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Labor leaders target WA as PM hits Queensland marginals

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has denied swinging into campaign mode early while lending his support to marginal-seat MPs in Queensland as Labor targets the Federal Government in WA.

Mr Morrison declared yesterday that he was “backing Queenslanders” as he began his four-day “ScoMobile” bus tour of the Sunshine State, where eight of the coalition’s seats are considered vulnerable.

With the on-ground contest in WA also critical to the outcome of next year’s Federal election, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will arrive in Perth tomorrow to host town hall meetings in the key marginal electorates of Hasluck and Pearce.

With Labor increasingly confident that voters in Stirling are showing a willingness to turn on the coalition, Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek held an education forum in the electorate last night alongside local Labor candidate Melita Markey.

The duo’s foray into coalition territory, including seats held by senior WA Liberals Ken Wyatt, Christian Porter and Michael Keenan, comes after the Government officially fell into minority yesterday with the declaration of independent Kerryn Phelps the winner of the Wentworth by-election.

Trouble is already brewing ahead of MPs returning to Canberra later this month, with maverick independent Bob Katter threatening to plunge the Government further into minority by supporting the referral of Liberal MP Chris Crewther to the High Court to determine the Victorian backbencher’s eligibility to sit in Parliament.

Dr Phelps also left the door open to referring Mr Crewther and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to the High Court, pending legal advice.

Speaking at a strawberry farm south of Brisbane, Mr Morrison announced a plan to help farmers fill job vacancies by allowing backpackers and other visitors on working holidays to stay in Australia longer.

Ms Plibersek, appearing with Hannah Beazley, Labor candidate for Swan, at Como Secondary College yesterday, said it was evident that the campaign for next year’s election, which can be held no later than May, started “some time ago”.

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