Sydney)
Labor (leader Michael Daley pictured) is hoping to seize power, after eight years in the political wilderness, by capitalising on anger at the Coalition’s plan to spend more than $1.5billion replacing stadiums built in the 1980s and 1990s
Adding to Mr Daley’s woes were his unearthed comments blaming Asian immigrants for taking away jobs from young Australians.
This could also hinder Labor’s chances of picking up vital seats from the Liberal Party across Sydney, in a multicultural city with Australia’s most expensive house prices and high living costs.
Australian Catholic University honourary fellow Malcolm Mackerras said Mr Daley’s comments were likely to upset Asian voters throughout Sydney, making it hard for Labor to pick up marginal seats from the Liberal Party.
‘It would offend them because they wouldn’t like to be called foreigners when they’ve taken out Australian citizenship,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
Mr Daley (pictured) has been dogged by his comments claiming Asian immigrants are taking away jobs from young Australians, which election expert Malcolm Mackerras says could deprive Labor of a chance to pick up key seats in Sydney from the Liberal Party
‘If I was such a person I would be offended.
‘It would make a Labor win in say East Hills or Coogee less likely.
‘Michael Daley is not a particularly good leader for Labor.’
Second-time Labor candidate Cameron Murphy, who is hoping to wrest the ultra-marginal seat of East Hills from the Liberal Party, said no voters had raised Mr Daley’s comments on Asian immigration with him.
‘The only issue people are raising with me is the issue of over-development, the neglect of our area, the lack of investment in services,’ he told Daily Mail Australia in Revesby, where he was handing out at a pre-poll centre.
‘They’re talking to me about schools and hospitals before stadiums.’
Australian Catholic University honourary fellow Malcolm Mackerras said Premier Gladys Berejiklian was likely to be re-elected as Mr Daley’s comments about Asian immigration hurt Labor in vital Sydney electorates
Asian-born swinging voters may have other ideas, after it was revealed Mr Daley last year blamed Asian immigrants for taking away jobs from young Australians in Sydney.
‘Our young children will flee and who are they being replaced with? They are being replaced by young people from typically Asia with PhDs,’ the then-deputy Labor leader told a politics in the pub function in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, in September.
‘So there’s a transformation happening in Sydney now where our kids are moving out and foreigners are moving in and taking their jobs.’
Delayed tram line
Away from the western suburbs, Labor is expected to pick up the marginal south-east Sydney seat of Coogee from the Liberal Party.
The beachside electorate takes in Randwick, where completion of the $2.1 billion light rail project has been delayed by more than a year until May 2020.
The 12km route South East Light Rail, starting at Circular Quay, has been a construction site since October 2015, frustrating residents and business owners. Mr Daley (pictured) in Surry Hills could win the nearby seat of Coogee as a result of the tram line construction delays
The 12km route, starting at Circular Quay, has been a construction site since October 2015, frustrating residents and business owners.
The cost of the delayed South East Light Rail project, by Spanish consortium Acciona, blew out by $500 million.
Making matters worse, Acciona is threatening to sue the government for $1.2 billion over ‘misrepresentations’ about removing underground gas and water pipes, which could see the overall cost blow out yet again.
Mr Daley had momentum early in the campaign by opposing the demolition of Allianz Stadium at Moore Park, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, as parts of the 30-year-old complex were gutted in full view of TV cameras.
He gained political traction after telling Sydney radio 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones he would be sacked from the board of the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust.
Labor has been campaigning on the slogan ‘schools and hospitals before stadiums’ as the Coalition vows to demolish and rebuilt Allianz Stadium at a cost of $729 million.
Renovation of ANZ Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park would cost taxpayers another $810 million, to effectively replace a complex built only 20 years ago.
Ms Berejiklian has answered the Opposition by saying ‘NSW should have it all’, highlighting how the Coalition’s sell-off of electricity poles and wires would fund big-ticket projects without putting the state into debt.
Mr Daley had momentum early in the campaign by opposing the demolition of Allianz Stadium (pictured) at Moore Park, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, as parts of the 30-year-old complex were gutted in full view of TV cameras
Just last week, Labor was leading in the polls, with a UComms /ReachTel poll showing the Opposition leading the government 51 to 49 per cent, after preferences.
Key seats that could decide the NSW election
The Liberal Party’s most marginal seat in south-west Sydney was won by less than 400 votes in 2015.
Barrister Cameron Murphy, a former head of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties and son of a High Court judge, is running again.
He faced a nasty smear campaign in 2015, with pamphlets falsely accusing him of being a ‘paedophile lover’ based on his work as a civil libertarian.
The margin is 0.4 per cent.
The Liberal Party could struggle to held this beach-side seat in Sydney’s south-east.
Bruce Notley-Smith, the state’s first openly gay lower house MP, has a bare 2.9 per cent margin.
The delayed completion of the South East Light Rail could hurt the chances of the former Randwick mayor.
Labor has a strong chance in this seat near Canberra, even though it hasn’t held it since 1965.
The margin of 6.6 per cent is also relatively safe for the Liberal Party.
Cabinet minster Pru Goward, however, is retiring and Labor’s candidate Ursula Stephens was previously a senator.
While Labor hasn’t held this seat for 53 years, it has a chance following the retirement of long-time Nationals MP Thomas George.
The Nationals suffered a massive 21.5 per cent swing against them in 2015, clinging on by just 2.9 per cent, after preferences.
The Greens came second, with 26.4 per cent of the primary vote, ahead of Labor’s 25.6 per cent.
This time, Labor is running former state and federal MP Janelle Saffin, who is odds-on favourite.
Labor has short odds in this rural seat it hasn’t held since 1910.
The National Party holds it be a slim 2.2 per cent margin, making it their most marginal seat.
Michael Johnsen was elected in this seat, which takes in Muswellbrook and Singleton, despite suffering a 20.8 per cent swing against him in 2015.
The Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party are odds-on favourites with Sportsbet to claim from the National Party this seat which covers much of western NSW.
Former minister Kevin Humphries is also retiring.
The Shooters party won Orange in a 2016 by-election and are looking to pick up more seats west of the Great Dividing Range.
Sportsbet also has Labor as favourites to claim from the National Party this coastal seat, which straddles the Queensland border.
Geoff Provest has been the local member since 2007 and wants his electorate to be in the same time zone as Queensland.
He held this seat in 2015 with a 3.2 per cent margin despite suffering an 18.5 per cent swing against him.
If replicated at the election, that would represent a swing of more than five per cent away from the government and see the Coalition lose six seats, which would deprive the Liberal and National parties of a majority but not necessarily a chance to stay in power with the support of key independents Greg Piper, Joe McGirr and Alex Greenwich.
Most of the Liberal Party’s marginal seats are scattered through western and south-west Sydney, where a higher-than-average share of voters were born overseas.
While most polls are tipping a hung parliament after the election Mr Mackerras, a veteran election analyst, is predicting Ms Berejikian’s Coalition government will be returned with a majority based on the strength of the state economy.
‘I do think she deserves to be re-elected,’ he said.
‘Also, she has changed her reputation from being indecisive to being decisive by insisting on the stadiums decisions that they’ve made and not being bullied out of those decisions.
‘I think she’s personally competent.’
Mr Mackerras predicted the Berejiklian government would lose four seats, giving it 48 electorates in the lower house of Parliament.
This would be enough for the Coalition to continue governing with a majority in the 93-seat Legislative Assembly, as it wins a third consecutive term for the first time since 1971.
Ms Berejiklian would also be Australia’s first conservative premier to win an election in her own right.
He predicted her Liberal Party would maintain its seats in western Sydney, including Penrith, Mulgoa and Holsworthy which until 2011 had been traditional Labor territory.
While Labor is possibly struggling in Sydney, Mr Mackerras saw Labor picking up Goulburn in southern NSW from the Liberal Party, winning a seat it has not held since 1965.
Former senator Ursula Stephens is Labor’s candidate in a seat where cabinet minister Pru Goward, the mother of former model Tziporah Malkah, is retiring.
Mr Mackerras also saw Labor picking up Coogee, East Hills and Lismore, which also hasn’t been an ALP electorate for 53 years.
After East Hills, the government’s most marginal seats are National Party electorates in the country, including Upper Hunter, Monaro and Tweed, which Labor is targeting.
Mr Mackerras said Labor’s best chances were in regional areas, which won’t be receiving big-ticket public transport projects or any new stadiums.
‘I’m inclined to think that will be the case,’ he said.
In northern NSW the Greens may be in danger of losing Ballina to either the National Party or Labor, Mr Mackerras said.
However, they stand a chance of being elected on Labor preferences in nearby Lismore, which contains the hippie town of Nimbin where marijuana and space cakes are sold on the main street.
West of the Great Dividing Range, the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party already holds the seat of Orange and is polling strongly in Barwon.
The Liberal Party has released negative television election advertisements featuring former prime minister John Howard, warning of the Shooters doing preference deals with Labor in the bush.
Election analyst Malcolm Mackerras said Labor’s best chances were in regional areas, which won’t be receiving big-ticket public transport projects or any new stadiums (pictured is Opposition Leader Michael Daley campaigning in Kyogle in northern NSW)
In the possible event of a hung parliament, the next government of NSW could see either Labor or the Coalition forced to nut out a power-sharing arrangement with the diametrically-opposed Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party and the Greens in the tightest election race since 1991.
As of Friday afternoon, Sportsbet had Labor picking up East Hills and Coogee from the Liberal Party, Upper Hunter, Tweed and Lismore from the Nationals and the Shooters winning Barwon from the Nats.
The betting agency had the the Nationals regaining Ballina from the Greens.
Under that scenario, the net loss of five seats would see a Coalition lose its majority.