Close win likely for Labor in Victoria

29 November 2014

A state election takes place today in Victoria.  And polls predict Premier Denis Napthine and the Liberal-National Coalition to lose office to the Labor Party Opposition.  While I agree, I think that the result will be closer than people predict.

The Coalition took power at the last election, in 2010, arguably by surprise.  Back then Labor had governed since 1999, initially under Steve Bracks and later under John Brumby, and had done reasonably well.  Even though there were signs of fatigue in the Brumby Labor Government, it had a decent majority over the Coalition Opposition, led in those days by Ted Baillieu of the Liberal Party, and people generally thought that Baillieu would win plenty of seats but not enough to win the election.  However, after a close result on election night, Baillieu ultimately emerged the winner, by two seats.

Over time, the Baillieu Government came to look ordinary but competent, meaning that it was neither good nor bad.  Perhaps it looked like Baillieu and the Coalition, having won office, had no idea of what it really wanted to do once it got there.  The shame of it was that not only did they have a majority in the Lower House of Parliament, where governments are formed, but they also had a majority in the Upper House of Parliament, where proportional representation in multi-member electorates, similar to the Senate in Federal Parliament, makes government majorities hard there to come by.  Basically, the Baillieu Government couldn’t passed whatever legislation and pursued whatever agenda it wanted without obstruction – yet it seemed to do nothing.

But despite being competent and having few scandals to deal with, the Coalition had trouble with a Liberal backbencher, Geoff Shaw, who was in a scandal over misuse of parliamentary entitlements.  Probably because the Coalition had so small a majority, the Shaw scandal became massive and ended up overwhelming the Coalition.  Ultimately, in 2013, Shaw quit the Liberals to sit as an Independent, costing the Coalition its majority, and Baillieu, who’d been battling with poor standings in opinion polls, resigned as Liberal Leader and Premier, with Napthine stepping into the top job.  Since becoming Premier, Napthine has done a reasonable job, but there’s been too much stench from recent years hanging over the Coalition, and Napthine has long looked like losing the coming election as a result.  If he loses the election, he’ll have led the first government in many years to have lasted only one term.

The only saving grace for Napthine and the Coalition is that voters haven’t really warmed to Labor or the Opposition Leader, Daniel Andrews.  Polls show voters consistently rating Napthine a better leader than Andrews, who hasn’t really given voters a reason to vote Labor back into office.  Andrews’ most notable promise has been to scrap any contracts surrounding the construction of a major motorway tunnel in inner Melbourne – although this tunnel won’t tackle the real cause of traffic problems prompting the idea of the tunnel, namely car dependence and a lack of appropriate public transport to entice commuters from their cars, voters stuck in traffic jams probably won’t like the idea of the tunnel being scrapped.  When you’re stuck in your car and trying to get to work or home as soon as possible, you’re likely to see any new road proposal as the means to a quicker trip to work or home, and scrapping a road project invariably means more of the same.  I’d felt that this idea could cost Andrews the election, but now I believe that it’ll only cost him a few seats.

In the Lower House of eighty-eight seats, although the Coalition held forty-five seats to Labor’s forty-three after the last election, a redrawing of seat boundaries, to even up the number of voters where possible in seats after population changes over the last decade or so, has given the Coalition forty-eight seats to Labor’s forty.  The Coalition total includes the rogue Shaw’s seat.

The polls are tipping a swing of 3-4 per cent to Labor, which should give Labor a workable majority.  But I think that the majority will be smaller, because I tip Labor to lose a few seats.

I tip Labor to win Wendouree, Yan Yean, Carrum, Bentleigh, Monbulk, and Bellarine from the Coalition.  Labor will also win Frankston, which Shaw holds.  But I tip Labor to lose Eltham and Ivanhoe and Macedon, due to retirements and the tunnel cancellation plan.  My numbers should read forty-five seats to Labor and forty-three to the Coalition.  In the Upper House, I tip the Coalition to lose a few seats, but who wins them will be anyone’s guess.

Labor should win in Victoria, but it’ll be closer than the polls suggest.

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