Victoria election report card, week three: Ibac referrals, teal legal win and a preference whisperer stung

Margaret Simons, journalist and academic

The polls are all over the shop, but not one of them predicts a Coalition win. Those who suggest the gap between Labor and the Coalition is narrowing are assuming that “undecided” voters will break in certain ways – but there is enough variety in the predictions to suggest that they might all be wrong on the finer points.

I think independents are likely to do well in a few seats – with this being a long-term political trend. Whether they overturn sitting members is less certain. The campaigns have not been as well-resourced or as compelling as those of the so-called teals in the federal election.

On the other hand, most commentators underrate the Greens, which under the leadership of Adam Bandt have in the past five years become excellent campaigners, as seen in the federal election. The party’s internal politics are dysfunctional enough to make Labor look like the Brady bunch, but the campaigns are strong, beginning well before polling day with “below the line” practical community work in public housing, for example. And, of course, the Liberals have preferenced the Greens ahead of Labor – a move which I suspect many potential Liberal voters will regard as cynical politics. That’s if they care or notice.

As for the supposed tide of anger against Daniel Andrews as premier, I think it’s a fiction. Yes, those who don’t like him REALLY don’t like him, but he retains grudging respect among most, and admiration from many.

The sting of Ibac investigations into the government will have been blunted by Thursday’s news that Matthew Guy and his former chief of staff have been referred to the state’s corruption watchdog by the state electoral commission over allegations of trying to circumvent political donation laws. Voters care about integrity, but I am not sure they think Labor is any worse than the Liberals on this measure.

At close of business on Thursday, 556,852 Victorians had already voted, either at early voting centres or by postal vote. That’s about an eighth of the people on the electoral roll. The rest of the campaign will be wasted on them.

But I suspect that this election is effectively over for an even larger group. I get the sense of a state that has made up its mind.

Who won the week: Independent “teal” candidates Sophie Torney in Kew, Melissa Lowe in Hawthorn and Kate Lardner in Mornington. Not only are they creating a buzz in their electorates, but they succeeded in having a tribunal overrule an officious state electoral commission decision to disallow their how-to-vote cards.

This week’s dux: The Animal Justice party’s state election manager, Ben Schultz, for a sting that undermined the anti-democratic work of “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery.

This week’s dunce: Druery had a terrible week what with the above sting, plus having more of his nasty behaviour recorded on video then leaked to the media, resulting in the opposition referring the whole putrid mess to the anti-corruption watchdog.

Glenn Druery on a zoom call with with members of the Australian Values party and Angry Victorians party
Glenn Druery has been caught on video boasting of his ability to game the election result. Photograph: Angry Victorians party

Tony Barry, RedBridge pollster and former Liberal executive

With pre-polls opening this week, it’s been a busy time for the major parties. It’s evidently also been a busy time for Ibac.

But the real story this week was the revelation Druery appeared to be soliciting taxpayer funds for harvesting preferences to support a Labor government.

Preference flows is the sleeper issue in this campaign.

At the RedBridge Group, we have been in the field every night measuring public opinion and sentiment. The combined primary votes of the Coalition and Labor is currently at record lows.

At the 2018 election, the combined vote of the majors was around 78% with a record 22% choosing independents or minor parties. At this stage of the cycle, indications are the combined independent and minor party vote might land on 25% or more.

That is why preference flows will be more important than ever.

Historically, we know around 15% of Greens preferences leak to the Coalition. What is less well known is how preferences from other minors and independents will behave. In the next 24 hours we will see the registered how to vote cards for all lower house seats, but this only tells part of the story. You then need supporters to stand on the booths to give voters a copy of their HTV card. And then you need voters to follow that HTV card as recommended.

But as we know from the leaked video of Druery, Labor has been playing the long game with preferences and that might make the difference.

Who won the week: Minor parties and independents who will be the likely electoral beneficiaries over perceived integrity issues.

This week’s dux: The teals’ legal team who desperately and successfully fought against having to register HTV cards with nominated preferences, thus having to show their true political colours and lose the illusion of independence.

This week’s dunce: Druery, after being caught on video boasting of his ability to game the election result by harvesting preferences to support a Labor government. It’s easy to see how this story has a lot more to run, especially after the election.

Kirsty Webeck, comedian

While I’ve been guilty of splashing out on a new wardrobe at the EOFY year sales before realising the car registration’s due and the credit card’s about to get a workout, I definitely always have a goal of digging myself out of the debt. Whether or not I succeed, at least I’ve tried. Does either party have a similar goal or strategy to address Victoria’s debt? It’s hard to tell, with only a week until polling day.

Both major parties weighed in with energy policies this week. Guy promised to reserve all gas from new onshore projects for Victoria which has seen some people fracking out about what that would really mean. Both parties had plans to reimburse households for rising energy prices. Some more strategies for how to move people off gas would be good if we’re serious about lowering emissions.

Meanwhile, coverage of the election is still congested by Ibac referrals, only now the Liberals have been added to the pile. While it’s great that Ibac has plenty of work to keep them busy, it’s not so great for the Coalition since they’ve really put a lot of eggs in the “let’s rinse Daniel Andrews for having no integrity” basket.

I’m no statistician, but from my incredibly unbiased* social media feeds, it feels like Andrews is still leading the charge. The Liberals might have to find another way to fight this battle, and fast.

*They’re very biased.

Who won the week: People who menstruate, with promises of free tampons and pads if Labor wins re-election.

This week’s dux: Andrews caused a stir with the above promise, which also included support for endometriosis sufferers.

This week’s dunce: The Liberal party built an aggressive campaign on the integrity of Andrews, only to have it derailed by their own referral to Ibac. Whoops! Better change course.

• Dr Margaret Simons is a board member of the Scott Trust, the core purpose of which is to secure the financial position and editorial independence of the Guardian


Margaret Simons, Tony Barry and Kirsty Webeck

The GuardianTramp

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