This was a very good result for the Coalition. Obviously Labor had weakness but the Coalition had to be in a position to take advantage of them and to survive the scrutiny of an election campaign. Whereas in NSW and Queensland the opposition wilted under the pressure of an election campaign the Coalition flourished. The Coalition also benefited by Baillieu’s moderate image, Victorian voters had shown themselves unmoved by Tony Abbott’s aggressive conservatism. Did Green preferences drift more than at the federal election?
Labor has repeated endlessly the argument that to win a fourth term was going to be difficult. Perhaps but the party lost support throughout the election campaign. Voters were open to the idea of giving Labor another term. Labor lost the campaign. Some argue that the debate over Green preferences benefited the Coalition, to me it looks more like a diversion from their positive message.
This was as I predicted an election in which the swing was fairly uniform. Issues around government services seemed to have more bite in Melbourne however. The lower regional swing could reflect the continued decline of the traditional rural conservatism that once ensured the countryside voted to the right of its economic position. However Labor’s disastrous performance in the La Trobe valley shows a new rural conservatism driven by concerns about the impact of greenhouse mitigation policy on the coal industry. Australia’s West Virginia is now the La Trobe valley? Safe Labor seats were not exempt from the swing and this points to a broad disaffection with Labor. The once traditionally Labor outer suburbs such as Carrum and Frankston have become middle suburbs and moved to the right. The Liberals also made gains in the inner city Bailieau is the type of Liberal leader who would be attractive affluent inner city voters who are not part of the left subculture. The number of these voters is increasing in the inner-city.
For the Greens the outcome was disappointing. It is true that their primary vote increased from the last state election and that if the Liberals had allocated preferences are they did in 2006 they would have probably won three seats. However the Green vote fell from the federal election and it is hardly viable for a party that claims to be to the left of the ALP to rely on Liberal preferences. Labor is not dead in the inner city it has certainly declined dramatically in recent years but Labor was still able to make a case to sufficient progressive voters to hold on. Maybe Labor’s problem in Albert Park was in part that this appeal alienated voters to the right. For the Greens to hold Melbourne at the federal level they need to appeal to Labor voters. They have a reasonable chance of doing this. At the state level a Coalition government would assist Labor to hold the inner city. Labor set out to hold its base on the left but was this at the expense of an appeal to voters to the right? Gordon Brown’s success in holding off the Liberal Democrats at the expense of bleeding the former New Labour suburbs to the Tories comes to mind.
The Legislative Council outcome where the Coalition may gain a majority in their right demonstrates that Labor’s dream of ensuring there would never be another Coalition government with control of both houses of parliament has not come to pass. The system of five-member electorates may have been developed to work against minor parties but it has disadvantaged a fragmented left.