Surrounded by vats of who-knows-what at a chemical manufacturing business on the NSW south coast, Scott Morrison couldn’t afford to trip.
The same is true for the coalition’s campaign to retain the local seat of Gilmore, if he wishes to remain prime minister.
“Here in the seat of Gilmore, they will not only decide who their next member for Gilmore will be,” Mr Morrison told reporters at the factory on Monday.
“It’s also one of those key seats around the country, where the people of Gilmore, the people on the south coast, will get to decide who the next prime minister should be.”
Hand-picked Liberal candidate Warren Mundine is vying to win the seat, to fill the spot left by outgoing Ann Sudmalis. However, the Liberals have only a thin notional margin of 0.73 per cent.
Luckily, the coalition has another horse in the race, with former NSW minister Katrina Hodgkinson running for the Nationals.
Both candidates were alongside Mr Morrison as he toured Shellharbour Hospital, on which the coalition has vowed to spend $128 million redeveloping.
The hospital is in the nearby electorate of Whitlam, held by Labor’s Stephen Jones with a healthy 13.72 per cent buffer.
Mr Mundine and Ms Hodgkinson were all smiles as they checked out wards and medical imaging rooms in line for a makeover.
“We’re very friendly, we get on together,” Mr Mundine later told reporters.
“There’s no bitterness between us.”
Ms Hodgkinson stressed a three-cornered race was not unusual.
“It’s been a really fun election campaign. I’ve really enjoyed it,” she told AAP.
Mr Morrison’s earlier tour of a chemical producer in South Nowra was designed to demonstrate the sort of business that could benefit from a new $50 million fund aimed at encouraging manufacturers to invest in more modern technology.
The government would offer grants of up to $1 million for upgrades, if industry spends at least three times as much.
Ultimately, the coalition’s initial investment is expected to attract $110 million from the manufacturing firms.
The prime minister is also gearing up for his third debate against Labor rival Bill Shorten on Wednesday evening, after losing each of the previous two, according to their audiences of undecided voters.
“As a Mundine, I’m giving him a bit of training on boxing,” Mr Mundine joked, referencing his boxing cousins Tony Mundine and his son Anthony.
The coalition has also vowed to reinvigorate the ‘Australian Made’ campaign, to encourage more foreigners to buy products made down under, investing $5 million in an advertising push.
A small group of protesters who want more ships to be Australian-flagged, to shore up jobs for local seafarers, rallied outside the chemical business to argue Mr Morrison was focused on the wrong logo.
“The Australian Made logo that counts is the Australian flag, the maritime flag that should be flying on all vessels,” secretary of the South Coast Labour Council Arthur Rorris said.