Is this woman about to become a Labor hero?
Katy Gallagher, about whom little is known outside the Molonglo tundra of the Australian Capital Territory, is set to become a distinctive political figure nationally.
On Saturday she will be - if opinion poll findings are correct - the first Labor leader elected since Julia Gillard limped home in 2010. And, of great importance to Labor, she could be the first incumbent to defy a Liberal campaign which is based on attempts to frighten the voters.
If she does prevail she could be promoted by her federal colleagues as evidence that scaring the electorate doesn’t always work and can be countered. And that voters are not easily spooked.
The Gillard Government, keen for any positive sign visible from the depths of the polling tables, would will hail her as a strong woman who takes no nonsense and is devoted to implementing good policy. Sound familiar?
However, Canberra is not like other places. It has a one-house local legislature representing three multi-member electorates via proportional representation. Picking how that might work before election day can be tough.
Ms Gallagher, 42, a mother and former social worker who succeeded the patchy Labor leader Jon Stanhope, already is ACT Chief Minister and on Saturday will attempt to halt the ALP wipeout of the past two years. Labor has been routed in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and the Northern Territory since the last Federal election.
She is facing Zed Seselja, 35, a personable and presentable local who wants to be the first Liberal Chief Minister in about 15 years.
The Liberals have been campaigning heavily on what they see as the certainty of a tripling of rates under a Gallagher government. Canberra rates are already high. A further three-fold rise would be grounds for taking to the streets.
The incumbents have raised this prospect by overhauling taxes so that imposts such as stamp duty will be eased - to help people buy their own homes - and the revenue recouped by other taxes and charges, which of course would include household rates rates.
“We’re abolishing stamp duty, we’re not collecting any more revenue, but we’re going to change the way we collect revenue, but we’re going to do it over a long period of time so that people don’t get these sharp increases,” said Ms Gallagher.
It is a bold redrawing of the tax system for long-term objectives. Or, as Liberals have been saying on billboards, newspaper advertisments and interviews, it is a guarantee that rates will triple.
“Labor or Greens = Triple Rates,” said one moving billboard. Foregoing tens of millions of dollars in stamp duty means the shortfall has to be made up elsewhere, the line has been.
Labor reply was comparatively low key. It featured a photo of Mr Seselja stamped “rejected” and the legend, “Canberrans are smarter than that.”
Of course, they might be smart in a way which costs Labor the election, but Patterson Research polling published by the Canberra Times indicate they won’t.
The Patterson polling found “household rates” came fifth among election issues, with just nine per cent saying it would influence their vote. This is despite rate notices arriving at households in the final week of the campaign.
The result will be close with Labor battling to get a majority in the 17-member assembly.
But even trickling over the line with the largest representation would be enough for Labor to take more notice of Katy Gallagher.
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