The federal opposition leader, Peter Dutton, will not attend Dominic Perrottet’s official campaign launch this weekend, and is unlikely to be seen during the frantic final two weeks leading up to the New South Wales election.
As the minority Coalition government seeks to hang on to power for a fourth term in NSW, Dutton has been a notable absentee on the campaign trail.
Since November last year, Dutton has made only one media appearance in Sydney – a press conference alongside the independent Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone – while visiting the city for the funeral of Cardinal George Pell and the 20th anniversary of the Bali bombings.
That is not likely to change at the Coalition launch on Sunday. Dutton, who trails the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, in opinion polls, is not on the list of party dignitaries expected at the event.
While Perrottet’s office has insisted the launch is focused on the future – previous NSW premiers including Mike Baird and Gladys Berejiklian are not due to attend – he will be joined by former prime minister John Howard.
Scott Morrison, who Perrottet publicly rebuked during last year’s federal campaign over his criticism of the state’s Independent Commission Against Corruption, is also not expected to attend.
Asked about Dutton’s absence from the campaign last month, Perrottet quipped that he did not “need an interstate wingman or a chaperone”.
“People make a decision to vote for my government, I’m the premier and I’m from NSW,” he said.
“I’m passionate about this state and people will judge me on my merits, not because somebody is coming down here.”
While Dutton could yet appear on the campaign trail, party sources said it was not expected to happen.
Asked about his absence on Thursday one senior party source said: “We’ve got enough problems.”
Dutton’s absence from the campaign stands in marked contrast to the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, who has made a number of appearances alongside the opposition leader Chris Minns.
At Labor’s campaign launch last weekend Albanese launched a blistering attack on the NSW Coalition government, labelling it “plagued by scandal” and slamming a “deficit of character” over a bushfire funding grants scandal.
Albanese has made nine public appearances with Minns since November, including at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardis Gras when he became the first prime minister to march in the parade.
He has also made six public appearances with Perrottet, including during a joint press conference in the Blue Mountains in January when he said of the premier: “I get on quite well with this bloke [but] I want Chris Minns to win the election in March but that should come as no surprise to the premier.”
Albanese goaded Dutton about his absence from the campaign during question time this week, encouraging him to attend the campaign launch and saying there was “a forcefield around the NSW premier”.
“He’s happy to appear with me,” Albanese said.