Victorian election roundup: Labor ends with comfortable poll lead

A John Clarke-style interview livens up the final week, as Labor confirms it will borrow for infrastructure and double state debt

The Andrews government is poised to win a second term in Victoria, according to two election eve polls released on Friday.

In a poll published by the Age, Labor was ahead of Matthew Guy’s Coalition opposition by 54%-46% on two-party-terms, while the Herald Sun put Daniel Andrews’ government in front by 53%-47%.

The newspapers have also given their final endorsements, with the Herald Sun urging a vote for the Coalition and the Age telling its readers to back the Andrews government for a second term.

Andrews told ABC Radio on Friday morning the election would be close despite the polls. Labor holds a slew of marginal seats in Melbourne’s south-east by fewer than 1,000 votes.

Costings released

The Andrews government will borrow $25.6bn over the next 10 years to build its flagship infrastructure projects if it is re-elected on Saturday, doubling Victoria’s net debt from 6% to 12% of gross state product.

The treasurer, Tim Pallas, confirmed the figures on Thursday, two days before voting closes, saying the government had received advice that it could afford to increase debt without risking the state’s triple-A credit rating.

The money will fund the $10bn airport rail project, the $6.5bn expansion of the level-crossing removal program and the $15.8bn north-east link, which the premier, Daniel Andrews, said on Thursday would be put to tender on Monday if Labor won the election.

The Coalition also released its costings on Thursday. The opposition treasury spokesman, Michael O’Brien, said they had projected net debt falling from 6% to 5.8% over four years, a reduction of $1.1bn.

Daniel Andrews (left) and Matthew Guy
Daniel Andrews (left) and Matthew Guy: 23% of voters had already voted as of 6pm on Wednesday. Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP

Andrews does appear to have retained his lead heading in to the election, winning the audience vote at the televised leadership debate on Wednesday.

According to the Victorian election commission, more than 790,000 people — or 23% of the electoral roll — had already voted as of 6pm on Wednesday.

Lamb to the slaughter

More practised politicians than the Liberal candidate for Frankston, Michael Lamb, have been felled by the persistent questioning of Sky News political editor David Speers, but few manage to channel the late great John Clarke while doing so.

Liberal candidate for Frankston Michael Lamb says his party will get the private industry to build a power station in Victoria, if elected, but admits it will be at least partly taxpayer-funded.

MORE: https://t.co/vMF1BfEI9c #Speers pic.twitter.com/8S4kxVdyvI

— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) November 21, 2018

Safe injecting rooms

The Victorian heads of both the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia have criticised the Coalition over its promise to shut down the state’s only medically supervised injecting room in Richmond within its first week if it wins government.

The Andrews government approved a two-year trial of the safe injecting room in 2017 after initial opposition and it has been running with strong support from the local community since July.

Greens turmoil

The Greens nightmare campaign continued into the campaign’s final days. On Thursday night, the party stood down a candidate accused of sexual misconduct. On Friday morning the party leader, Samantha Ratnam, named him as Dominic Phillips, the candidate for Sandringham.

“Our campaign activity in the seat of Sandringham has ceased and there will be no further campaign activities in that seat,” Ratnam said.

The party has been dogged by sexism and social scandals throughout the campaign. It chose to stand by its Footscray candidate, Angus McAlpine, who was revealed to have sung misogynistic lyrics during a fledgling rap career.

Israel promise

Matthew Guy has also promised to begin the process of moving Victoria’s Israel trade office from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem within its first 100 days of government, drawing immediate criticism.

Yes because moving a trade office out of the trade & commercial capital of Israel makes so much sense. No doubt all the foreign govt trade offices in Sydney & Melbourne (including Israel’s) will now move to Canberra @ccroucher9 @andrew_lund @aus_jewishnews #VicVotes #SpringSt https://t.co/olEGbOqIr6

— Philip Dalidakis MP (@philipdalidakis) November 20, 2018

Tel Aviv is 3 times larger than Jerusalem and Israel’s centre of innovation and business. That’s why Victoria has trade offices in Mumbai (not Delhi), and Frankfurt (not Berlin). https://t.co/Wjv2f2wHIr

— Matt Bevan 🎙 (@MatthewBevan) November 20, 2018

It mirrors a proposal by their federal counterparts to shift the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which was announced before the Wentworth byelection and has been criticised by the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia as well as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio).

Forests

Labor’s management of forests was under pressure again this week following allegations of illegal logging in Victorian forests.

The ABC reported that trees appeared to have been logged or earmarked for logging by VicForests that were outside areas where they had permission to log.

On Wednesday, environment groups called for all work by VicForests to be suspended and the logging investigated. The Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) and Friends of the Earth said the next Victorian government should abolish the state-owned logging agency and implement proper protections for the state’s forests.

VicForests said it believed it had complied with the law and that an investigation by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning of compliance with logging allocation orders had resulted in no action being taken against VicForests.

The environment minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, and agriculture minister, Jaala Pulford, said in a joint statement that no harvesting had occurred in protected areas.

An independent review of the state’s timber harvesting regulation won’t be made public until after the election.

Spending is good – and bad

Research conducted by Roy Morgan has found that while self-identified Labor voters are pleased with how many infrastructure projects have begun construction in the first term of the Andrews government, they are also worried about excessive spending and running up state debt.

Concern over “wasteful and out of control spending” was the key concern that Coalition voters raised about the Andrews government, while Greens voters were concerned that Andrews was in the pocket of the unions and too focused on the city at the expense of the country.

The qualitative research, conducted midway through the campaign and released this week, also found that both Labor and Coalition voters were concerned about opposition leader Matthew Guy’s lack of experience and “apparent lack of vision”. Labor and Greens voters were concerned about suggestions of close ties to developers from Guy’s time as planning minister, and suggestions of corruption.

Contributors

Calla Wahlquist , Luke Henriques-Gomes and Lisa Cox

The GuardianTramp

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