Battle of the sales pitches

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The Standard: Battle of the sales pitches Oct. 31, 2014

EDITORIAL: IS the state election turning into a tale of two spruikers?

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews is the bland, unengaging marketer with a grab-bag of engaging concepts and policies while Premier Denis Napthine is the consummate salesman with seemingly little to sell.

The latest results from the inaugural Age-Ipsos poll reflect this view. Labor has been consistently in front of the Coalition all this year in terms of its two-party preferred vote.

The state opposition has successfully managed to highlight the Napthine government’s shortcomings as well as present a range of new ideas to the electorate.

One of Labor’s biggest handicaps has been its leader. With the demeanour of a golf-playing accountant, Andrews is one of the least personable party leaders in Australia today.

Napthine is probably one of the best things going for the state government. A breath of fresh air after the aloof Ted Baillieu, he has been handicapped by many of his predecessor’s shortcomings.

However, his ministerial team have been almost unrecognisable apart from Matthew Guy and Peter Ryan. The government’s policy centrepiece — the East-West Link — is of little interest to regional voters.

The state opposition has more spring in its step. Cleverly, Labor decided to target one of the government’s weak points, education, and it’s working. The policy of returning to technical schools was a smart move.

Driver licence discounts for apprentices was a tactical pledge but appears more like a vote-buying measure. Pumping money into school infrastructure will also be welcomed by swinging voters.

Napthine was also not helped by Prime Minister Tony Abbott this week with the federal move to increase petrol excise. The Premier slammed the shifty manoeuvre from Canberra but voters might see him as guilty by association.

American satirist Henry Mencken once jokingly said an election was like an auction of stolen goods. While there may be some truth in his cynicism, the question remains — who will be chief auctioneer on November 30?

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