August 24, 2013 – 3:28PM
Daniel Hurst and Cameron Atfield
Kevin Rudd faces a fight to avoid becoming the third prime minister in the nation’s history to lose his own seat.
A second poll in a week has shown Mr Rudd narrowly trailing his Liberal National Party opponent, Bill Glasson, in Griffith, prompting the Prime Minister to declare he was campaigning as hard as he could.
Long-serving prime minister John Howard lost his Sydney seat of Bennelong to Labor’s Maxine McKew as part of the Ruddslide in 2007, the first time an Australian PM had lost his own electorate since Stanley Bruce in 1929.
A Newspoll published by The Australian on Saturday suggested Dr Glasson was leading Mr Rudd by 52 per cent to 48 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis. The poll was reportedly based on a sample of 500 voters in Griffith, in Brisbane’s south.
It mirrored a Guardian Lonergan poll of 958 Griffith voters on Wednesday night that put Dr Glasson ahead of Mr Rudd 52 per cent to 48 per cent after preferences, with a stated margin of error of 4 per cent.
Mr Rudd attracted 58.5 per cent of the vote after preferences at the 2010 election.
Latest polling suggests Queensland will not provide the big boost that Labor had hoped for with Mr Rudd’s return to the leadership. The party also faces losses in western Sydney.
Nationally, the latest Fairfax-Nielsen poll shows Mr Abbott’s Coalition is poised to win the election in two weeks’ time with a lead of 53 per cent to 47 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis.
Mr Rudd sought on Saturday to brush off the latest poll results, saying he would keep campaigning with a focus on the national broadband network, school funding and health as compared with Mr Abbott’s “unaffordable and unfair” paid parental leave scheme.
“I’m in the business of fighting an election and fighting as hard as I can,” he said as he flagged a return to Canberra for briefings on the Syria crisis.
“What the Australian people ultimately decide in a couple of weeks’ time is a matter for them.”
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said Mr Rudd had a spring in his step as the Prime Minister believed Labor’s negative attacks may begin to work.
“As for the polls, frankly I don’t believe them,” Mr Abbott said while campaigning in Adelaide.
“I think this is a very, very close race.”
Mr Abbott, who is due to launch the Liberal campaign in Brisbane on Sunday, said there were still two weeks to go and Labor would unleash “the mother of all negative campaigns” in the remaining time.
Dr Glasson, a former Australian Medical Association chief who is running a prominent campaign in Griffith, has sought to reinforce the sense of Mr Rudd as “Kevin 747”.
At a local funding announcement, in which the Coalition promised $100,000 to install new lights at Easts Rugby Club at Coorparoo, Dr Glasson was quick to dismiss the polling.
‘‘I’m not confident at all and I really don’t want to focus on the polls at the moment – I don’t believe them anyway, I don’t believe the polls at all,’’ he said. ‘‘…This chap’s got 8½ per cent on me and I don’t believe it.
‘‘We’ve got a lot of work to do to get over the line.’’
Dr Glasson’s grassroots campaign in Griffith has been substantial, with his electoral signage outnumbering Mr Rudd’s by a healthy margin.
‘‘We’ve got over 450 volunteers, this morning I think there was something like 40 different corners covered across the electorate,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve got the ‘Glasson Gladiators’ that I’m very very proud of – they’re hugely enthusiastic and really they’re dragging me along in the slipstream.’’
Prominent Queensland political academics think it is possible but unlikely that Mr Rudd will lose his own seat.
“I’d have to concede it’s a possibility,” Griffith University political scientist Paul Williams said.
“Yes, Kevin Rudd is in danger of losing his seat. Perhaps he hasn’t spent enough time in the electorate – we already know that Bill Glasson’s having a go at him for not attending a local forum because he’s got appointments elsewhere, and that’s going to be a bad look.
“I suspect it’s almost like the John Howard phenomenon repeated. When they felt that there was a change of government in the air, as we did in 2007, the voters of Bennelong thought, ‘Well, we’ll only have to vote in a by-election in a few months’ time anyway if the LNP loses because John Howard will resign’, and it seems like they just made the decision for him.
“I wonder if the same thing is at work, where the electorate is thinking, ‘We don’t want to go to a by-election, we’ll just vote LNP now.’ I suspect that’s got something to do with it too – they know Labor’s going to lose, so what’s the point in re-electing Kevin Rudd if he’s not going to hang around.”
Queensland University of Technology professor in political science Clive Bean said a loss by Mr Rudd in Griffith was “not inconceivable” but highly unlikely.
“You can guarantee there are some in Kevin Rudd’s electorate who are really, really against him as much as there are some who are really, really for him,” he said.
“There will be a lot of churn in that electorate, but I would be surprised if he lost it, and from that point of view, I suspect that poll is probably overestimating the support for his opponent.
“As the campaign has gone on, the gloss has gone off Kevin Rudd a little bit, particularly as he’s felt forced to become more negative to counter some of the opposition’s campaigning.
“In an election like this, anything’s possible.”
Chris Lonergan, the pollster behind the Griffith survey published by the Guardian, has defended his methodology after some participants said they were allowed to answer the questions a second time.
The poll involved “robo-polling” whereby an automated message prompted survey participants to respond to questions, rather than a real person asking the questions.
“Contrary to some comments on Twitter, we keep only one interview per household,” Mr Lonergan wrote.
“We conduct an interview with whoever answers the phone. This methodology alone results in an oversampling of older respondents relative to younger respondents, as older respondents are more likely to answer the phone.
“To correct this, at the end of the survey, we ask if there are any younger voters in the household. If there are, we conduct the survey with the younger respondent and discard the response from the older respondent.
“If we ask for age and gender at the start of a survey, we have a much lower response rate – people hang up on the recorded voice as they are not yet certain it is being conducted for legitimate market research purposes. This may sound wasteful, but we consider it necessary to create a poll methodology which is as accurate as possible.”