Tony Abbott is in Perth for a campaign some people think could decide his fate

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is in Perth this weekend to campaign for Andrew Hastie in the Canning by-election which many believe will be one of the biggest tests of Abbott’s leadership.

Opponents of Abbott’s within his own party have been seeking to position the by-election as a litmus test of the prime minister’s leadership. Abbott is confident the Coalition will retain the Canning seat.

“Well, we’re not going to lose the Canning by-election, we’ve got an outstanding candidate, we’ve run a strong campaign, and I think the people of Canning are going to ask themselves ‘who is going to look after them?’” Abbott told reporters this weekend.

“Is it going to be a government which scrapped the carbon tax, which scrapped the mining tax, which stopped the boats, which has created 300,000 jobs in just two years? Or is it a political party which in government spent like drunken sailors, started the boats, whacked Western Australia with a carbon tax and a mining tax?

“I think it’s absolutely crystal clear just where the best interests of the people of Perth, the people of Canning and the people of Western Australia lie.”

He was asked repeatedly today to say what might be an acceptable swing against the government, but said he was not going to play “Canberra insider games”.

Joe Spagnolo, political editor of Perth’s Sunday Times, wrote this weekend: “As much as Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie and his strategists have tried to make this by-election about local issues – there is no escaping it is a litmus test of Abbott.

“A win with a 10 per cent swing against would still be a terrible look.”

A poll published in the Sunday Times today showed a 10 per cent swing against the government, with the paper declaring the result is “on a knife edge”.

The start of Coalition’s the final week of campaigning in Canning was disrupted by the publication on Friday of a list of ministers Abbott was allegedly considering dumping or demoting in a Christmas reshuffle. Abbott has spent the weekend denying he’s planning any such changes, but speculation about the motives and source of the leak has continued.

The Canning by-election, which will be held next weekend, was triggered by the sudden death of local Liberal member, Don Randall, in July.

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