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Abbott campaigns in Canning ahead of crucial by-election -

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ELEANOR HALL: Let's go to now Perth where Tony Abbott is campaigning alongside the Liberal candidate for Canning at the by-election which could determine his own future as Prime Minister.

Labor is dismissing suggestions that it's running a low key campaign in the outer-Perth seat because it would rather fight Mr Abbott at a general election.

Mr Abbott insists this election will be fought on local issues. But today he added the Free Trade Agreement with China to the mix, challenging the Federal Labor leader to support it, along with jobs and economic growth.

Peta Donald has our report.

ANDREW HASTIE: Good morning everyone, I'd like to welcome the Prime Minister and the Justice Minister to the city of Armadale. We've had some good discussions this morning about law and order.

PETA DONALD: So far the Prime Minister has been scarce on the ground in the campaign for Canning, but today he was there.

As he put it, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Liberal candidate, former SAS officer Andrew Hastie.

TONY ABBOTT: If the people of Canning are looking for someone who's tough, courageous, single-minded, ready to speak out for them, Andrew Hastie's their man.

PETA DONALD: Mr Abbott says this will be a vote about local issues - like security on the streets, and jobs.

On that, he's added Australia's Free Trade Agreement with China to the mix.

Unions are running a campaign against the agreement, saying it doesn't protect Australian jobs over imported Chinese workers.

Some in Labor argue unless changes are made the party should block enabling legislation, that needs to pass through the Parliament later this year.

Labor luminaries Bob Hawke and Bob Carr, along with the Labor leaders in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, and the ACT, have all spoken out in favour of supporting the China Agreement. Mr Abbott is putting pressure on the Labor Leader Bill Shorten to join them.

TONY ABBOTT: Sensible Labor people know that this Free Trade Agreement is absolutely in Australia's interests. The only people who are opposing the Chine-Australia Free Trade Agreement, the CFMEU, the ACTU and Bill Shorten. He's keeping pretty dodgy company I've got to say.

PETA DONALD: Bill Shorten says Labor is prepared to negotiate with the Government, but he insists it will stand up for Australian jobs.

BILL SHORTEM: Labor does stand for Australian jobs first. We get the benefits of trade, but we're not just going to sign any old deal which undermines Australian jobs. And in terms of the commentators, I won't make a comment about the Chinese government, but what I will say is that the state Labor leaders, who I've spoken to today, are on the same page. They're committed to Australian jobs first.

PETA DONALD: The former Labor trade minister Simon Crean, a onetime ACTU president says the agreement should be supported and owned by Labor.

SIMON CREAN: I do not support eroding the labour market testing or eroding the standards. But this agreement does not do that. So let's get a factual base about this and let's get on with the real issue, and that's the job opportunities, because we diminish our opportunities for jobs going forward if we do not sign this agreement.

PETA DONALD: The Labor candidate in Canning, lawyer Matt Keogh, says locals are concerned about the free trade agreement, and what it will mean for jobs.

MATT KEOGH: Out here, what people are really concerned to make sure is that this is not going to be an agreement that then undermines their capacity to have jobs going into the future. They're concerned that they've got kids going into a high unemployment environment; they want to see that they can get trained. So they want funding for training in the electorate; they want to see that they can get that. But they also want to know that there's going to be jobs available for them after that.

PETA DONALD: Matt Keogh has rejected a report Labor is running a low key campaign in Canning. Sky News says senior ministers say Labor is running dead. The theory is that the Liberals win the seat, Tony Abbott stays on as leader, giving Labor a better chance at the next general election.

It's a theory dismissed by Mr Keogh.

MATT KEOGH: We're not running dead at all in Canning, Fran; we're definitely playing to win in this by-election. But we're not the Liberal party, we don't have the cash resources for wrap around ads in every addition of every newspaper. But that doesn't matter, because what we're doing is going out and talking to the voters on the ground.

PETA DONALD: Andrew Hastie was asked about the story that Labor wants him to do well, and whether it intrigues him.

ANDREW HASTIE: I'm very busy on the ground. I don't have time to take counsel from the east coast Twitterati. There's a significant disconnect between what people are saying over east and what's happening here in Canning. People of Canning are concerned about jobs, the problem of ice and infrastructure. And so I'm focused on the ground game here.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Liberal candidate for Canning, Andrew Hastie, ending that report from Peta Donald.