Victoria and Albert (Park)

A black swan day in Victorian politics, with the wholly unheralded news that Premier Steve Bracks and Deputy Premier John Thwaites are calling it a day. Whither the Victorian government? Not my concern (not until 2010, anyway). What matters here is that two by-elections will soon be upon us. The Liberals could be forgiven for taking a pass in Bracks’s seat of Williamstown, as they did in the happier times of 1994 when Bracks replaced Joan Kirner. Thwaites’s seat of Albert Park is quite a different matter. Labor recorded some fairly modest margins in the seat last decade – 5.8 per cent in 1992, 6.4 per cent in 1999. The margin was back inside 10 per cent at last November’s election, which surely counts as striking distance for a by-election involving a third-term government. With the government continuing to travel reasonably well, the reality is that the Liberals will not be at all confident, but shirking this contest is simply not an option.