Doubt cast on Morwell polling

The National Party has cast doubt over a media report its primary vote had plummeted to below 30 per cent in the seat of Morwell, five months out from the November state election.

On Friday, The Age newspaper reported “sources confirming” the National’s primary vote had collapsed into the 20s, making Morwell a “seat to watch” with at least half of the electorate undecided in the wake of the Hazelwood mine fire.

However Nationals Party state director Jenny Hammett has questioned the credibility of the source of the polling information, stating it would mean a swing of 39 per cent against the party.

Ms Hammett said the party was yet to conduct its own polling in the electorate.

Incumbent member Russell Northe, who took Morwell for his second term in 2010 with a 16.3 per cent margin, said he was also unaware of the source of the polling figures.

In March, The Age commissioned a poll during the first month of the Hazelwood fire, surveying 1660 voters across Morwell, Traralgon, Churchill and Moe, which put the Coalition’s primary vote at 31 per cent.

“Whoever they’ve talked to, I’d assume they were basing their facts on that (Age) survey, however that was taken over three months ago in a highly volatile period for Morwell,” Mr Northe said.

“I seriously don’t get antsy about any polling which comes out; it only takes away your focus on what you are doing for the electorate, so you really can’t be distracted by those types of perceptions.”

Northe downplays disunity

Amid speculation over ongoing Coalition party disunity, fuelled this week by the emergence of a voice recording of former premier Ted Baillieu criticising fellow party MPs, Mr Northe has moved to play down its impact on Coalition election chances.

“It doesn’t help us, there’s no doubt about that, but I’m not so sure this will change the public’s perceptions of how well this government operates and functions,” he said.

“There’s always leadership and party shenanigans when you mix parliament and personality; I just hope people can look past this to the ability of a government to deliver for its local community when they go to the polls.

“In any large working environment you will have your debates and differences of opinion – but from a Nationals perspective I can tell you we have very strong family unit.”

Mr Northe was also keen to talk up his working relationship with Liberal member for Narracan Gary Blackwood in the neighbouring seat of Narracan.