Federal Liberals refuse blame for Victorian election but concede ‘wake-up call’

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The Australian: Federal Liberals refuse blame for Victorian election but concede ‘wake-up call’ 28 November 2014. Patricia Karvelas Victoria Editor

THE recriminations inside the Liberal Party have begun in anticipation of a defeat.

Key Liberal figures have told The Australian the Napthine campaign has been lagging Labor’s since the start.

Federal Liberal MPs are now so convinced the party will be smashed tomorrow, they are preparing to concede that the Abbott government has had a “small” impact on the result.

But they will publicly argue that most of responsibility for the result must be taken by the state government for mismanaging its first term.

“Labor was out two weeks before us, they have run a superior campaign,” a Liberal source said.

“We can’t deny a federal factor but if they lose, it is their loss.”

The Prime Minister has faced intense pressure all week on his negative impact on the Victorian campaign and Labor has used question time to prosecute the case that Mr Abbott is a toxic liability to the Liberals’ re-election chances in Victoria.

Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek asked in question time yesterday: “Will the Prime Minister, sometimes described as box office poison, be visiting Victoria tomorrow, or has Denis Napthine told him to stay away because he is no John Howard?”

She was forced to change her question and asked: “Will the Prime Minister be campaigning in Victoria tomorrow?”

Mr Abbott said: “I have been campaigning in Victoria three times — three times since the election was called.

“Once was to talk about our infrastructure improvements that have been done jointly with the Victorian Premier, and those infrastructure improvements are not just East-West Link, vital though that is, but also the widening of the Tullamarine Freeway, an absolutely vital infrastructure improvement that will only happen under a Coalition government here in Canberra and in Victoria as well. So I was there for that.”

Federal MPs yesterday spoke on background about the campaign, conceding the federal government had “not helped” but refusing to take the blame.

“They are their own government, they need to take responsibility themselves if the polls are right and (we are defeated).”

Federal Victorian Liberals believe it should give Mr Abbott a “wake-up” call about Victoria. Many believe the Prime Minister does “not understand” Victoria and that the political strategy must change.

“We need to repair the relationship with Victoria, there’s a western Sydney prism,” one source said.

The much-vaunted regional seats strategy — which was designed to keep the Coalition in power — has failed, with no major gains expected in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. The two seats in Ballarat — Wendouree and Buninyong — are not delivering for the Coalition despite “buckets of cash’’ being spent to sandbag expected losses in Melbourne.

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