Howard steals Canning by-election show

The opposition leader has overtaken the prime minister in the number of visits to Canning during the by-election campaign, but the Liberals pulled out the big guns with John Howard’s appearances.


Hot on the heels of Tony Abbott’s second trip to the West Australian electorate, Bill Shorten racked up his third on Thursday.

Then Australia’s longest serving prime minister took to the coastal retirement haven of Mandurah alongside Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie, meeting voters at a shopping centre and getting a rock-star reception.

Mr Howard said his presence did not indicate the party was worried about losing the September 19 poll.

Instead, the “compulsive campaigner” happened to be in Perth and couldn’t resist offering help.

“And he’s such an impressive candidate that I wanted to sort of be part of the action,” Mr Howard told reporters.

“It’s really got nothing to do with desperation. I’m always happy to help Tony Abbott.”

Meanwhile, far inland in the crime hot spot of Armadale, Mr Shorten has promised $3.2 million in funding to tackle drug addiction, crime and domestic violence in the area if Labor is elected in 2016.

He denied suggestions the party was running a dead campaign in the by-election to keep Mr Abbott prime minister, assuming Malcolm Turnbull would be harder to beat.

But he once again carefully avoided mentioning Mr Hastie.

“Every day that Tony Abbott stays prime minister is not a good day for Australia,” Mr Shorten said.

An Essential Research poll, commissioned by advocacy group GetUp, has the coalition leading Labor 51-49 per cent in Canning after preferences.