Six Covid-19 lockdowns, nearly as many ministers gone, a corruption scandal, sustained civil unrest and a debilitating fall down slippery stairs – the Andrews government’s second term has not been short of drama.
Despite this, the Labor government is on track to win the next election in a year’s time.
A Roy Morgan survey published on Thursday has Labor leading the Liberal-National Coalition 59.5 to 40.5 on a two-party preferred basis, while last week’s Newspoll has them leading 58 to 42.
Both surveys are an increase on the 57.3 to 42.7 result at the 2018 election, which saw the coalition lose 11 lower house seats including blue-ribbon Hawthorn.
A Roy Morgan survey has Labor leading the Liberal-National Coalition 59.5 to 40.5 on a two-party preferred basis, while last week’s Newspoll has them leading 58 to 42 (Pictured: Premier Dan Andrews)
Senior Monash University politics lecturer Zareh Ghazarian said the recent Queensland, Tasmania and WA elections proved the pandemic favours incumbent governments.
‘It would probably be infuriating for the opposition. They aren’t able to make any meaningful inroads at the moment,’ he told AAP.
Dr Ghazarian said while Mr Andrews is a ‘polarising 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 narrative, acknowledging that this has been really hard a couple of years but this is the government’s agenda moving forward,’ he said.
Labor campaign strategist and pollster Kosmos Samaras and Ian Hanke, a long-time Liberal campaigner and political consultant, both agree unless there is a fourth Covid-19 wave, the election will be fought on ‘traditional turf’.
Mr Samaras said the Andrews government will focus on infrastructure, jobs, health and education as it has been successful ‘getting things done’ in these areas to date.
The catchphrase was used repeatedly during the 2018 election, and Mr Andrews has made a recent return to the theme.
Labor campaign strategist Kosmos Samaras said the Andrews’ government will focus on infrastructure, jobs, health and education as it has gotten ‘things done’ in these areas to date
Dr Geoffrey Robinson, a senior lecturer in politics at Deakin University, said the strategy would likely work again during the coming election.
‘COVID-19 has contributed towards this general mood of people accepting a bigger, more active government,’ he said.
‘People aren’t terrified of state debt the way they were back in the Bracks/Brumby years. They look at the government and they see it as a can-do government.’
From a numbers perspective, Mr Samaras can’t see how the opposition can get the 18 seats it needs to form government.
Labor gained two seats in an electoral redistribution and the four marginal seats along the Frankston railway line have changed dramatically since 2018, with voters skewing younger and left, he said.
Mr Samaras said from a numbers perspective, he can’t see how the opposition can get the 18 seats it needs to form government (Pictured: Opposition Leader Matthew Guy)
Mr Samaras said a similar demographic was moving into traditional Liberal heartland electorates like Kew and Hawthorn because rent is cheaper than in other inner-city suburbs.
‘They’re not necessarily Labor voters – those seats could become Green,’ he said, noting independent candidates could also make a tilt in inner-city Liberal seats.
Mr Hanke concedes it will be ‘hard yards’ for the opposition to win but it was possible, noting the pandemic has ‘exposed real flaws in the character’ of Mr Andrews that could be exploited.
‘There’s a swag of the community that actually doesn’t accept the way (the pandemic) has been managed,’ he said.
‘It’s been authoritarian, an assault on civil liberties and the actual democratic process. This goes to an issue of character.’
Ian Hanke, a long-time Liberal campaigner and political consultant, said Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has been tempered 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 the 89 seats in 2012 but in three years lost power and the premier was unceremoniously booted from his seat ‘because of his perceived character’.
‘Jeff Kennett – even though he was critical for the recovery of Victoria after the Cain/Kirner era, after a couple of terms of his strong leadership and his approach, people had had enough,’ Mr Hanke said.
He said Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, who has recently returned to the role, has been tempered 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 take Victoria forward.’
Dr Robinson said the opposition must distance itself from anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown groups so as not to frighten middle-ground voters, while also avoiding looking ‘obsessed’ with the premier.
‘Labor didn’t knock over John Howard by getting obsessed about John Howard, they found a way to get around him and focus on positive issues,’ he said.