Victorians head to the ballot box this Saturday and despite recent polling showing a tightening gap between the major parties, overall sentiment remains that this is Labor’s election to lose.
Daniel Andrews is seeking a third term as Premier of Victoria – a rarity in modern politics. If successful, Andrews will become the longest serving Labor Premier in Victoria’s history.
The Liberal National Opposition, led by Matthew Guy, has the unenviable task of overturning Labor’s notional 20-seat majority. Rising cost-of-living pressures, a Victorian healthcare system under severe strain and lingering voter resentment against COVID lockdowns and particularly Daniel Andrews’ leadership present significant electoral opportunities for the Coalition.
Victorian voters are focused on cost of living, irrespective of their party preference. SEC Newgate’s Mood of Victoria report shows cost of living (74%) and quality and availability of healthcare services (57%) are the leading issues for Victorians ahead of the State Election, followed by housing and rental affordability (47%) and climate change (36%). COVID management is receding as an issue (32%).
Both major parties have made a series of big-spend announcements pitched to undecided voters, particularly in relation to cost-of-living and energy.
Labor has focused its campaign on targeted giveaways such as a $250 power saving bonus (set to be budgeted again in FY 2023/24), capped public transport fares and has pledged to re-instate the State Electricity Commission (SEC) in a bid to address the rising cost of household electricity bills.
The Coalition has countered this by pledging to cover the cost of supply charges on power bills for six months, dramatically reducing public transport fares to $2, and offering first-home buyers stamp duty exemptions.
A multi-billion-dollar political arms race has also developed on new hospital construction and health funding across the state.
In addition to this, Victorians are being offered billion-dollar ‘big builds’ in infrastructure and housing, along with initiatives like free early childhood education and TAFE courses.
These lavish spending promises have led to questions, including from global ratings agencies, such as Standard & Poors, on how major parties will fund and deliver their promises whilst maintaining Victoria’s current AA credit rating.
The question remains on whether Victoria’s strained balance sheet can cope, under pressure and already $165 billion in debt – more than NSW, Queensland and Tasmanian debt combined – without significant cutbacks or new taxes.
The numbers are simple, with an 88-seat Legislative Assembly, 45 seats are required for majority government.
Since the 2018 Victorian Election, there has been an extensive redistribution of electoral boundaries which saw three seats abolished in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs and created new ones in the city’s west, outer north, and outer south-east.
As a result, Labor goes into the election with a notional 58 seats compared with the 55 it won in 2018, while the Coalition are down from 27 to a notional 25 seats.
With a 40 seat Upper House, 21 votes are needed to pass legislation – no single party has a majority.
The likelihood of an increased crossbench at this election may make it more difficult for government to pass legislation regardless of who wins. The final composition of the Upper House may not be known for weeks.
Labor is fearful of voter backlash in the west and across traditional major party contests in Melbourne’s growing outer suburbs, as well as losing inner city seats to the Victorian Greens. This may see Labor reduced to a minority.
The Coalition will be hoping the expected swing away from Labor is significant enough for them to win government, but are also mindful of the threat posed by Teal independents to their own traditional blue-ribbon seats as we saw in the May federal election.
The large number of undecided voters (12-26%) could lend credence to the theory that this election will be a tough seat by seat contest with many voters in marginal seats potentially swayed by hyper-local rather that state-wide issues.
|Labor held/notional* seats to watch
|Coalition held/notional* seats to watch
|Northcote (1.7% v GRN)
|South Barwon (3.0%)
|Box Hill (3.1%)
|Benambra (2.6% v IND)
|Kew (4.7% v IND)
|Other seats to watch
|Richmond (5.8% v GRN)
|Mildura (0.3% IND v NAT)
|Albert Park (13.1%)
Daniel Andrews and Labor are asking Victorians to stay the course. Labor’s campaign focus has been on addressing cost-of-living through measures to reduce household costs. Initiatives include reductions in. energy bills, investing in public health infrastructure such as new and upgraded hospitals, delivering signature large scale transport infrastructure projects, creating jobs, investing in skills and tackling insecure work, education investments including new and upgraded schools and TAFE campuses and creating more sustainable and liveable communities by caring for the environment, responding to climate change and securing cleaner energy alternatives.
The Coalition campaign has centred around the idea that Labor has taken their eye off the ball, raising questions about the financial viability of Labor’s ‘Big Build’ agenda. The centrepiece of the Coalition’s election policy has been to shelve Labor’s Suburban Rail Loop and to spend the savings on fixing Victoria’s health crisis. The Coalition hope this approach, coupled with its aim to capitalise on post-COVID anger toward Daniel Andrews’ polarising leadership, is enough to propel it into government and make Matthew Guy the next Premier of Victoria.
Based on the current polls, intel and analysis, the election is likely to be close with a range of potential outcomes, with the Andrews Government still a frontrunner:
A) Labor Government (with a likely reduced majority) is returned; or
B) Labor minority government, relying on the support of the crossbench to guarantee supply and govern (noting Daniel Andrews has strongly rejected any suggestion of a Labor/Greens coalition government); or
C) A less likely possibility is a majority or minority Liberal-National Coalition Government. The Coalition will need to win 20 seats – requiring a 10.4% uniform swing, whilst holding all their current seats, to hold a majority. There would be also a range of challenges ahead of it to find support for a minority LNP government in a hung parliament.
Victory celebrations on Saturday will be short-lived whoever wins, as attention will turn quickly to the challenges facing the Victorian Government that has adopted a high debt, economic growth strategy.
Amidst a tight fiscal environment, the next Victorian Government will face pressure to deliver projects and services more efficiently and increase revenue in a bid to address unprecedented state debt levels.
They will need to do this while contending with a larger and more volatile crossbench in both Houses of Parliament.
Contact us for more information about the Victorian State Election and what the outcome means for you.