November 28, 2018 By FTI Consulting
Victorians re-elected the Daniel Andrew’s led Australian Labor Party (ALP) Government in the State election on Saturday 24 November.
The election results have not been finalised, but the Premier has moved quickly to announce his new cabinet, which is notably made up of 50 per cent women – the first time that’s happened in any Australian state or federal government.
While the victory itself wasn’t unexpected, the size of the swing to the ALP has shocked everyone, with formerly safe Liberal and National seats falling to a resurgent ALP and massive swings against the Liberals in heartland seats like Hawthorn, Brighton and Sandringham.
The Greens, the major party on Labor’s left flank, also fared poorly. Before the election they were expected to pick up two, possibly three seats in the lower house (they currently hold three seats) and maintain (and possibly improve) their five seats in the upper house. Instead, it’s possible they’ll end up with only one seat in each house.
Regional independents have also done well against sitting Liberal and National MPs.
While it must be noted that around eight seats are still in doubt (so these numbers and percentages could change), most political pundits are suggesting:
However, obscured by these numbers is the enormous swings to the ALP in what were considered traditional Liberal Eastern middle-and outer-suburban seats, including Box Hill, Burwood and Ringwood, which showed swings of five to 10 per cent.
Similarly, inner Eastern and bayside seats that have almost never voted ALP, like Brighton, Hawthorn, Malvern, Caulfield and Sandringham, also showed enormous swings against the Liberals to Labor. While the swings were not large enough to elect an ALP member, the fact those seats were even in play has sent shockwaves through the political establishment.
The swing has also made a number of formerly marginal ALP seats, particularly in the South East like Bentleigh, Mordialloc and Frankston, safe Labor seats.
In the legislative council (upper house), preliminary results show Labor picking up around four seats, taking their total to 18 out of a 40 seat chamber. The Coalition have lost up to five seats (leaving about 11), the Greens will likely lose four (leaving one). Likely to be elected are up to four Derryn Hinch Justice Party candidates, a couple of Transport Matters candidates and one Animal Justice Party, Aussie Battler Party, Liberal Democrats, Shooters Fishers and Farmers, and Sustainable Australia candidate each. However, it should be noted that Legislative Council predictions are notoriously unreliable and these numbers could change depending on preference flows.
While this means more cross-benchers, given the ALP will only need three votes to get their legislation through the upper house is likely to be more stable than the previous term.
It is dangerous to overlay state election results onto federal campaigns – state elections are fought on state issues and between state personalities. With that caveat in mind however, it is clear the Liberal Party brand is in significant trouble in Victoria.
The biggest issue for the Liberal party is that some of the largest swings against them occurred in state seats that are inside what were considered safe Federal seat boundaries. In fact, the size of the swings indicated that many people voted for the Labor Party who had only ever voted for the Liberal party in their lives. For these people, they were not so much voting for Labor, but taking the opportunity to lodge a protest vote against the Liberal party.
It is impossible to tell on the numbers if this is due to local or Federal issues, but anecdotal evidence (interviews with local voters), suggest that removing Malcolm Turnbull was an important factor in the votes of former Liberal-voters.
The ‘war on crime’ scare campaign run by the state Coalition (and reinforced by Federal Ministers), that focused on African youth gangs, failed to make an impact and could fairly be said to have backfired – it simply didn’t resonate with voters.
The results suggest that current Victorian Liberal seats previously thought of as safe may no longer be so, which, at the very least, will force the Liberal Party to defend them more vigorously in the Federal election in May 2019.
Federal Victorian seats considered under threat before the election were:
Seats now considered in play, based on the Victorian election:
While anything over five per cent would be an enormous and unexpected swing, both Michael Sukkar and Greg Hunt very publicly supported Peter Dutton in the recent Liberal leadership crisis, which may not endear them to disgruntled Liberal voters.
The other issue for the Coalition is the good showing by female independents in rural and regional seats, in what is being described as the ‘Cathy McGowan effect’ (named after the independent member for Indi). At least one independent has won against the Nationals, with another in with a chance against a rural Liberal MP. Independent Suzanna Sheed was re-elected in the seat of Shepparton.
Independents in rural and regional electorates, especially facing long-term incumbents, will be heartened by these results and may well decide to run in the next Federal election, further destabilising the Coalition’s election chances.
The final results for the Legislative Assembly (lower house) will be known within a week or so from the election. The Legislative Council (upper house) will be a week or so after that.
In the meantime the Premier, Daniel Andrews, has promised to “get on with the job” and has already invited bids for the North East link – one of a number of significant infrastructure projects promised for the state.
For the Coalition, a significant number of their front bench have lost their seats including, potentially, Shadow Attorney General and leadership-aspirant John Pesutto, who is currently leading in his seat of Hawthorn by only 50-odd votes. Matthew Guy has resigned as leader of the party – his replacement will be determined next week.
At risk for the Liberal party is how they rebuild from here and if they have heard, and understood, the message from their traditional voters who this time chose to vote ALP.
Pundits across the political spectrum are suggesting the Coalition will be in opposition for at least another two terms.
The Greens are also facing a long period of self-reflection and will have significantly less influence than the previous term. Minor parties however will be emboldened and we can expect to see more single-issue parties form in the wake of these results for the next Victorian election and for future state elections around the country.
In a first for any Australian state of federal government, the Cabinet is 50 per cent women – something the ALP is touting as a sign of being the ‘most progressive government in Australia” (as claimed by the Premier in his victory speech).
There are some familiar faces, but several significant changes have occurred.
The full list of Ministers is listed below.
The other major announcement is that, on January 1 2019, and in another sign of the importance of the upcoming transport infrastructure projects, the former Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources will be split in two to become the Department of Transport and the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.
Infrastructure. Lots and lots of infrastructure (note not all of this is expected to be delivered in the next term of government)
In addition, the re-elected Andrew’s Government promised a raft of new laws to protect public holidays, penalty rates and wages, including a new law to jail and fine employers who don’t pay or underpay their workers.
The election commitments, plus the departmental changes and re-focused ministries shows how much importance the Andrews Labor Government puts on infrastructure, and transport infrastructure in particular.