“People just have the sh-ts,” says Ross Downie, 75, from behind the counter of his wife’s antique store on Military Road, Cremorne, in the heart of Tony Abbott’s electorate of Warringah.
“Conservative governments equal stability,” Downie says, making it clear who will receive his vote at the September 7 federal election.
“It’s people’s confidence, that’s all that needs to change.”
Alternative prime minister Abbott’s seat — which covers everything from the mansions at Mosman, to the leafy middle-class streets of Frenchs Forest — is one of the safest in the coalition column.
Since he was first installed in a 1994 by-election, his spot has never been in doubt. And 12 days before Australians front up to the polling booth, he contests Warringah with a 13.1% margin in his favour.
This is Abbott Town. And based on Business Insider’s discussions with local voters, they’re starting to get excited about the prospect of having the local MP in the The Lodge.
But while it’s one thing to get behind the local bloke who might be the next PM, the concerns of some we spoke to are familiar ones that have been consistently making headlines all year: economic uncertainty, business red tape, and border protection.
The visit to Warringah is the start of a trip that will finish in Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s electorate of Griffith in Brisbane this weekend. Of the 10 people we spoke to in an afternoon, not one person said they intended to vote Labor. Six said they intended to vote Liberal and four were undecided, mainly out of a lack of engagement with the campaign so far.
Downie, whose wife’s store is one of many which line the main road that leads to the electorate’s iconic beaches, says business has been on hold, he thinks, due to political uncertainty.
“We sell things people do not need to buy … You might as well [some days] not even turn on the lights.”
His is not the only business doing it tough.
In between packing dresses in her store, its window emblazoned with the words “CLOSING DOWN – ALL STOCK MUST GO” Paula Duncombe, 68, told Business Insider she feels Abbott would be better for small business.
“The main concerns are the high cost of running a small business and the red tape.
“The high cost of banking, the lack of parking … the lack of transport.”
Duncombe believes Abbott understands the economic issues that affect small business better than Kevin Rudd.
“Every time the Labor Party has come in, myself and every small business I know has gone backwards.”
Other business owners in the electorate are noticing the uncertainty of their customers, says Naz Amini, 34, from Cammeray, who owns and manages a lingerie store not far up the road from Duncombe’s closing boutique in Mosman.
“Everyone is really, really nervous.”
It is not just business issues which are weighing heavily on voters’ minds. Asylum seekers are key in the upcoming election, and is something Warringah voters repeatedly raised when we spoke to them.
Asked what one issue he wants his government to fix, Manly resident Blake Allan, 45, says: “Boat people.” It’s typically an issue that’s associated with Sydney’s western suburbs, not here on the leafy north shore.
“We have people coming to this country that find it hard to stay here who are doing it legally, and then the boat people do it illegally … burn their passports so we don’t know who there are, and they get free accommodation and housing.”
Allan, who manages a surf store on the Manly beach front, says he has several friends who were forced to leave Australia after attempting to gain residence, and this is why the issue is important to him.
He’s not the only constituent concerned with how Australia handles asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Peter Calbi, 55, a factory packer from Allambi, says it is also the issue which will sway his vote.
“They come in the back door and its not the right way to do it, especially since you have a lot of people lining up to do it the right way.
“And its costing us tax payers millions of dollars. I would rather see the old policy [former Prime Minister John] Howard had come back.
“If he [Tony Abbott] gets in he’s going to have a damn hard job cleaning up the mess he’s got now.”
Ben Collins is on a road trip from Tony Abbott’s electorate of Warringah in Sydney to Kevin Rudd’s electorate of Griffith in Brisbane, speaking to voters and business leaders about their concerns ahead of the election on September 7.
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