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Campaign Diary: policy by word of mouth

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The Liberal Party’s “less is more” strategy was found wanting this morning as shadow housing minister Duncan McFetridge defended the party’s position on public housing.

And in an odd twist, the party’s best defender was Greens MP Tammy Franks.

The story unfolded on 891ABC where it was revealed that the Housing Tenants Association had sparked a fear campaign with the help of Labor Party volunteers. The association has formally joined the ALP, as has its spokeswoman Julie Macdonald.

In letters to Housing Trust tenants, the association warned that “tenants have much to fear if the Liberal Party is elected”, citing polices in Queensland and New South Wales.

It was based on levies raised by Queensland Premier Campbell Newman.

McFetridge said the letters amounted to “a disgraceful scare campaign”, because “there will be no bed tax”.

When asked where tenants might find that policy in writing, McFetridge said “it may not be printed on a piece of paper,” but it had been outlined in tenant’s forums.

His problem was this: the only written policy that’s still online, the party’s 2010 Housing Policy, shows there was a proposal for a bed tax.

“It’s not our policy any more,” McFetridge said.

With nothing in writing to back it up, he was stranded.

With the 2014 Liberal Party strategy based on putting as little detail out there as possible, this one had come back to bite them.

It was left to Tammy Franks to go into bat for the Libs.

“It’s all based on conjecture and fear,” Franks said.

“The secondary issue is how the association got the addresses of tenants who are not members of their association.”

Franks also pointed out that the association’s Facebook page was now proudly stating that it was a member of the ALP.

That connection was confirmed by the association’s Julie Macdonald, who told the ABC that she had also personally joined the ALP.

“We’ve got the help of some members of the Labor Party,” she confirmed.

So, why is this fear campaign so relevant?

There are large numbers of Housing Trust homes in the key marginal of Ashford, Mitchell and Elder.

The Liberals have got about 10 days to fix this small target faux pas.

It was a quiet start to the week for the respective party leaders; neither appeared on talk radio stations.

FIVEaa dropped its planned Monday morning debate between Steven Marshall and Jay Weatherill.

There was nothing sinister in the decision – it was just that the plan was made before both leaders were consulted.

Both camps expect another radio debate sometime between now and polling day – when diaries permit.

The pollsters and analysts, meanwhile, spent much of the weekend pouring over the Newspoll published Saturday.

It showed a 54-46 two party preferred figure, favouring the Liberals.

ABC analyst Antony Green suggested that was enough for a comfortable win.

Campaign Diary noted one interesting figure – the ALP’s primary vote remains in the low 30s, never enough to win an election.

From the day of its election in February 2002, the ALP’s primary vote remained above 40 (bar one poll at 39) until October 2009 when a rolled up magazine was used by a disgruntled to husband to whack then-Premier Mike Rann.

The air went out of the balloon that day and its been almost impossible to regain ground since.

Pulling off a marginal seats minor miracle in 2010  has been the only highlight since.

Repeating that effort looks tough with the fight expanded to seats that were once considered safe.

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