Anthony Albanese, Peter Dutton sharpen pitches in final countdown to Dunkley by-election

Eleanor Campbell NCA NewsWire
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Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton have ramped up their campaign pitches ahead of a high stakes ballot that will test the government’s handling of cost of living issues ahead of next year’s federal election.

On the eve of Saturday’s by-election, the prime minister delivered his final plea to voters living in the seat of Dunkley on Melbourne’s southern outskirts.

The by-election was triggered by the death of Labor MP Peta Murphy last year.

Labor has put up local community leader Jodie Belyea against Frankston Mayor and Liberal hopeful Nathan Conroy in their bid to retain the seat.

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Mr Albanese said the fight to retain Labor’s 6.3 per cent margin over the electorate would be “tough” but remained firm that Ms Belyea would emerge popular with suburban voters.

“One of the differences between Jodie Belyea and the other candidates in this by-election is that she’ll be a voice in government. Someone who can get things done as a voice in my government,” he told reporters.

“Not just be another bloke, sitting behind all the other blokes … opposing everything, being negative about everything and running fear campaigns,”

Camera IconThe Prime Minister campaigned alongside Labor’s candidate Jodie Belyea in Frankston on Friday morning. Credit: News Corp Australia, NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

“We understand that aspiration is not something that just applies to people who are politicians and people above $200,000 a year, aspiration is something that all Australian families have, people want and aspire to something for their kids,” he said.

“That is what it is about.”

Mr Albanese also paid tribute to Ms Murphy, who performed an “extraordinary” act of selflessness by recruiting Ms Belyea into the Labor party after she became unwell with breast cancer last year.

“We wish and this local community wishes that the by-election was not happening because Peta Murphy, at age 50, has gone from us far too soon,” he said.

“She had so much more to give, (she had) an extraordinary capacity to deliver for this local community, to deliver on such a broad range of issues.”

Camera IconPeter Dutton has tempered expectations for a Liberal victory, despite signs of a swing against Labor. NCA NewsWire / David Crosling Credit: News Corp Australia

Kicking off his 48-hour campaign blitz at an event with Mr Conroy on Friday, Mr Dutton tempered expectations for a Liberal victory after early polls showed his party has held a narrow lead in the days leading up to the vote.

“It’s a big margin. But look, if there was a swing against the government of around three (per cent), then I think that’s a terrible outcome for Anthony Albanese,” Mr Dutton told reporters.

“The boundaries have changed since a few years ago when we held the seat. So it’s obviously gone into some more Labor territory.

“But the fact is that Nathan has done a great job in his local community and I think people will be voting for him in big numbers.”

Camera IconDunkley Liberal candidate Nathan Conroy said he was the ‘underdog’. NCA NewsWire / David Crosling Credit: News Corp Australia

A Newspoll released on Sunday night found Labor’s changes to stage three tax cuts had done little to change the tide of support for the government, with their primary vote falling to 33 per cent to the Coalition’s 36 per cent.

A Resolve poll in Nine newspapers later showed similar results with the Liberals on 37 and Labor on 34.

Then on Monday, separate MyGov and YouGov polls both found the Liberals were leading Labor 51 per cent to 49 per cent on a two-party basis in Dunkley.

Meanwhile, Labor internal polling has reportedly revealed the ­Liberals could secure a swing of about 5 per cent

Cost-of-living and housing are expected to be at the top of mind for voters in the electorate.

While both parties have played down expectations of victory in the lead up to Saturday, the prime minister has said he will be prepared for whatever result is thrown his way.

“We will wait and see,” Mr Albanese said.

“We will be campaigning very hard but I am confident that we have the best candidate.”

Originally published as Anthony Albanese, Peter Dutton sharpen pitches in final countdown to Dunkley by-election

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