Prime Minister Tony Abbott will fly into the seat of Griffith to campaign for Bill Glasson as the Liberal National Party candidate tries to win what was former prime minister Kevin Rudd's seat.
Queensland Labor sources said that an internal poll conducted in the last week showed Dr Glasson, who secured 42.2 per cent of the primary vote at the last election against Mr Rudd's 40.4 per cent, has extended his primary vote lead over his opponent, Terri Butler.
The pair are neck and neck on the two-party preferred vote and Ms Butler's campaign believes the large, 11 candidate field makes the two party-preferred vote difficult to read, but that she can still win.
Dr Glasson secured a 5.4 per cent swing against Mr Rudd in September, but it was not enough to knock out the former prime minister and he lost the two party-preferred vote by 47 per cent to Mr Rudd's 53 per cent.
A source in the LNP campaign played down Dr Glasson's chances but would say only that the party's internal polling showed the contest was "tight, very tight".
Bookmakers have installed Ms Butler as favourite to win the seat.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten, who has moved to capitalise on Mr Abbott's trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week, will campaign from Monday to Thursday in the seat, culminating in a shadow cabinet meeting on Thursday.
But the Prime Minister's office has drawn up plans for Mr Abbott to make at least one campaign visit to the seat before of the February 8 poll. Mr Abbott visited Griffith before Christmas to campaign with Dr Glasson but has not visited since polling day was set.
Though the federal government enjoys a 35-seat majority in the lower house, both sides are desperate to win the by-election. The federal government's standing in the polls has slumped following the election, with a Fairfax/Nielsen poll conducted in November giving Labor a 52-48 lead on the two party preferred vote. Mr Abbott led Mr Shorten 49-41 as preferred prime minister in the poll.
Mr Shorten and Labor have attempted to frame the by-election as an early referendum on the Abbott government, including on issues such as a proposed $6 co-payment fee for GP visits which Dr Glasson, a former head of the Australian Medical Association, has backed. On Monday, Mr Shorten warned signature Labor social policies such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme were at risk of being cut by the Abbott government.
"One other issue, of course, which is unfurling is the ongoing concern in 2014 about jobs. I'm here in Griffith to talk about Australian jobs. I hope that Tony Abbott is talking about Australian jobs when he's in Geneva at the same time,'' he said.
Mr Rudd has also campaigned in the seat with Ms Butler but is understood to be overseas and will not be back until the Friday before polling day, when he will be in Sydney.
Pre-poll voting will begin in the seat on Tuesday.
The story Bill Shorten takes advantage of Tony Abbott's absence to campaign in Griffith first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.