Race row erupts as Keating struggles to close gap

ROBERT MILLIKEN

Sydney

The Australian general election battle shifted to the volatile state of Queensland yesterday, as fresh opinion polls showed the Labor Party struggling to reverse a potentially winning lead for the opposition Liberal-National coalition on Saturday.

Paul Keating, the Prime Minister, and John Howard, the opposition leader, found themselves campaigning in different parts of Brisbane yesterday as an opinion poll published in the Australian newspaper put the opposition parties once again 8 points ahead, a lead they had enjoyed early in the campaign before stumbling last week. A Sydney Morning Herald poll on Monday showed the opposition leading by 6 points.

Such a figure, if reflected in the actual voting on Saturday, would be enough to bring a resounding end to Labor's 13-year rule in Canberra. It is larger than the lead the opposition took into the final week of campaigning at the last election in 1993, before Mr Keating made a last- minute surge to score a shock victory.

His task of building enough momentum for a repeat performance this time is immense. But it is not impossible. In no other election has polling been more exhaustive. And, while the polls reflect widespread dissatisfaction among Australians at the thought of giving yet another term to a government which many feel has run its course, they are also sending out confusing signals. A third poll published today in the Bulletin, a national news magazine, shows the coalition's lead reduced to just 2 points.

In all the latest polls, a clear majority thought that Labor would actually win the election. Mr Keating also increased an earlier lead over Mr Howard on the question of who would make the best prime minister.

Mr Keating called on a cheering rally of party faithful in Brisbane yesterday to "claim it again for Labor", before heading to north Queensland - the conservative region known as the Deep North - where race has once again erupted as a campaign issue. To the embarrassment of the coalition, Bob Katter, the National Party candidate for the immense north Queensland constituency of Kennedy, complained on Monday that it was "nigh on impossible" to send children from his remote area to boarding schools "unless you're rich or unless you happen to be of Aboriginal descent".

His suggestion that Aborigines were a favoured race might have been written off at any other time as typical Deep North "redneckism". But it came barely a fortnight after an outcry over Mr Katter's earlier attack on what he described as the "slanty-eyed ideologues" of political correctness who, he said, "persecute ordinary, average Australians". Yesterday Mr Howard again declined to strip Mr Katter of his endorsement

Labor does not want to be reminded of its own difficulties on the race issue, involving Graeme Campbell, the maverick MP for the world's largest constituency, Kalgoorlie, which covers an area of Western Australia ten times the size of Britain. The party stripped Mr Campbell of endorsement last year after he appeared at meetings held by Australians Against Further Immigration, a group that advocates racially discriminatory immigration policies.

Campaigning by light aircraft and supported by his French wife, Michele, a Sorbonne graduate, the colourful Mr Campbell is fighting Kalgoorlie at this election as an independent and taking every opportunity to attack Mr Keating. The constituency, which he has held for 16 years, contains just 74,000 voters, most of them miners, farmers and Aborigines. But polls indicate that he enjoys enough popularity to snatch it from the official Labor candidate this time.

The frontier town of Kalgoorlie, Mr Campbell's base, is famous for its brothels as much as for its booming gold mines. Support for Mr Campbell came this week from Stella Strong, the proprietress of the Red House, a prominent establishment. She wrote to the Kalgoorlie Minercalling for a vote for Mr Campbell: "He has always treated my staff and me as equals."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas