Matthew Guy denies loss of senior Victorian Liberal official will impact state election campaign

Liberal party source says departure of deputy director Scott Samson shows campaign is a ‘mess’

Victoria’s opposition leader, Matthew Guy, has denied the loss of a deputy Liberal party director less than two months out from the state election will impact his campaign, despite a senior source describing it as a “mess”.

Scott Samson resigned as deputy director last week, as part of a wider restructure Guardian Australia understands was instigated by Greg Mirabella, who took over as state president five weeks ago.

A spokesperson for the Liberal campaign said Samson’s role had involved administration, party membership and preselections, rather than campaign responsibilities, with another deputy director responsible for the campaign remaining in their position.

It follows the resignations of three members of Guy’s office earlier this year: former chief of staff Mitch Catlin, who was forced to resign amid a donations scandal, former media director Lee Anderson and the office diary manager.

A senior Liberal source, who is not authorised to speak publicly, described the party campaign headquarters as a “mess”.

“They will try to sell [Samson’s resignation] as minor but you don’t want anyone jumping ship six weeks before prepoll opens,” they said.

“The discipline is broken, candidates and MPs are running their own campaigns, writing their own press releases, because otherwise it won’t get done. Who can blame them?”

The Herald Sun quoted a Liberal source as saying the “wheels are completely careering off the campaign”.

But Guy denied Samson’s resignation was a blow to the Liberal party’s campaign, as he announced $700m in funding for Catholic and independent schools and $220m to roll out the use of phonics at primary schools to improve literacy skills, if elected in November.

“We lost no senior campaign people,” Guy said on Tuesday. “I think there was three people in the campaign unit of 60 that changed over at the start of the campaign.

“Now three of 60, with great respect, is probably less attrition than what you see in most newsrooms. So let’s not let’s not get too worked up about it.”

The opposition leader said he had “no idea” why Samson was no longer part of his team and was unable to say if he was offered a contract to continue in his role.

“I don’t intervene with the operation of the secretary,” he said.

Guy said the party was “focused” and had come up with a range of “sensible policies” ahead of the 26 November election to address rising cost of living and the state’s “health crisis”.

“We’re here to win, we’re not here to come an honourable second,” he said.

Most polls are indicating the Daniel Andrews Labor government is on track to secure a third term in office, with a Guardian Essential poll conducted last month showing Labor will receive 35.3% of first preference votes, the Coalition on 32.2% and the Greens on 10.2%, with 11.9% of respondents undecided.

Despite releasing a suite of policies, including a proposal to shelve the Suburban Rail Loop and construct several hospitals, the Coalition is struggling to make ground.

Mirabella, a farmer and former army officer, lost his Senate seat at the May federal election after being preselected in the Coalition’s third spot on its Victorian ballot, below Liberal senator Sarah Henderson and National senator Bridget McKenzie.

In August Mirabella was nominated unopposed as state president of the Liberal party after former attorney general Robert Clark said he would not seek re-election.


Benita Kolovos

The GuardianTramp

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