They’re off in election race

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Herald Sun: They’re off in election race. 4 November 2014

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine and Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews.

The Victorian State election, for which writs have been issued, is for Denis Napthine to win and for Daniel Andrews to lose.

In spite of months of political upheaval, many voters do not appear to have made up their minds.

The latest opinion poll gives Labor a lead of 54 per cent to 46 per cent after preferences. The Coalition’s primary vote is less than 40 per cent for the fifth Newspoll since August last year. Labor is slightly ahead at 41 per cent.

One encouraging result for the Coalition is Dr Napthine’s lead of 13 points over Opposition Leader Mr Andrews as preferred premier.

Dr Napthine sees this as an expression of “trust’’ in him and his Government. It was an issue he emphasised in a media appearance yesterday before going to see Governor Alex Chernov.

Trust may well rely on policy as well as personality. Dr Napthine has signed contracts for the first stage of the multi-billion East West Link the Coalition says will join Melbourne’s tunnel and tollway systems and end the traffic chaos over the West Gate Bridge. Mr Andrews, however, says he will tear up the contracts if he wins government in 25 days time. If he were to do this, future Victorian government projects would almost certainly suffer from higher costs as companies tried to reduce their risk. There is also the high cost of compensation to companies that have entered into contracts with the government to be considered.

Dr Napthine and Mr Andrews say the proposed East West Link gives voters a clear choice at the election.

Either voters want the link and the thousands of jobs it will provide or they don’t support what will be the state’s biggest infrastructure project to take the road system into the next century.

Mr Andrews and Labor have put forward some sensible policies, such as promising to abolish 50 of the state’s worst level crossings, many of which have been the scene of multiple accidents and deaths. Labor also has a plan to take up to 5000 trucks a day off the West Gate Bridge.

Dr Napthine has exploited what the Herald Sun has repeatedly pointed to as a weakness in Mr Andrews’ leadership that could continue if he were to become premier.

It is his failure to take a stand against Victoria’s most militant union, the CFMEU.

Mr Andrews has failed to distance himself from the rogue union in spite of the royal commission into trade unions being asked to formally recommend charges involving blackmail to be brought against state union secretary John Setka.

Jeremy Stoljar, SC, assisting the commission, has voiced his concerns surrounding Mr Setka’s involvement in $10 million boycott of concrete company Boral and has found several laws have been broken by the CFMEU and its officers.

Mr Andrews has refused to be drawn on whether he should cut his ties with Mr Setka and the CFMEU, which is represented in his Socialist Left faction and has influence at ALP policymaking state conferences.

Voters continue to see Labor as best to manage health and education while the Coalition is seen as better managers of the economy and law and order. Voter attention on the election is likely to peak after today’s Melbourne Cup. People are expected to turn their attention to the issues that will determine the political agenda over the next four years.

This is a make-or-break election for Dr Napthine. The Coalition is facing the first one-term election defeat of a Victorian government in the past 60 years.

One indication of support for Mr Andrews came when he visited the stables of Melbourne Cup winning owner Lloyd Williams yesterday.

Mr Williams, the original owner of Crown casino told Mr Andrews the casino’s current owner, James Packer, would “kick every goal he can for you.” It was Labor in opposition who railed against the former Kennett government for being too close to Mr Williams and Crown.

But it was the Napthine Government that moved to raise taxes on the casino last year before strained negotiations saw a deal struck to extend the casino licence for a bucket of money and no tax increase. The rich and the powerful are known to play hardball.

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