Victoria Votes 2018 – Issue 5
Celebrating the landslide victory on election night, Premier Daniel Andrews declared Victorians had “overwhelmingly endorsed a positive and optimistic plan for our state”. In his victory speech, Mr Andrews said that “this is the most progressive government in the country” and welcomed voters’ rejection of the “low road of fear and division”. Labor’s re-election is anticipated to have profound effects in Victoria, with the Andrews Government set to implement an ambitious infrastructure, health, energy and education agenda during its second term of government.
Labor has increased its majority in the Parliament, with a very comfortable minimum of 52 seats in the 88-seat Legislative Assembly, and further seats expected to be added to the Government benches as votes are counted over coming weeks. Commentators have likened the result to Labor Premier Steve Bracks’ thumping victory in 2002, commanding a strong state-wide swing to Labor and taking unanticipated seats off the Liberal Party.
Saturday’s results have revealed more muted swings in regional Victoria in comparison to electorates in and around the suburbs of Melbourne. It is clear that the current 4.8 per cent state-wide swing to the Labor Party presented more strongly on polling day than during the pre-polling fortnight, when early votes reflected the close 2014 result.
At this stage of the count, the former blue-ribbon seat of Hawthorn, held by potential Liberal leadership contender John Pesutto, looks set to fall to the Labor Party with a swing of around 8.6 per cent in two party preferred terms. The same swing has also put Nepean, situated in the safe Federal Liberal seat of Flinders, in the ‘too close to call’ column, while a smaller swing of 6.4 per cent in the seat of Sandringham that sits in the Federal Liberal seat of Goldstein is also on a knife edge.
Labor is projected to hold 19 seats in the Upper House, where a Government majority would fast-track the passage of legislation. Mr Andrews acknowledged that “there is a lot of counting to go” before the final composition of the Legislative Council is known, but said he is hopeful that the Upper House “may be a far more effective chamber in terms of getting things done than it was for the last four years”. Preliminary predictions also suggest that Victorian Federal Senator Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party could hold up to four seats in the Legislative Council, with the minor Transport Matters party projected to pick up two seats – mostly from sitting Liberal members of the Upper House.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Party is forced to face a period of introspection about its performance on Saturday, with many questioning the decision to focus on law and order and community safety during the campaign at the expense of other issues. Commentators are also opining about the impact of the recent leadership changes at a Federal level, where there will also be ramifications for Victorian MPs following the negative response to the Coalition’s message and brand on Saturday. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Leader Josh Frydenberg will hold a meeting today in Canberra with Federal Victorian Liberals to assess these risks ahead of the next Federal Election.
Early blame for the Victorian Liberal Party’s disastrous results has been laid at the feet of the campaign unit, with former Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett calling for the resignation of Victorian Party President Michael Kroger on live television during the election coverage. Media outlets are reporting that Shadow Treasurer Michael O’Brien is likely to become the next Opposition Leader.
The second term
A day after Labor’s win, Premier Andrews announced the Government will immediately call for expressions of interest for the $16 billion North East Link ring road project, predicting that contracts for the work will be signed in 12 months’ time. Without ruling out a further renewable energy tender, Mr Andrews commented that “our priority is going to be putting those solar panels on 700,000 rooftops to make sure that hard-working households for the first time have the power and control over their energy bills”. Beyond infrastructure and energy policy, the Premier labelled family violence “the number one law and order issue in our nation” and said his Government’s priorities include improving the State’s health system, following the promised royal commission into mental health. According to reports, the initial piece of non-procedural legislation to be introduced to Parliament will improve nurse-to-patient ratios.
In a Sunday press conference, Premier Daniel Andrews and Deputy Premier James Merlino foreshadowed a shake-up of the Labor cabinet before the week’s end. Mr Andrews said that the 59th Parliament will meet for the first time before Christmas, and that work will “begin in earnest” on Monday.
In a statement earlier today, frontbencher and Member for Sydenham Natalie Hutchins announced that she will not recontest her position in cabinet, in order to “focus on my family and myself after the passing of my husband”.