The reckoning over the Victorian election result is far from finished. And over the coming months, pundits and punters will have their say about what went wrong for the Liberal-Nationals, and what went right for Labor.
The relentless instability in the federal Liberal government has been raised as a key factor. So too have the inadequacies of the Liberals’ internal campaign team. These issues undoubtedly played a role.
But for my own two cents, there’s a fundamental factor that shouldn’t be ignored: Dan Andrews and Labor presented a positive plan underpinned by the values of ordinary Victorians. The Liberals did not.
In fact, they failed to articulate much of a plan at all. Their lack of policies in health and education, alongside an elusive promise of “population decentralisation”, meant the party completely vacated the ground to the Andrews Labor government.
The result was that Labor was the only party speaking to Victorians about the real issues. Schools and hospitals. Jobs and TAFE. Mental health. Cost of living.
In short: the issues that actually matter to people. And it showed. Labor’s positive plan struck a chord in almost every corner of the state, with consistent swings across suburban Melbourne and regional centres like Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.
But it wasn’t just limited to metro areas: Labor also won support in smaller communities, from Blackwood to Beacon Point. Areas that were once distinguished blue ribbon seats now have a distinctive red tinge.
But as the final result showed, it’s not just the Liberals who should be worried – the Nationals are in a lot of strife too. Not only was sitting Member Russell Northe – once a National, now an independent – re-elected to represent Morwell, the people of Mildura have also elected independent Ali Cupper. It follows the lead of Suzanna Sheed in Shepparton – also re-elected – who over the last four years has shown how successful a strong and independent voice can be.
The upshot is three independents elected in three seats once considered Nationals’ heartland. Where once upon a time Victoria was touted as the “jewel in the Liberal crown”, this result should jolt the Coalition out of any sense of self-satisfied lethargy.
Because regardless of what election post-mortems uncover, one thing is abundantly clear: voters want real representation – and they’re demanding real respect.
Ballarat-born Steve Bracks was Premier of Victoria from 1999 to 2007. He and Warrnambool-based former Liberal Premier Dr Denis Napthine wrote exclusively for Australian Community Media throughout the state election campaign.