SYDNEY/CANBERRA – Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Saturday said he believes the upcoming election will be closer than polls suggest, after a survey showed the government faces a wipeout in crucial seats.
The Labor leader is trailing conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott ahead of Sept. 7 national polls, and a Newspoll published in The Weekend Australian revealed he will likely lose key marginal seats in New South Wales and Victoria.
“I believe that the Australian people in the course of the last week and 10 days of this campaign will begin to lock onto their choices,” Rudd said Saturday as he campaigned in Darwin.
“I’ve seen a range of polls both public and private which suggest to me this election will end up a little closer than people think.”
But Abbott, campaigning in Queensland, downplayed the polling. “This is a very close election,” he said, adding that he expects the polls to tighten ahead of the vote next weekend.
“People should not think for a second that they can risk voting for their old mate the independent, their old mate the celebrity, their old mate the Labor candidate, because if you do that you’re likely to end up with another bad Labor/Green government.”
Meanwhile, Abbott’s opposition has pledged to slash the amount of money Australia spends on legal assistance for asylum seekers if it wins.
The soaring costs for taxpayers of an increasing number of asylum seekers reaching Australian shores by boat is a hot-button issue ahead of the polls.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison announced Saturday that he expects savings of 100 million Australian dollars ($89 million) over four years by scrapping a government policy of providing free lawyers and migration agents to advise refugee seekers.