Prime Minister Tony Abbott, currently in Cape York, says he may be too busy to visit the Canning byelection. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen BIll Shorten with Labor candidate Matt Keogh. Photo: Philip Gostelow
Prime Minister Tony Abbott with Liberal candidate Captain Andrew Hastie in Perth last Friday. Photo: Thomas Davidson
Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison — the three Liberal ministers seen as leadership candidates in February’s failed spill motion — are all set to campaign in the Canning byelection over the next 10 days.
But Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is in Northern Australia for the rest of this week, would not say on Tuesday if he would make another appearance with Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie ahead of the crunch by-election contest because “life is pretty busy”.
In addition to Mr Turnbull, Ms Bishop and Mr Morrison, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann plan to campaign in the seat over the next week.
The Canning byelection is due to be held on September 19, but with Parliament to sit for two weeks from September 7, next week offers the most straightforward opportunity for senior ministers to participate in the campaign.
Given that the Liberal Party held the seat by a comfortable 11.8 percentage points at the 2013 election, a loss could be politically fatal for Mr Abbott after a rolling series of political missteps and scandals kept the government on the back foot.
A Reachtel poll published in the West Australian newspaper on Tuesday found the contest between Mr Hastie and Labor candidate Matt Keogh was neck and neck, predicting a swing of nearly 12 percentage points to Labor.
The poll of 768 voters in Canning found the ALP lead in the two-party preferred status, by 50.1 per cent to the Liberals on 49.9 with a little over three weeks until polling day.
Former Liberal MP Don Randall, who died last month, won the seat with 61.8 per cent of the two-party vote in 2013.