Six Covid-19 lockdowns, nearly as many ministers gone, a corruption scandal, ongoing civil unrest and a debilitating slippery slope – the Andrews administration’s second term in office was not short of drama.
Despite this, the Labor government is on track to win the next election in a year.
According to a survey published Thursday by Roy Morgan, Labor leads the Liberal-National Coalition 59.5 to 40.5 on a bipartisan basis, while last week’s Newspoll has 58 to 42.
Both surveys are up from the result of 57.3 to 42.7 in the 2018 election, in which the coalition lost 11 seats in the House of Commons, including the blue-barred Hawthorn.
According to a Roy Morgan poll, Labor leads the Liberal-National Coalition 59.5 to 40.5 on a bipartisan basis, while last week’s Newspoll shows them 58 to 42 (Photo: Prime Minister Dan Andrews)
Zareh Ghazarian, senior lecturer in politics at Monash University, said recent elections in Queensland, Tasmania and WA have proved the pandemic is beneficial to incumbent governments.
“It would probably infuriate the opposition. They cannot make a meaningful breakthrough at the moment,” he tells AAP.
dr. Ghazarian said that while Mr Andrews is a “polarizing figure” thanks in part to his 120 consecutive second wave press conferences, there is still time to reset before the poll.
“Next year they will be able to refresh the story, recognizing that this has been very difficult for a few years, but this is the government’s agenda for the future,” he said.
Labor campaign strategist and pollster Kosmos Samaras and Ian Hanke, a long-time Liberal campaigner and political adviser, both agree unless a fourth wave of Covid-19 comes, the elections will be fought on ‘traditional turf’.
Mr Samaras said the Andrews administration will focus on infrastructure, jobs, health and education as it has so far successfully ‘got things done’ in these areas.
The slogan was used repeatedly during the 2018 election and Mr Andrews has returned to the theme recently.
Labor campaign strategist Kosmos Samaras said Andrews government will focus on infrastructure, jobs, health and education as it has so far ‘got things done’ in these areas
dr. Geoffrey Robinson, a senior lecturer in politics at Deakin University, said the strategy will likely work again in the upcoming election.
“COVID-19 has contributed to this general mood of people accepting a bigger, more active government,” he said.
‘People aren’t as afraid of government debt as they were in the Bracks/Brumby years. They look at the government and see it as a government that can.’
From a numbers perspective, Mr Samaras cannot see how the opposition can get the 18 seats it needs to form a government.
Labor gained two seats in an electoral redistribution, and the four fringe seats along the Frankston railway have changed dramatically since 2018, with voters getting younger and more left-wing, he said.
Mr Samaras said from a numbers perspective he cannot see how the opposition can get the 18 seats it needs to form a government (Pictured: Opposition Leader Matthew Guy)
Mr Samaras said a similar demographic has moved to traditional liberal voters in the heart of the country, such as Kew and Hawthorn, as rents are cheaper than other inner-city suburbs.
“They’re not necessarily Labor voters — those seats could go green,” he said, noting that independent candidates could also tilt in inner-city Liberal seats.
Mr Hanke admits it will be difficult for the opposition to win, but it was possible, noting that the pandemic has revealed “real flaws in Mr Andrews’s character” that can be exploited.
“There’s a swag from the community that actually doesn’t accept the way (the pandemic) has been managed,” he said.
“It has been authoritarian, an attack on civil liberties and the de facto democratic process. This is about a character issue.’
Ian Hanke, a long-time Liberal campaigner and political adviser, said opposition leader Matthew Guy has been dampened by the 2018 election loss and his time as a backbencher
He pointed to Campbell Newman and the Liberal-National Party in Queensland, which won 78 out of 89 seats in 2012, but lost power in three years and the prime minister was unceremoniously kicked out of his seat “because of his alleged character”.
“Jeff Kennett – even though he was crucial to Victoria’s recovery after the Cain/Kirner era, after a few terms of his strong leadership and his approach, people had had enough,” said Mr Hanke.
He said opposition leader Matthew Guy, who recently returned to the role, has been dampened by the 2018 election loss and his time as a backbencher.
“The real test for the opposition is to come up with an agenda, a set of policies to move Victoria forward.”
dr. Robinson said the opposition should distance themselves from anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown groups so as not to scare voters in the middle, while also avoiding looking “obsessed” with the prime minister.
“Labour didn’t overthrow John Howard by becoming obsessed with John Howard, they found a way to get around him and focus on positive things,” he said.