Anthony Albanese has sought to downplay expectations of a Labor win in an upcoming by-election that will serve as a litmus test for his government’s first 10 months in office.
The Prime Minister flew to Melbourne’s eastern suburbs on Saturday for the launch of Labor candidate Mary Doyle’s campaign for Aston, where voters will head to the polls on April 1.
Mr Albanese told reporters it would be a “really tough” contest, noting that a government had not won a seat from an opposition at a by-election in 100 years.
“The odds are very much against us. That’s the truth,” he said.
“This is a seat where in 2019 the incumbent got 54.7 per cent of the primary vote. It was, I think, the sixth safest figure in the whole of Australia, in the 151 seats.”
Nevertheless, he said Ms Doyle deserved to have a second bid at the seat “on behalf of the people of Aston” after having achieved a good result at the 2022 federal election.
“She’s the sort of person who the people in this electorate have the opportunity to make their champion in Canberra as part of a government,” he said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese launched Labor’s bid for Aston on Saturday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Luis AscuiMr Albanese flew to Melbourne to promote Labor candidate Mary Doyle. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Luis Ascui
The Aston by-election was triggered by the sudden resignation of long-time sitting MP and former Liberal cabinet minister Alan Tudge last month.
The Liberals hold Aston on a narrow margin of just 2.8 per cent but it had been a safe seat before last year’s federal election, when Ms Doyle ran against Mr Tudge and whittled the margin down from 10.1 per cent.
Ms Doyle, a former union official and breast cancer survivor, is expected to make defending Medicare a centrepiece of her campaign.
Earlier on Saturday, Mr Albanese launched Labor’s campaign with a speech in which he described Ms Doyle as a suburban “mum to two beautiful kids”, who understood mortgage stress and had worked for 25 years to build a career in finance and industrial relations.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton with the Liberals’ candidate for Aston, Roshena Campbell, on the campaign trail Picture: Facebook
He said she was a “proud citizen of the outer east” who cared about her community and the environment and was driven by “the oldest and deepest Australian aspiration” of wanting to leave a better world for one’s children.
Ms Doyle is contesting the seat against Roshena Campbell, a barrister, Melbourne city councillor and columnist, who was selected as the Liberal candidate last month.
Ms Campbell and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton were out campaigning in the Knox council area together last week.
Ms Campbell told reporters on Thursday she would focus on local infrastructure issues and be a “champion” for addressing the cost of living crisis in Aston.
“I’ve been out and about every day door knocking, speaking to small businesses, and what we’re hearing time and time again is cost of living is crippling people in Knox,” she said.
The Greens announced Angelica Di Camillo as their candidate for the Aston by-election on Saturday.
The environmental engineer and pilates instructor said the by-election would be dominated by the cost of living crisis.
“It’s so essential that voters can back a party with a plan to freeze interest rates and rents, put dental and mental health into Medicare, and make childcare free,” she said in a statement.
“As someone who is from the community, and for the community, I want to make sure that the government is listening to us, not Australia’s billionaires, property investors, or their fossil fuel donors.”
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