The result of the Victorian election on Saturday may spell a warning of sorts for the Federal Government to change its ways – or suffer the same fate.
Victorians sent a message to Canberra by electing Labor’s Daniel Andrews as Premier in this weekend’s Victorian State Election. In doing so, they have voted out a one-term state government for the first time in almost 60 years and have potentially put the Federal Government on notice.
With the election post mortem now in full swing, there is a popular opinion – even amongst the Liberal Party’s own ranks – that the Federal Government had a negative influence on how the Victorian election played out.
“The Federal Government must take some of the blame for the Coalition’s loss in the Victorian election,” said former Liberal premier Jeff Kennett.
Mr Kennett said that Tony Abbott’s decision to introduce the fuel excise three weeks before the election, hot on the heels of an already unpopular budget, might have made it even more difficult for the Victorian Coalition to sell its own message. As a result, Mr Abbott was seen as a political pariah by many in his own party in the days leading up to the election, so much so that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, was brought in for last minute electioneering instead of the embattled PM.
“The lesson that the federal Coalition and the Liberal Party can lose after one term is one that will resonate across the country, and Tony Abbott clearly was electoral poison for Denis Napthine,” Labor frontbencher David Feeney said.
Labor looks as if it will win at least 47 seats in the election, which is enough for a majority in the 88-seat Parliament. The Coalition has secured at least 37 seats and the Greens won its first ever seat in the lower house.
Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt feels that the outcome of this election sent a clear message to the PM. “Tony Abbott needs to understand that his policies and his refusal to fund public transport to fix congestion is costing the Liberals votes,” he said.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Josh Frydenberg, considered the result a wake-up call for the Coalition. “There are some very serious lessons for us. We’ll go back to the drawing board,” he said.
However, not all Liberal MPs feel that the Federal Government played a major part in the result of the Victorian election. Federal Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, denied the implication that the Federal Coalition should share the blame for the loss.
“Clearly from my experience and observation, this was a state election, overwhelmingly fought on state issues,” he said, “I don’t accept that we had a big influence. Of course we’ll be realistic. We’ll have a good look at the implications but clearly from my experience and observation this was a state election overwhelmingly fought on state issues.”
Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, while not saying that he could necessarily replicate the state result and defeat a one-term government, was nevertheless capitalising on the Labor Party’s convincing win in Victoria.
“The lesson of Victoria is if you don’t keep your word, if you cut the conditions of families, if you are not interested in fighting for jobs, then you will pay a price,” said Mr Shorten.
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The Victorian election result is a shot across the bow of the current Federal Government, with the voting public making it clear that they want change.
The Abbott Government will do all it can to deflect any criticism of its actions playing a part in the Coalition’s loss in Victoria. This election was the first real chance the voting public had to make its position clear on how it feels about the current Federal Government’s policies and the result should be cause for concern for the Coalition.
Australians want strong leadership. Mr Napthine clearly did not stand up to Mr Abbott and his demands on the state. According to Mr Kennett, “He never called Tony Abbott to account. Tony was putting tax on him after tax on him. He wouldn’t have done it in NSW.”
Napthine’s penchant for secrecy with regards to his government’s agenda, his inability to stand up to Abbott’s fuel excise and the mismanagement of the botched East-West link project, quite plainly made him an unsatisfactory candidate for state leader in the eyes of voters.
But is the Victorian public’s attitude towards Mr Napthine reflective of how it feels about Mr Abbott? The Federal election won’t take place for another two years, giving the Abbott Government plenty of time to take these lessons on board and make amends in the eyes of the Australian voters. The real questions are: will he listen to what the public wants? And how much is he willing to change his ways in order to appease the voting public?
The Greens being elected to the Lower House for the first time ever should also send Mr Abbott a message that the people want to see positive action in regards to the handling of environmental and public transport policy. The election results make it clear that these matters are indeed a major public concern which can no longer be ignored.
The state election may have been fought over state-based issues, but these state issues are hot on the heels of the Federal Government’s clear inability to win over voters and the Abbott Government should read loud and clear that the people are not happy with how things are being handled. If he’s not willing to listen to the people, then these next two years could be his last – and his government could also end up being be a one-term wonder.
What do you think? Do you see the Victorian election as a warning for the Federal Government? Or do you see state and federal issues as completely separate? How you think the Victorian election results will affect Federal matters? How does the state election results affect you?