28 Jun 2016

Australian MPs fight for must-win seats

8:58 pm on 28 June 2016

Australian Election - With less than four days until the Australian federal election, the fight for key marginal Western Sydney seats, such as Parramatta, is ramping up.

These battleground seats are viewed as must-wins for both the Liberal and Labor parties.

Australia's Parliament buildings, in Canberra.

The Australian federal election will be held on Saturday 2 July. Photo: AFP

The seat of Parramatta has been held by the Australian Labor Party's Julie Owens since 2004.

But her hold on the seat is precarious; she won by just 1.4 percent at the last election.

Ms Owens said it was a hard seat to win because the electorate was so diverse - with one in every two people born overseas.

"Very difficult seat to serve because of its diversity. Very difficult seat to win if you don't already hold it, because you have a lot of communities to get to know."

"Fifty percent of us born overseas and we cover every ethnicity [with a] growing African population now."

Employment was a big issue in Parramatta - with a number of immigrants working in jobs far below what they're qualified to do, Ms Owens said.

Julie Owens

Labor MP Julie Owens has held her seat in Parramatta since 2004. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

"Most of the bank tellers have degrees or masters, and bank tellers are suppose to be entry-level."

"We have a lot of issues of wasting the resources that we have. These incredibly qualified people who don't necessarily get interviews for the jobs that they should.

"Some of that is cultural differences, where there are cultural differences in the way you front up to an interview and some of it is hidden racism," Ms Owens said.

Her rival Liberal candidate Michael Beckwith has been knocking on as many doors as he can in the electorate, and has had Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull help his campaign.

Liberal candidate Michael Beckwith

Liberal candidate Michael Beckwith has been working hard to win the seat. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

He believed the mood in Parramatta was changing, he said.

"The Liberal vales, the Liberal ideas, is resonating more with qualified people, professionally qualified and technical workers - which is what Parramatta has got more of.

"There's less working class here. So I think the attitude of the electorate, there's a long-term gradual shift happening."

Business activity needed to be stimulated in Western Sydney to create more jobs, he said.

A long-time Liberal campaigner in Parramatta, Alan Sexton, believed Mr Beckwith would benefit from Mr Turnbull's leadership.

There was no longer angst against Mr Turnbull's predecessor, Tony Abbott, in the voting electorate, he said.

Ms Owens, meanwhile, was hard-working but her party hadn't fully recovered from the last election defeat, Dr Sexton said.

Ms Owens admitted the Australian Labor Party was the underdog in the election.

"I think winning 21 seats in this climate is very, very difficult. We'll win some, but whether we win enough is another matter."

Of the marginal seats in Australia, 31 are currently held by the governing Liberal-National coalition and 27 are held by Labor, with independents holding the remainder.

The coalition currently hold 90 seats in the House, above the 76 needed to form a government.

Labor has 55, and needs to win another 21 seats to retake the government - and it can't afford to lose Parramatta.

The election will be held on Saturday.

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