How to lose from Opposition and other lessons from election night


Too many of our politicians woke up yesterday swallowing the bitter pill of 2018 Victorian State Election. The landslide result for Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and the Labor Party, who achieved a 4.8 per cent swing, sees implications for parties, policies, and campaigning across the nation.

In its first term, the Andrews Government delivered on many of its promises – especially with the quick completion of major road and public transport projects – but it has been plagued by scandals, including the red shirts affair where it misused taxpayers’ money to pay campaign staff. However, this election result suggests it was less of a test of Labor’s record but an indication the community’s great desire for tangible policy solutions.

In the fourth fastest growing city in the western world, Melbourne voters wanted to see solutions around infrastructure, public transport, housing, schools and health. The Victorian Liberal Party failed to cut through with its law and order message, which ran at odds with local crime statistics, and despite the recent Bourke Street terrorist attack. Outside of crime, there was little in the Liberal Party’s platform to address the everyday concerns, or show they’re prepared to do the hard yards on reform. It’s a warning shot to all political parties – don’t come to the table without solutions. For the Federal Coalition, there is a concern the policy chest is looking bare only months out from the next election, with the electorate desperate to know what they stand for and how they will make every day Australians’ lives easier. This is contrasted with the Opposition, which is ready to go with a clear direction and a swag of policies.

There is no doubt the change in Federal Government leadership provided a killer blow for a party that was already struggling, with one media outlet stating “Morrison – he who stopped the votes”. A number of Federal MPs used various television appearances on election night to apologise to their Victorian colleagues for the distraction. However, the result once again shows the chasm between moderates and conservatives who continue to fight over the personalities and internal policies, which threatens to engulf the Liberal Party.

The Federal Liberals may have turfed Turnbull to do better electorally in Queensland at the next election, but it has hurt them in Victoria – and is likely to do so again at next year’s Federal election, with a number of marginal electorates in the southern state. No one argues that Queensland will be crucial at the next election, but it will now be more so.

“Something’s gone horribly wrong.” – The Victorian Shadow Minister for Justice said it best. For the Victorian Opposition, it’s a slow road back. In losing seats once considered Coalition strongholds, it has lost much of its leadership talent with this result and potentially faces another eight years of opposition.

For the Greens, who believed they could hold the balance of power after the election, the night was one of disappointment with a 1.6 per cent swing against them. The party is likely to pull up short in the inner seats of Richmond and Brunswick and are struggling to hold onto the seats of Prahran, Melbourne, and Northcote. In the Upper House, the Greens’ vote and influence have been reduced. The Greens may be pointing fingers at Labor and its negative campaigning, however, the selection of a number unsuitable candidates and its inability to manage scandals when they hit has once again shown its soft spot remains internal party issues.

In the Upper House, a labyrinth of deals has lifted the microparties such as Sustainable Australia and the Transport Matters Party to new heights, winning up to ten of the forty seats in the Council – a result not in proportion to the votes these microparties received.

Interestingly a number of people now foregoing their ‘voting day’ sausage sizzle and voting early. The Victorian Election saw 40 per cent of the population vote before polling day…and beating the 45 minute line that this author spent in line at her local primary school. This is subtly changing the face of campaigning with platforms released early, repeated often, and almost no new news in the last few weeks of the campaign.

Priorities of the Andrews Government:

  • Build the $50 billion suburban rail loop to connect most of Melbourne’s existing train lines.

  • Build the $16.5 billion North East Link and put the project out to market within its first 100 days of office.

  • Remove a further 25 dangerous level crossings ($6.6 billion).

  • Build a train line between the Melbourne CBD and the Airport ($5 billion).

  • Increase the current renewable energy target to 50 per cent by 2030 and offer $1.24 billion in incentives to encourage Victorians to install solar panels and battery storage.

  • Introduce 15 hours a week of three-year-old kindergarten for all families ($5 billion per year).

  • $850 million to open 100 new state schools over the next eight years and $1.7 billion to build and improve kindergartens.

  • Free dental care for all children at public schools ($396 million).

  • Build ten new community hospitals, boost ambulance services, and increase nurse-to-patient ratios.

  • Initiate a royal commission into mental health.

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