The State Labor Government was yesterday returned to office in Victoria. The Liberal Nationals will hold about 32 seats in the new parliament while Labor will hold about 55. There are a few seats in doubts but the Liberal-Nationals seem likely to pick up between 3-7 seats with a two-party preferred swing to them of about 2%. The Liberal primary vote fell by half a point. Swings of 7-10% that the Liberals needed in the eastern metropolitan areas of Melbourne did not eventuate – the swings there were only 2-3%.
There is no gloss one can put on it from the viewpoint of the Liberals – it is a comprehensive defeat which, as numerous commentators pointed out, leaves them out of comfortable striking distance at Labor at the next election in 2010.
I thought Ted Baillieu put up a reasonable campaign given limited campaign funding – Labor had more to spend. But going into the campaign few Victorians knew of him. There isn’t that much community interest in state politics and new opposition leaders – Baillieu had only been opposition leader for 6 months - find it difficult to be visible.
Some of the Liberal campaign promises - the new dam, the desalination plant and the extension to the rail network - looked like policy-making on the run. There are good policy analysts on the Liberal team - Shadow Treasurer Robert Clark is one – but the Liberal campaign seemed mainly like a one-man show based on Ted. The Age showed its biases throughout the campaign – on the final Friday it showed front page a photo of Bracks eating with his family and Baillieu sitting alone in a cheap looking motel room (I cannot locate these pics). The postings in Age-sponsored blogs about Baillieu’s wealth reflected foolish preoccupation in the media generally – most of the rest of the media can spell better than Jonathon Green!
The Greens didn't make the expected big slash. They didn't either, in Victoria, at the previous Federal election. The Nationals on the other hand did well - gaining Mildura.
Barring a momentous scandal Labor should enjoy at least another 2 terms in office. The ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Liberal Party is a solidly Labor-voting state.