The Coalition’s marginal electorate spending
The Spendometer has clocked $22 billion in major road and rail announcements, as the Coalition embarks on a major assault on key marginal electorates that just happen to the most in need of some «congesting-busting» roads and roundabouts.
Voters in the Liberal’s most marginally held seat of Corangamite have been promised a $2 billion fast rail link from Melbourne to Geelong, with funding to flow from 2021.
In a bid to secure the extra seats it will need to retain government, the Coalition has also targeted voters in the new Melbourne seat of Macnamara, where sitting Labor MP Michael Danby is retiring and which is, after a redrawing of boundaries, notionally more Liberal-inclined. Macnamara voters have been promised a $20,000 grant for the Port Phillip Men’s Shed, $50,000 for a «Little Dreamers» program to support young carers and $200,000 for a Wear for Success community program.
In Sydney, the Coalition is attempting to reclaim the marginal Labor seat of Lindsay, held formerly by Emma Husar, pledging $3.5 billion for the first stage of the Western Sydney North-South Rail Link, $405 million for the M12 widening and $480,000 for the Penrith Women’s Health Centre.
By number, the Coalition has made more than 300 pledges, including announcements in the May budget, and Labor more than 200.
The south-eastern Melbourne seat of La Trobe, held by Liberal Jason Wood with a margin of 3.2 per cent, has attracted eight promises alone while nearby Deakin, another Liberal seat at risk, is the focus of four.
In the past week alone three promises worth $5.7 million have been made for the Victorian seat of Flinders where Health Minister Greg Hunt is in a major fight against the ALP and former Liberal Julia Banks.
The Coalition, in a move to boost its environmental credentials, has pledged $100,000 for a «hooded plover recovery program» while a similar amount is earmarked for the Brotherhood of St Laurence to help Sudanese children in Frankston.
Frankston is in the Liberal seat of Dunkley, which a redistribution has made a notional ALP electorate.
Labor’s electoral targets
Unlike the Coalition, which has made many of its promises in Liberal or National party-held seats, Labor’s electoral targets are clear from the promises they have so far made.
While it is has made pledges of specific projects in at least 80 of the nation’s 151 electorates, several marginal seats have received far more love from Bill Shorten and the ALP.
Capricornia, Herbert and Flynn in Queensland have had six specific promises, all made this year, while a similar number have been made in the key NSW seat of Gilmore.
All three Queensland seats have been promised major road projects including the $800 million Rockhampton ring road and a $240 million Townsville «road and rail package» while the ALP has pledged to bring forward $100 million for work on the Princes Highway through Gilmore.
Capricornia is held by the LNP’s Michelle Landry by just 0.6 per cent while Flynn is held by the Coalition’s Ken O’Dowd with a 1 per cent margin. Herbert was won by Labor’s Cathy O’Toole by 37 votes at the 2016 election.
Labor believes it has a good chance of winning up to four seats in Western Australia. It has made five specific promises in the seat of Hasluck, which is held by Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt with a margin of 2.1 per cent.
This has included 90 public sector jobs in the eastern Perth seat, part of a $1.7 billion WA package of road works and a slice of $200 million that will go into an upgrade of rail lines in the city.
Nearby Pearce and Swan have each been promised four specific projects while another three have been made targeting Stirling where the retirement of sitting Liberal MP Michael Keenan has opened the door for the ALP.
Some of the promises from both sides are tiny in their value but may deliver larger, electoral dividends.
In the seat of Cowan in WA, held by Labor’s Anne Aly, the ALP is promising $30,000 to the Wanneroo Sports and Social Club so it can upgrade its floor. In the Liberal seat of Hasluck on Perth’s urban fringe, the Coalition has pledged $400,000 for bowling greens, basketball courts and a shade shelter.
Jessica Irvine is a senior economics writer with The Sydney Morning Herald.
Shane is a senior economics correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.