By-election wins won’t lead to early poll: PM

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks during the Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council conference at Burnie Arts & Function Centre in Burnie, Tasmania, Thursday, July 26, 2018. (AAP Image/Grant Wells)

Malcolm Turnbull has ruled out going to an early federal election if the government wins two key by-elections on Saturday.

The Liberals hold a narrow lead in recent polling for the Queensland seat of Longman and Braddon in Tasmania – which had been held by Labor – sparking speculation the prime minister may call an election this year to capitalise on the result.

No opposition has lost a by-election to the government in 98 years, but Labor could lose both Tasmania’s Braddon and Queensland’s Longman.

But Mr Turnbull dismissed talk of an early poll, saying the government would run full-term.

‘The election will be next year. The election will be in the first half of next year,’ he told the Seven Network on Friday.

Meanwhile, new research by the Voter Choice Project shows the Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie could reclaim the seat of Mayo on primary votes alone, without having to go to preferences.

About 20 per cent of a panel of voters who initially signalled they would vote Labor have switched to Ms Sharkie, an independent study by researcher Raphaella Kathryn Crosby found.

Labor is set to reclaim the seats of Perth and Fremantle, where no Liberal candidates are standing.

The research found Labor’s Susan Lamb was ahead of her Liberal rival Trevor Ruthenberg on primary votes in Longman, but minor party preferences would be decisive.

In Braddon, independent candidate Craig Garland has picked up support from voters who initially backed the Liberals’ Brett Whiteley, which would help Labor’s Justine Keay who is set to receive the lion’s share of Mr Garland’s preferences.

The Labor leader refused to accept his leadership could be in trouble if he loses the seats less than a year from the next federal election.

‘No, I don’t. But what I also accept is the voters haven’t voted yet,’ Mr Shorten told reporters in the Tasmanian city of Devonport on Thursday.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese has been tipped as a potential replacement, but he ‘absolutely’ guaranteed he wouldn’t challenge his boss.

‘The only thing I’m interested in is being a minister in the Labor government – it will be led by Bill Shorten,’ Mr Albanese told reporters in Longman.

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