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Campaign Countdown: The Great Debate, dinosaurs and Guess Who?

Easter has come and gone, the Anzacs have been remembered and week two of the Australian Federal Election is now done and dusted – complete with climate change-dinosaur references, important campaign promises and an unusual tennis technique.

In the second of our weekly installments tracking the campaign, we take a look at the who, where, why and what (on earth!) of the political happenings ahead of a May 18 polling day.

WA spotlight
The election spotlight will very much be on our sunny state come Monday night, when Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten square off in a debate to be telecast on Channel 7. We’ll have a full wrap of the showdown on The 268 on Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, Mr Morrison warmed up for his visit by declaring his affection for WA to The West Australian, saying that he would make his home in Perth if he didn’t live in Sydney and that “I think there is a really similar culture of Sydney and Perth…there is a sense of community that just gets on and does things.”  It’s an interesting comparison, we’d be intrigued to know what punters (from both cities) think!

A potential Liberal preference deal with Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party continues to generate discussion, with former WA Premier Colin Barnett the latest to weigh in on the subject.

Poll position
A Newspoll of four marginal seats across the country, conducted for The Australian, shows Clive Palmer could be on track to hold the balance of power in the Senate. The poll found the four seats — Herbert in north Queensland, Lindsay in western Sydney, ­Deakin in outer Melbourne and Pearce on Perth’s outskirts — rest on a knife edge, with preference flows from minor parties set to ­determine the outcome.

Mr Palmer and his colleagues made headlines this week – or, at least, sat adjacent to them – courtesy of a string of paid ads in Thursday’s edition of The Australian. Pretty sure we’ve now found the best election moustache, even if not every UAP candidate got the memo about providing a pen pic for the occasion.

On the road again
Easter was nominally supposed to be a political truce but both leaders took on several photo opportunities – the Prime Minister (accompanied by Tony Abbott) bobbed up at Good Friday and Easter Sunday services, while Bill Shorten was handing out food for the homeless on Friday and then attended a service of his own on Sunday.

Mr Morrison’s week also included time spent in Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin and Townsville. Mr Shorten’s agenda was heavily focussed on regional Queensland – Townsville, Gladstone and Cairns – but he was back at the MCG on Anzac Day afternoon, cheering on Collingwood.

Everybody’s talking

A fairly quiet week on the promises front, with three public holidays and Anzac Day deemed to be a campaign-free zone. Mr Morrison promised a $100 million package to create “250,000 new small and family businesses” and on Anzac Day eve pledged $63 million towards helping Defence Force personnel settle back into post-service life. Mr Shorten was again spruiking his commitment to restoring penalty rates, boosting the minimum wage and ending long-term casual work, while on Friday he vowed to invest $660 million to tackle the issue of domestic violence.

Hot topic, hot seats:

Four key Northern Queensland seats, one big issue. The proposed Adani coal mine development is a major talking point in Capricornia (Nationals/0.6 per cent margin), Dawson (Nationals/3.4 per cent), Flynn (Nationals/1 per cent) and Herbert (Labor/0.02 per cent). Regional ALP candidates have signed a CFMEU pledge in support of the coal mining industry and mines that “meet regulatory requirements”, whereas other Labor candidates have indicated there will be a review of the approval if ALP wins office.

Dawson, Flynn and Capricornia are among 16 seats, many of them marginal, which the Nationals are trying to hold. Other tricky contests loom in Cowper and Page in Northern NSW.

Head scratcher
This country has a long and storied history of Prime Ministers running into sporting bother – think Hawke’s hook shot and Howard’s (very) short ball – so it was inevitable that Scott Morrison would join the party at some stage.

Not sure if the PM was playing tennis or re-enacting Bodyline this week?

On a more serious matter, climate change was firmly in the news this week, with Pauline Hanson declaring that humans didn’t kill off the dinosaurs (it’s unclear if anyone ever suggested they did?) and Queensland LNP senate hopeful Gerard Rennick accusing the Bureau of Meteorology of fudging figures to “perpetuate global warming hysteria.”

Roll call

Election nominations officially closed on Tuesday – fingers crossed there are no candidates lost to section 44 disqualifications over the coming weeks.

The electoral rolls also closed Thursday of last week: nearly 17 million Australians are now enrolled to vote; a million more than voted in the 2016 election. A record 96.8 per cent of eligible Australians are enrolled, including youth enrolment at 88.8 per cent.

About next week

All roads lead to Osborne Park on Monday night as the two Prime Ministerial hopefuls go head-to-head in the Channel 7 studios, in a showdown that will throw the focus on WA. Mr Morrison and Mr Shorten will also square off in a follow-up debate in Brisbane on Friday May 3 but it’s unclear at the moment whether they will go toe-to-toe again in public between then and the May 18 election.

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