Coalition panics at possible return of Rob Oakeshott in seat of Cowper

Federal election 2016: Coalition panics at possible return of Rob Oakeshott in seat of Cowper,

deploys Malcolm Turnbull

Election 2016: What if no one wins?

The election has always been tipped to be close. So what happens if neither side wins enough seats to form Government?

Election 2016: What if no one wins?

The election has always been tipped to be close. So what happens if neither side wins enough seats to form Government?

Rob Oakeshott could be on the verge of a dramatic return to Parliament.

We don’t take any seat for granted. We are working very hard in Cowper and we’re confident we will get there.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Coalition strategists appear to have hit the panic button in the NSW seat of Cowper, mobilising Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in an attempt to protect former National Party minister Luke Hartsuyker against the late challenge by the independent.

Independent Rob Oakeshott appears likely to win the seat of Cowper, held by the Liberals since 2001.Independent Rob Oakeshott appears likely to win the seat of Cowper, held by the Liberals since 2001. Photo: Andrew Meares

In an unusual move for a Prime Minister in the last week of an election campaign, Mr Turnbull cold-called a small ABC radio station on Tuesday morning to go into bat for Mr Hartsuyker who is in danger of losing his seat despite a handsome 13 per cent margin to the Nationals in that seat.

ABC Radio’s mid-north coast presenter Michael Spooner was stunned when a media adviser for Mr Turnbull called at 7.46am offering him a rare one-on-one with the PM.

In a 15-minute interview over the phone from Brisbane, Mr Spooner put it to Mr Turnbull that he was concerned about losing Cowper.

Former National Party minister Luke Hartsuyker could lose the seat of Cowper in a late challenge by the independent Rob ...Former National Party minister Luke Hartsuyker could lose the seat of Cowper in a late challenge by the independent Rob Oakeshott. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

“Well, we want to hold on to every seat but we have a great member there in Luke Hartsuyker and are very determined that he is returned,” Mr Turnbull responded.

“He’s a local, he’s very committed. He understands the north coast and the mid-north coast. He’s a very, very passionate representative.”

Mr Spooner had not requested an interview with the Prime Minister during the eight-week campaign, assuming the nation’s leader would not have time for the Port Macquarie-based station.

Mr Turnbull has done four other radio interviews in the past week but with larger metropolitan stations, including Triple M in Adelaide, ABC Radio Tasmania, and the Alan Jones breakfast program on 2GB.

National Party director Scott Mitchell played down the significance of Mr Turnbull’s call to ABC Mid North Coast.

“There’s nothing unusual in it. We don’t take any seat for granted. We are working very hard in Cowper and we’re confident we will get there,” he said.

On Tuesday, Mr Turnbull renewed  his warning against voting for independents and minor parties in both houses.

As a result of the redistribution, Port Macquarie, which is Mr Oakeshott’s home town, has moved into Cowper. He famously represented the seat of Lyne during the Gillard minority government.

Mr Hartsuyker, a former minister for  vocational education and skills under Tony Abbott,  has held the seat since 2001 and appears to have been left flat-footed when Mr Oakeshott declared his intention to contest halfway through the campaign.

A ReachTel poll conducted a fortnight ago indicated that Mr Hartsuyker’s primary vote had tumbled from 53 per cent at the last election to 39 per cent up once Mr Oakeshott entered the race.

With the preferences of Labor and the Greens going to the independent, the result is on a knife edge.

 

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