Victorian election 2014: Seven key issues to watch on election night

Victorian election 2014: Seven key issues to watch on election night. By Loretta Florance and Mark Doman. November 25, 2014

Victorians preparing to cast their vote in the upcoming Victorian election face an unprecedented level of choice.

A record 896 candidates and 21 political parties will contest the 2014 Victorian election, well up on the previous elections.

Liberal leader Denis Napthine and Labor leader Daniel Andrews both face the electorate as for the first time as potential premiers.

From electorate redistribution to parties headed by Grammy award-winners, here are seven key issues to keep an eye on election night.

1. The battle for Frankston and the Shaw factor

The seat of Frankston is set to be one of the most closely watched and hotly contested seats in the Victorian election.

Not only is the seat held by “maverick” MP Geoff Shaw, it is also one of the state’s most marginal seats.

Geoff Shaw won Frankston as a Liberal with a margin of 0.4 per cent, before he shifted to the crossbenches.

Mr Shaw caused headaches for the Government, after he was found to have misused his parliamentary vehicle for his private hardware business.

Those headaches are set to continue for the Coalition with Mr Shaw recontesting the seat as an independent.

But the seat has not been without its issues for Labor, with its original candidate Helen Constas resigning as candidate after revelations of a past workplace bullying claim against her.

The main contest will now be between Labor candidate Paul Edbrooke, a local fire fighter, and Sean Armistead for the Liberal Party, who runs an indigenous employment program for Crown Melbourne.

2. Greens v Labor in Melbourne, Brunswick and Richmond

The Greens are battling Labor in several key Lower House seats in inner-city Melbourne and are also angling to win the balance of power in the Upper House.

But with the Coalition again choosing to preference the Greens last, the party is hoping it can pick up enough first preference votes to take seats in its own right.

“Polling conducted for the Greens in late October suggested this was occurring, but the true test will come when the voters have their say on 29 November,” ABC election analyst Antony Green said.

The Liberals’ decision to preference the Greens last in the 2010 election helped Labor hold onto the seats of Melbourne, Brunswick and Richmond, which had been under threat from the Greens.

Labor also moved to distance itself from the Greens by rejecting a formal offer for a statewide preference deal.

It also ruled out any power-sharing arrangement with the minor party in the event of a minority government.

3. Leaders face voters for the first time
Denis Napthine will lead the Government to the election after having served as premier for one year and eight months, following Ted Baillieu’s resignation in March last year.

It could prove a challenge for the 62-year-old vet who has been in parliament since 1988, with several polls in the lead up to the campaign putting the Coalition well behind Labor.

But the glimmer of hope is the leader approval ratings, which have consistently placed Dr Napthine well ahead of his opponent Daniel Andrews.

Dr Napthine’s history as a country man and a veterinarian are seen as relatable when compared to to Mr Andrews background as a career politician.

The Labor leader has attempted to rebrand during the campaign, running ads referring to himself as ‘Dan’ Andrews, donning jeans and taking the media down to his family farm.

In the ABC’s Vote Compass survey voters were asked “How trustworthy do you find the leaders?”

Premier Denis Napthine scored 4.1 out of 10, Daniel Andrews 3.9 out of 10 and Greens leader Greg Barber 3.4.

4. The showdown at Euroa

The newly-formed regional seat of Euroa, in northern Victoria, is notionally held by the Nationals by a margin of 13.6 per cent.

So when the Liberal Party decided to run a candidate in the seat, their National Party colleagues were furious.

Under an agreement signed by the Coalition partners in 2008, the two parties are not supposed to challenge each other in safe seats.

Nationals candidate 27-year-old Steph Ryan is a former government media advisor, while the Liberal Party is running Tony Schneider, a physiotherapist based in Benalla.

5. Redistributed seats

The situation in Euroa came about through the first redistribution of electoral boundaries in Victoria in 12 years.

ABC’s election analyst Antony Green said the redistribution and rapid population growth in Melbourne’s outer suburb have changed the swing required for an election win.

“In brief, the redistribution has seen one Liberal seat abolished in Melbourne’s east and one National seat abolished in the state’s north, replaced by two safe Labor seats in Melbourne’s west,” Mr Green said.

“Consequential boundary changes to accommodate this shift of seats to Melbourne’s west has resulted in five Labor-held seats becoming notionally Liberal-held.”

6. The rise of the micro party

Now holding the balance of power in Canberra after receiving a record number of votes last year, the success of minor parties in the Victorian election will be worth watching.

This year, the number of parties contesting the election has doubled to 21 while the number of candidates contesting the Upper House has increased by 70 per cent, to 351.

Alongside better-known minor parties such as the Australian Greens and Palmer United Party, moral conservative parties like Family First and Rise Up Australia are contesting, as well as libertarian parties such as the Sex Party and single issue parties such as the Voluntary Euthanasia Party.

Also making their debut, and likely to be popular with younger inner-city voters, will be the party established by musician Gotye aka Wally De Backer’s band the Basics, under the moniker of The Basics Rock and Roll Party.

The huge choice of Upper House candidates means there is an unprecedented number of preference deals being done.

ABC election analyst Antony Green said it was near impossible to work out how all the preference deals would all work out come election day.

“If someone like me, who knows it very well, has difficulty working out where the preferences will flow, then how can the average voter possibly understand the ticket voting system?” Mr Green said.

7. The East-West Link

The Victorian Government’s planned East West Link is an 18 kilometre underground tunnel joining the Eastern Freeway to the Western Ring Road – it is also a key policy dividing the Coalition and Labor.

The tunnel’s first stage will run predominately through the inner-city seats of Melbourne and Richmond – both Labor held seats – but suburban commuters, freight companies, public transport advocates and businesses all have a stake in its future.

The Coalition has promised to build the multi-billion dollar tunnel and has signed the contracts for the project’s first stage.

It has also promised to build Melbourne’s airport rail link, a new station at Fishermans Bend and install three kilometres of new bicycle tracks.

Labor has said it will try to dump the East West Link project if it is elected.

It has instead promised to implement its $6 billion transport plan, including funding for a cross city rail project called the Metro Tunnel, the removal of 50 level crossings and new ramps to the West Gate Bridge.

The Greens also oppose the East West Link and instead say they want a world class public transport system with 50 per cent more trains on Melbourne’s network.

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