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Apathy rules in Victoria

By Rick Brown - posted Monday, 15 December 2014

Newspaper polls predicting a landslide to Labor in the Victorian elections (e.g. Newspoll predicting a 55/45 two-party preferred vote for Labor and an Age poll predicting a 56/44 two-party preferred vote for Labor) were always fanciful.

The prevailing mood in Victoria was one of apathy and apathy is not a recipe for landslides. Rather it is an indicator of a 51/49 two-party preferred type outcome.

Regardless of the re-writing of history, a couple of days before polling day, Labor was not confident. On Thursday, telephone workers were identifying Green voters and asking for their second preferences - hardly the actions of a party bristling with confidence in the outcome - and on polling day some Labor people were rehearsing their lines for a narrow loss.


In the end Labor has won four southern suburban Melbourne seats, a couple by margins of one per cent or less and another by less than two per cent.

Labor also picked up another seat because two Coalition seats were abolished in a re-distribution prior to the election, the loss of one of which was negated by the Liberals winning a rural seat from Labor.

The Nationals lost Shepparton to an Independent.

To put this result in perspective: in 2010 the Liberals won 12 Melbourne seats from Labor and the Nationals won a seat from an Independent. Labor has regained four of those seats and the Greens have finished a short head in front of the Liberals and Labor in Prahran which is always volatile because of the size of the voter turnover between one election and the next.

The election result is hardly an overwhelming endorsement of Labor. Not only was result close, but Labor's primary vote, while up by just under two per cent was barely 38 per cent.

The Liberals primary vote was down by about 1½per cent to 36.5 per cent of the vote and the Nationals down by just over one per cent to 5.5 cent.


Still the Coalition primary vote was 42 per cent.

What these statistics demonstrate is Labor's dependence on Green preferences.

Nevertheless, the question is why the Coalition lost given that history indicates that voters give first term governments the benefit of the doubt, and that there did not appear to be compelling reasons to vote against the government.

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This article is to be published in Letter from Melbourne.

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About the Author

Rick Brown is a director of CPI Strategic, which focuses on strategic advice and market analysis. He was an adviser to Howard government ministers Nick Minchin and Kevin Andrews, from 2004 to 2007.

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