Victorian election: highlights of week one

As John Brumby and Ted Baillieu prepare for tonight’s leaders debate (unlikely to have much impact, being buried on a Friday evening three weeks out from polling day), here are some notable happenings from the first week of the campaign:

Paul Austin of The Age has received a “detailed strategy document” from the ALP in which campaign spending is allocated to electorates according to need, although its veracity is disupted by party state secretary Nick Reece. The document identifies 13 seats as “in danger”, including four held by ministers: Melbourne (Bronwyn Pike), Bendigo East (Jacinta Allan), Mount Waverley (Maxime Morand) and Ripon (Joe Helper). Also on the list are Prahran, Forest Hill, Gembrook, Mordialloc, South Barwon, Seymour, Eltham, Frankston and Bentleigh. Another six are at the apparently lower but still high threat level of “critical”: Richmond, Brunswick, Burwood, Mitcham, Ballarat West and Macedon. Of lesser but still real concern are Monbulk, Narre Warren South, Narre Warren North, Bellarine, Ballarat East and Yan Yean. More broadly, Labor is said to fear a backlash among “white males aged between 30 and 50” who are aggreived over “law and order and so-called ‘nanny state’ issues”.

Stephen McMahon of the Herald-Sun reports Liberal candidates were “summoned to a special meeting last night” on the back of squabbles and resignations which have “threatened to derail Ted Baillieu’s campaign”. McMahon points to a dangerous number of Liberal MPs briefing against Baillieu, and beats the drum of internal “dismay” over a “deal” with the Greens on preferences (which in fact amounts to the party simply doing what it’s always done).

• The Liberals are currently without a candidate in the winnable country seat of Seymour after the withdrawal of Mike Laker on Saturday. Though ostensibly for “personal reasons”, this obviously related to a talk radio caller’s claim that Laker had told him of government plans to house 50 Somali families in the electorate and provide them with free cars. The Weekly Times likes the chances of independent Jan Beer, running on behalf of the Plug the Pipe campaign against the controversial north-south pipeline.

• The Liberal candidate for Richmond, Tom McFeely, is back in the party fold after announcing on Wednesday he would quit and run as an independent. The owner of Collingwood gay pub the Peel Hotel, McFeely had been affonted by a rebuke he received from a Liberal apparatchik for conducting media appearances without party clearance.

• The mayor of Mildura, one Glenn Milne, has announced he will take a leave of absence from council to run for the seat of Mildura as an independent. Mildura was held by independent Russell Savage for three terms from 1996, but he was defeated in 2006 by Nationals candidate Peter Crisp.

• Antony Green has calculated margins in key seats based on results from the federal election – not normally an exercise psephologists have much time for, but more than useful on this occasion in demonstrating Victoria’s electoral stability since the last state election.

UPDATE: Essential Research has published state poll results based on its last six weeks of surveying, and its the first published poll to support Labor concerns raised in Paul Austin’s article: the two parties are tied on two-party preferred, with the Coalition on a clear primary vote lead of 44 per cent to 38 per cent. As usual, Essential shows the Greens more modestly placed than other pollsters on 12 per cent.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

289 comments on “Victorian election: highlights of week one”

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  1. Terry Mulder’s line in the Herald-Sun article
    [“We are going very well. There is a good, positive feel out there,”]
    reminds me of that guy who was the Iraqi Government spokesman saying “There is no invasion” in 2003

  2. And who will be the first Liberal Candidate to publicly disown the Liberal Party’s strategy of preferencing the Greens in inner Melbourne?

    My money is on one of the “middle ring” of rural seats – possibly whoever they get to replace their recently-departed Seymour candidate, as this person will be trying to get some media attention (and in a different manner to their predecessor).

  3. [There is a good, positive feel out there]

    About what? What have the Libs offered that would make anyone feel anything (beyond perhaps mild surprise?)

    They’ve been a couple of lovely interviews on Regional Drive with Lib MPs.

    Terry Mulder basically said that, in the event of a hung Parliament, it would be up to the faceless men of the Liberal party HQ to determine any deals with minor parties, not to the elected Liberal parliamentarians.

    (All that’s needed to go with that is a picture of Ballieu waiting outside Lib HQs to be told what to do).

    The other day it was somebody else equally obscure who was criticising some Labor policy which has been out for months (only caught the tail end of this) for lack of consultation etc. He was asked several times when the Libs policy in that area was going to be released and couldn’t say.

    The point was made that giving three months for the community to respond to a policy is better than less than three weeks!

    It’s a pity these interviews aren’t more widely aired, and I think just demonstrates that noone’s particularly interested in them.

    (As for ‘The Age’ story, couldn’t have any of us written much the same thing, given a couple of minutes?)

  4. Antony Green’s piece is interesting.

    There are some obvious difficulties with the State / Fed comparison, though (as he recognises).

    Firstly, I suspect that loathing of Abbott and some of his cronies, played a substantial part in the Fed vote in Victoria. People, for the most part, don’t loath Ballieu. He is far too much of a nonentity for that, and the rest of the Liberal party are invisible. So, unlike the Fed situation, we can’t expect to see a protest vote against the Libs here as part of the equation.

    Secondly, while Labor is certainly nothing like as much “on the nose” at the state level here as it is in NSW it is still not seen as squeeky clean. The various planning issue kerfuffles involving Madden, especially, have certainly “bitten” to some extent in a number of electorates. The desal plant, north south pipeline and bay dredging, whether they be right or wrong decisions, have also occasioned some antipathy, and the public transport issues have done Labor some harm here too.

    None of it is likely to cost Labor actual government, but I very much doubt that they will do as well at the State level as they did Federally in Victoria.

  5. It was with Jon Faine on ABC 774. He basically said that if Green preferences flow to Labor as expected. Labor will win with a majority. If not, election outcome will be different.

  6. I’ve been predicting a very tight result in Victoria for weeks. Baillieu will put the ALP last in key inner city seats. The next Premier is 50/50. The Herald Sun is actually campaigning for the ALP- and very brazenly against the Greens and the Libs. The Age is on the fence. I’m hearing the internal polls show the biggest issue is the longevity of the Government – and they want another four years. It’s not quite “Its Time” – but getting bloody close.

  7. [I’m hearing the internal polls show the biggest issue is the longevity of the Government – and they want another four years. It’s not quite “Its Time” – but getting bloody close.]

    Indeed. One of the primary reasons why it is crazy for Labor to make The Greens their major target. If people vote Green and give their prefs back to Labor in the suburban seats it helps to “release” this sort of stuff. If they pick up a couple seats in the inner urban areas as a result, even with the balance of power, so what! Labor stays in power , with a government that actually looks like something fresher, helping to overcome the “It’s Time” factor next election, too, if they play it wisely.

    Yes, I’m sure it is counter-intuitive for any political party not to go for the jugular of a party on the rise that is likely to pinch a couple of seats from them, but if Labor lay off on the Greens, and focus their aggression far more tightly on the Libs, their prospects (short and long term) actually look a lot better to me than if they split their weaponry.

  8. I should add, that if the Greens tone down anti-government rhetoric and focus on positive messages etc, it would make such an approach far more acceptable to Labor.

    (Rod waits for the inevitable spray from both sides)

  9. The only thing worse than an imcompetent government (Brumby-ALP) is an equally incompetent opposition (Baillieu-Liberals) which is unable to defeat them.

  10. [The only thing worse than an imcompetent government (Brumby-ALP) is an equally incompetent opposition (Baillieu-Liberals) which is unable to defeat them.]

    The thing is, Glen, that by either Australian or International standards the Brumby government isn’t incompetent. It is actually one of the best ones out there. Sure, it gets some things wrong, and, of course, rubs up some peoples noses while seeking to satisfy others, but that is inevitable. Point me to another government, here or elsewhere, that you think actually runs more smoothly, even if you don’t like some their policies yourself.

    THis undoubtedly makes it hard for Ballieu, though I’d certainly agree that he doesn’t set the world on fire with imaginative policies or evidence of leading a team with any demonstrated competence in anything much at all!

  11. William
    is that state results based on Federal polling, or have they done separate polls for the state?
    I assume the ‘it’ is the Lab/Lib 2PP.

  12. The Essential poll sounds about right to me, maybe a bit soft on the green vote, but not much. THere is a growing anger about the ALP and unfortunately the fact that the ALP got back in Federally is not good news for Brumby.
    Now I know that people totally discount my long and rather boring campaign to have the Federal/State pollarity taken seriously but its looks again as if while the federal control turns one way the states turn the other. This is doubly interesting in Vic as there have been two federal elections since the last state selection. Now thats not something you see all that often. Re Green Vote I’d be very surprised if the state Greens beat the federal vote by more than 1%. Ie 13% lower, 15.5% upper, even that looks to high for my liking.
    When people look at bail’s remember the NSW voters are about to elect an almost unelectable joke.

  13. A liberal has broken ranks I think in gipsland area saying he will put the Greens last- defying baileau’s gagging call

  14. One of the difficulties with the new Essentials State poll is that it is built up from samples taken over such a lengthy time span. Quite a bit has happened in the last six weeks, most notably the MDB stuff, but hey, when the first component of this poll was taken Collingwood hadn’t even won the flag yet!

    The poll is a fair bit out of whack with the last Newspoll, unless there has been a significant swing against Labor in the last couple of weeks. It would be interesting to know what the week by week breakdown is.

  15. I’ve been thinking that if the Libs put ALP last and the ALP step up their attacks on the Greens, could more green voters go ALP last?

    The Greens could also get a bad image if they preference ALP 1st everywhere while the ALP are the ones attacking them. People might ask why the Greens are helps the people who are attacking them.

    This could strengthen the perception among the right that the Greens exist just to help the ALP.

  16. Rod,

    The Brumby government has certainly been competent, and life in Victoria is much better than it was 11 years ago. However, a competent Opposition could defeat it. First of all, the Liberals needed to realise that they lost the 1999 election. They kept pretending that it was a mistake and the people would come to their senses. Then they fought the 2002 election and the 2006 election as if they were fighting the 1992 election again. It is only in the last year that they have done the work Oppositions need to do to be seen as credible.

    There is plenty of scope for a credible Opposition. Ted Baillieu has promised to cut back on medium density housing, a positive promise, except for those who remember how the Coalition promised the same thing in 1992 (when it attacked dual occupancy as brought in by Labor) and then reneged after the election, and then Labor promised the same thing in 1999 (when it attacked ResCode as brought in by the Liberals) and then reneged after the election. The development industry, the planning industry, the purveyors of ugly architecture and the Greens have been too powerful to prevent the concretisation of Melbourne and will remain so under a Liberal government.

    Then there is the deplorable understaffing of secondary schools – not only worse than in 1992 but worse by almost the same amount than in 1981. Now, it was the Liberal government that cut the number of teachers, but it is Labor which has restored only one third of them. (The AEU and its members have to share the blame here because they keep endorsing EBAs that provide worse conditions than applied in all schools in the 1980s and in union schools in the 1970s.) Ted Baillieu should promise to restore 1,800 teachers still missing. In fact, I think he will go some way to do this. His promise of 100 extra primary teachers today could be a ruse to fool Labor into thinking he is not going to do anything about secondary schools and thus reduce the pressure on Labor to finish the job it started in 1999. He ought to realise, if he has any contacts in the education system, that it is the eastern suburban schools that are suffering from lower staffing ratios now than 30 years ago because of the cuts his party brought in and because of the voucher system now used to fund them. If he had done his homework, he would be able to say to each school community how many extra teachers the Liberals would give it.

    Then there are the “smart” meters, designed to gouge the incomes of low-income people.

    There is much more, but it’s not my job to tell the Liberals what they should be paying attention to.

    I think they will just lose, but 2014 is a real chance for them – with a new leader.

  17. Rod @ 23

    Unless there are specific statewide polls, the state polls are usually built up from the main polls over a period of time so that a meaningful sample can be achieved.

    6 weeks is better than Neilsen and Newspoll who build up over 3 months.

    It was reported earlier today that there had been a blitz by the ALP in the margibal seats. In beautiful Mitcham, 2 pieces (the same) from Tony Robinson yesterday as well as ALP spruikers at the station earlier in the week.

    The Essential figures surprise to some extent but then this government is starting to show its age and John Brumby has shown a degree of arrogance which is probably starting to rankle.

    What these poll results hide is where they are coming from – it is possible that the MDB issue hurts the ALP north of the divide but only Bendigo East and Ripon are relatively low lying fruit . There could be swings buttressing already huge majorities. Seymour may have been a possibility but the Libs have shot themselves in the foot big time.

    Like other states, the ALP may hold onto some marginals but lose seats higher up the pendulum – Macedon was mentioned on a thread a few months ago and Bellarine may be possible considering Lisa Neville’s abysmal performance as minister.

  18. 26

    To take of the concretisation of Melbourne you need to take on the road lobby who want tare up lots of Green space and houses and replaces them with vast swaths of concrete and asphalt. Some roads need narrowing to allow the planting of more trees. It is possible to have density without concrete jungle. Things like Greens roofs help. Increasing density needs to be planned better.

  19. Chris

    You will also find that the ALP are still fighting the 1999 election, they go on about what happened during the Kennett Government when Ted Baillieu was Lib state president.

  20. Tom you make a valid point and planning coluld be a sleeper issue. There has been a Melbournian pride in lifestyle and livability but this is threatened by John Brumby’s growth, growth, growth mantra. Transport is one area where the Brumby government have totally lost it – if you can lose something they never had – but is very much a quality of life issue, they talk and do nothing, and have done nothing for 11 years. They inherited a privatised system and have enjoyed being able to wash their hands of every failing.

  21. After all the fuss the Liberals made about Labor MPs not living in their electorates we now have this
    [Senior Liberals have won their battle to install Elsternwick resident Cindy McLeish as the party’s new candidate for Seymour today.]
    But she is “sort of” a local!
    [Cindy McLeish owns a property (nearby)]
    I think my relatives living not so far away might call her a “Collins Street Farmer”
    [However Cindy McLeish’s appointment has angered many local Liberals who are now refusing to support the party’s election campaign.]

  22. RR,

    Perhaps the Libs have pre selected her to allow the non resident issue to get a run again. It’s not and never has been a real issue.

    The Seymour Libs have already proven they can’t find a good quality candidate locally with the idiot who had to resign for his racist comments. They shouldn’t complain.

  23. GG

    Yes I agree it is a non-issue. I’ve known members of various parliaments across Australia who spent most of their time living in the relevant capital because that made their job and life much easier to manage, and I thought they were right to do so.

  24. [William
    is that state results based on Federal polling, or have they done separate polls for the state?
    I assume the ‘it’ is the Lab/Lib 2PP.]

    The latter, although it’s not exactly “separate polls” – since the federal election respondents in their ordinary surveys have also been queried on their state voting intention, and they have been saving the results until they got big enough samples. So some of the responses in the survey were from as long as six weeks ago.

  25. Brumby is doing a remarkably good job given that the three “independent journos” clearly have eyes only on attacking him and are serving up a diet of dorothy dixers to Ballieu (including one in which the ABC’s Josephine asked a dorothy dixer of Ballieu about dorothy dixers!) .

    Not a single real question asking Ballieu about any real “policy” matter so far.

  26. I am usually too nervous to watch these debates, for fear of some “sound bite” that can be used against “my” candidate.

    I remember watching Keating v Hewson at non-Labor spouse’s parents’ place in the country. I kept my best poker face through quite a tense debate but by the end was secretly “high-fiving” on the inside!

  27. I just wrote a long note and Crikey threw me out before posting it. 😡
    Summary – I thought Brumby came over better than Baillieu, who seemed weak and carping. Doesn’t mean I agree 1005 with everything Brumby has done.

  28. Two, Rod.

    It’s the first time I have seen Ted on the stump, apart from the usual TV news grabs. Hell, he’s dull. He doesn’t appear to believe a word he’s saying, no spark. Pretty much a non event.

  29. I thought Baillieu made a mistake, for those of us with reasonable memories of the past, when he started his whole presentation with wtte we will increase police numbers. That’s just trying to reverse the Kennett disaster.

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