Victorian Liberal and Labor parties sharpen state election pitches ahead of early voting

Home Politics Victorian Liberal and Labor parties sharpen state election pitches ahead of early voting
Victorian Liberal and Labor parties sharpen state election pitches ahead of early voting

Matthew Guy is under no illusions about the difficulty of the feat he’s attempting this month.

“Winning government from opposition is the hardest task in politics,” the Victorian opposition leader told the cheering Liberal Party faithful on Sunday.

“It’s like climbing Mount Everest without oxygen. And here in Victoria, Labor have been in government for 19 of the past 23 years. It’s like doing it in a blizzard all backwards.”

His party’s campaign launch on the eve of early polling in Victoria was framed around the government weaknesses he hopes will help him pull off an upset.

But it also contained a big idea: a legislated guarantee that 100 per cent of new gas produced in Victoria would be quarantined for Victorian use.

“Because a guaranteed supply of natural gas means we can keep the lights on and keep energy affordable while we transition to a clean-energy future,” Mr Guy said.

Matthew Guy at a podium.
Mr Guy says a Coalition government would prioritise spending to bolster the state’s health system.(ABC News)

The policy was met with scepticism by Grattan Institute energy expert Tony Wood, who said at first glance, the Coalition’s gas reservation policy would have little benefit and could further complicate an already-complex market.

“I struggle to find a good reason why this would actually deliver a significant change,” Mr Wood said.

There are concerns that a Victorian-only market would be a disincentive for investors seeking big returns, and Mr Wood also queried whether isolating a Victorian-only system could be done.

“Imposing constraints about how electricity and gas can move across the country would seem to be both physically and financially challenging,” he said.

The opposition’s energy policy was accompanied by a more modest cost-of-living pledge, as the Coalition promised to freeze supply charges on power bills for the first six months of 2023.

People in blue watch Matthew Guy deliver a speech, with Liberal signage in the background.
Matthew Guy is promising to freeze supply charges on power bills for the first half of next year.(ABC News)

Mr Guy said the measure would save the average Victorian household up to $235 on their bill next year. He told those gathered he would like to extend it, but first the Coalition needed to assess the state of Victoria’s finances.

The issue of integrity, which has presented challenges for both sides of politics in recent months, came into colourful display at the Liberal Party’s launch, as a small group of protesters in lobster suits gathered outside to remind voters of Mr Guy’s past.

Inside, the party was circulating a colourful frequent-flyer-themed card to remind voters of the IBAC investigations that have played out during the Andrews government’s time in power.

Opposition hopeful Victoria’s mood is ‘changing’

A huge billboard at the launch was emblazoned with the words Mr Guy hopes will loom largest in Victorian voters’ minds: “We will put an end to Daniel Andrews’ era of spiralling debt and higher taxes.”

It is a reference to the fact that Victoria’s net debt is forecast to rise to more than $165 billion by 2026, more than the net debt of Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania combined — a line the crowd chanted along with Mr Guy during the launch.

The Labor government argues the state needed to take on the debt to keep its economy going through the gruelling years of COVID-19 lockdown.

But Mr Guy is hoping eight years of Labor government has wearied Victorians, and the Coalition’s modest cost-of-living pitches and big pledges on health will be enough to make change on November 26.

“You can feel that mood changing, can’t you?” he asked the crowd.

“The growing wave of anger and resentment against Daniel Andrews and his Labor administration.

“For everything they’ve done over the last three years in particular, you can feel it picking up speed.”

Labor hones in on putting power generation in public hands

Dan Andrews walks past people in Labor shirts, who are clapping.
Labor’s campaign launch in Cranbourne emphasised the party’s reform of energy generation.(ABC News)

In Melbourne’s south-east, Labor’s campaign aimed to shift the focus away from debt and towards the projects it funded with its own slogan — “Doing What Matters”.

The party had the slickly produced videos to go with it, including a compilation of newsreels listing off government projects and reforms from its second term.

Like the opposition, Labor was promoting its own big-picture energy policy and a modest cost-of-living policy beside it.

Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan reminded the crowd of Kennett-era privatisations as she underlined the party’s pledge to revive the state electricity commission so it could play a leading role in the transition to renewable energy.

Jacinta Allan speaks from a podium.
Jacinta Allan prosecuted Labor’s arguments for reviving the SEC.

“It (privatisation) meant that instead of being delivered by engineers and electricians — people who understood our electricity network, understood what it meant … — our state’s energy system was sold off and carved up and abandoned to accountants,” she said.

“Suddenly profits became more important than people’s energy supply, more important than people’s jobs, more important than people.”

The opposition has voiced its scepticism over the proposal, which Mr Guy said was trying to take the state back to 1975 based on an idea that had “no evidence it’ll actually lower energy bills”.

But Mr Andrews argued a revived commission would provide a “sense of opportunity” for the next generation of Victorians.

“As part of our plan to revive the SEC and create 59,000 clean-energy jobs, at least 6,000 of those jobs will be for apprentices and trainees,” he said.

In a nod to the pain felt by households facing rising power prices, Labor unveiled another round of its Power Saving Bonus, which offers $250 for households who compare electricity prices on a government website. 

Daniel Andrews in a suit speaking.
Labor’s plan to revive the state electricity commission was at the centre of the party’s campaign launch.(ABC News)

The party also used the campaign launch to announce a $207 million plan to extend after-hours care to every single specialist school in the state, based on the results of a recent pilot program.

Towards the end of his speech, Mr Andrews attempted to pitch the election as a choice between privatisation and public ownership — despite the fact the Coalition is not taking any plans to privatise public assets to the election.

“Do we choose cuts and closures and privatisation … or do we keep striving for something better and fairer and kinder and for everyone?” he asked.

Record number of candidates could throw up wildcards on polling day

The Coalition faces an uphill battle to wrest power from the Andrews Labor government, which holds 55 seats to the Coalition’s 27 in the lower house.

But Labor’s path to win a third term of majority government is far from certain, with a record 740 candidates contesting lower house seats this election.

Independent candidates are vying to put pressure on the party in previously safe seats in Melbourne’s west such as Melton, where infrastructure strain is emerging as a key issue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.