Andrews said he voted early with his wife and two grown children at a town hall because it was the most convenient time and place for them to do so. When asked if any of the Mulgrave campaign had become distasteful, he carefully replied: “I’m not going to make any comments on any particular stands, but I think the electorate will just vote. I think we must always cherish.”
There is a growing perception among campaign strategists on both sides of politics that traditional media, whether this masthead or others, are not influencing people’s voting behavior the way they used to.
And most tellingly, Labor strategists believe a significant proportion of the electorate has turned Andrews off.
Resentment of the leader is not as potent a factor as it was at this year’s federal election, where there was a visceral rejection of Scott Morrison, but the anti-Andrews sentiment detected in internal Labor polls and focus groups is strong enough to raise an interesting question.
What should you do if you’re a voter who likes what Labor offers but wants to see the back of the Premier?
When asked about this earlier this week, Andrews showed the briefest flash of irritation before returning to his campaign theme: “My message to every Victorian voter is the only way to get the projects we need is to vote Labour. The only way to make more free and bring back SEC – government-owned renewables – is to vote Labour.”
Westgarth Kindergarten was an ideal place for Andrews to make his closing argument. The sign at the front gate of the adjacent elementary school promises “safe, fair and kind,” and the children will benefit from one of the $5,000 Andrews announced Friday to help kindergarteners buy toys or other play equipment.
Not for the first time in this campaign, each child will receive a prize.
Free children. Free TAFE. Massive government investment in renewable energy and bringing back the SEC. The big construction. The points of Labour’s election campaign are by now well ingrained in the minds of any voter who has been paying attention.
In recent days Andrews has added a twist, warning in increasingly alarming tones about the Coalition’s alleged plans to “cut, close and cancel” anything that is not fixed. “These liberals have got candidates running who are not just anti-free children, they are anti-kinder,” he said, referring to rogue Narre Warren candidate Timothy Dragan. who said recently: “I don’t even support the idea of friendlier.” Suddenly revealed! A secret liberal plan to kill kindy.
Matthew Guy dedicated the final day of his campaign to the fiscal consequence of the government’s massive infrastructure agenda and pandemic spending, the state’s looming $167 billion debt.
Guy does not promise austerity measures and not much financial restraint. Instead, the Coalition has promised to cash out the state’s newly established Victorian Future Fund and use the money to pay down debt. That’s more or less what the fund intended to do, albeit to accumulate over time and offset loans. The fund is expected to reach $10.9 billion by the time of the next election, and the Coalition says it will use $10.2 billion of that money to retire debt.
This 11th-hour politics emerged on the penultimate day of the campaign, when the respective prime ministerial spokespeople appeared to explain how much their party’s election promises would cost.
Inside the spacious surroundings of the Carson Conference Centre, a 430-seat auditorium in the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Foundation’s $73 million union branch building, treasurer Tim Pallas stood on stage in front of a towering red screen emblazoned with Labour’s collective appeal for pragmatism: Doing what matters something.
The costs of the work were broken out in a glossy pamphlet with the ubiquitous iconography of the Andrews government: windmills on a hill, nurses at a bedside, a smiling tradition in high-vis and, of course, the Multiplex cranes more recognizable to Melburnians than the Concert Hall Spire.
Victoria’s economy is not so bright. Nevertheless, after squeezing what he could out of budget contingencies, Pallas sought to make use of promising to return a budget surplus of $1 billion in four years. The only red we’ll see is the massive, projected screen behind him, he said. He put total campaign spending at $11.7 billion.
A few hours later it was the turn of opposition spokesman David Davis. Reporters were ushered into a cramped, disused conference room on the second floor of a city office building the Liberals rent for their campaign headquarters. The room was hot and stuffy, and the press conference that followed a sticky mess.
The first question, from Seven News’ Sharnelle Vella, should have been a doddle. How much do your total election pledges count? Davis tore through his A4 papers like a student who hadn’t read his homework.
“Ah…I can’t give you the number. I could get it for you.” The answer, given by Guy a day later, is to spend $28 billion against $38 billion in savings.
With the Coalition starting this campaign needing to win another 18 seats to form a majority government, the chances of Matthew Guy becoming prime minister on Saturday still seem as likely as striking it rich on Sovereign Hill. But then the Leader of the Opposition has only ever been the other guy in this election.
Everyone knows who the central character of this play is, just not how it ends.
The morning edition’s newsletter is our guide to today’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. sign up here.