The Victorian election has just ousted Premier Denis Napthine's Coalition government after only one term. Incoming is the Premier-elect Daniel Andrews, an unassuming east suburban MP and Roman Catholic father of three. Surprisingly, the Greens also picked up their first seat in the Lower House after Melbourne ousted their Labor MP. The hot issues were a proposed multi-billion dollar freeway called East-West Link, pay rates for paramedics, and as usual, funding for schools and hospitals. What caused this backlash against the Liberals is a source of fervid speculation, so we asked the most passionate people we know.
Earlier this year we sent some women from Young Labor on a date with some guys from the Young Liberals. The results were gruelling and magical, and we also saw how much university politicians care. So here it is, their take on Victoria's 2014 state election.
Matthew Lesh, 21. Young Liberal, Melbourne University.
Four years ago I stood in the ballroom at Melbourne's Sofitel in a very different political climate. In November 2010 I was there to celebrate the surprise victory of Ted Baillieu. Then, in November 2014, I was there to watch Denis Napthine announce his concession. What went wrong in just four years? Well, a lot.
Winning an election without expecting to, combined with a take-it-slow leader, the Baillieu Government oversaw years of policy stagnation. Despite actually fulfilling many of its key promises, including creating the strongest fiscal position in the country, implementing a suite of tough-on-crime policies, and instigating record train punctuality, the government struggled to sell its message. This worsened over the coming years as the wafer-thin parliamentary majority was stretched by the antics of Geoff Shaw. Gladly, Denis Napthine's leadership provided renewed hope and direction for the government.
But then the Abbott Government's first federal budget hit.
From this point forward anything the state government did was soured by the actions of the federal government. This was especially apparent when the federal government announced a petrol exercise increase, ABC cuts, and changes on the GP co-payment proposal, all in the final weeks of the campaign. It is no coincidence that Labor's negative campaign almost wholly focused on federal issues, and that exit polls found that around 40 percent of people said the federal budget impacted their vote.
Federal dynamics combined with the state government's inability to establish a strong narrative around our strengths. Too much of the campaign was on Labor's terms, not our own. We cannot win by focusing on the other side's strengths.
The Liberal Party is most successful when we connect our fundamental principles—smaller government, lower taxes, and more individual freedom—to policies that improve lives. To win we need to talk about strong economic management that creates jobs, cutting taxes to help small business, and how we can get government out of the way.
Follow Matthew on Twitter: @matthewlesh
Deborah Wu, 18. Young Labor, Melbourne University.
There is no denying that this was an election fought on transport. The key issue was the East-West Link, an $18 billion tunnel that had not been taken to an election and was set to rip up Melbourne's inner north, and make Flemington and Ascot Vale a mess of on and off-ramps. The announcement that Labor would cancel the contracts angered a lot of people, but I think it's the right thing to do. Instead we emphasised the importance of building the realMetro Rail, with a station at the hospital and tertiary precinct and Arden St, with a duplication of the City Loop.
Where I think the Liberal government failed was demonstrating that it had anything more to offer than big-ticket infrastructure projects, especially after the four years under Baillieu and Napthine where Victoria's unemployment rate skyrocketed.
The cutting of funds from TAFE, education, and healthcare were the issues that I felt most passionate about. To me, it's a no-brainer that as a government, you put money into education and healthcare because they're an investment in our future. As I said to a rather politically clueless friend, these issues are most emblematic of the difference between Labor and the Liberals – they are sectors where you can access higher quality services if you have the money – and the Liberals expect that you do.
It takes a lot to oust a government after one term. It gives me a lot of faith in Victorians, and their capacity to call bullshit. Victorian Labor's win in Victoria says a lot about how sick we are of Liberal governments, state and Federal. I'm incredibly glad that Australia's most progressive state has been returned to a progressive government.
Follow Deborah: @deborah_wu
Jack Aquilina, 21. Young Liberal, La Trobe University.
The 2014 Victorian State Election will become one for the history books. It goes without saying that the defeat of a government in its first term is indeed a historic achievement for any opposition party. Victorians like most of Australians make up a usually forgiving electorate that tend to return governments for a second term.
Labor's campaign, although disingenuous at best, was a brilliant strategy of small target community campaigning and a play on general voter naivety about the separation between State and Federal jurisdictions.
The Napthine Liberals on the other hand struggled significantly to communicate their achievements and goals to the electorate. A concerning illustration of this was the failure to communicate the community's overwhelming endorsement of East West Link. It begs belief that the government, in an environment where the community overwhelmingly endorsed its infrastructure plans, could suffer such a swing.
It would be fair to say that the government was seen to be playing catch up on a raft of important local announcements in marginal seats across the electorate. Some notable examples where seen in the Mernda Rail Project promised in the marginal seat of Yan Yean, education funding announcements in the marginal Seat of Ivanhoe and the failure of the government to commit to a rescuing of the Palais Theatre in the marginal seat of Albert Park.
There is no doubt that the Liberals now face a real soul searching challenge. Denis Napthine's sensible suggestion that the party needs to embrace generational change is important. The once jewel in the crown of Australian Liberalism needs to better engage its base, reenergise its leadership, and create its policies from the heart of its liberal conservative values and never again fight an election through the prism of Labor's big government agenda.
Follow Jack: @JackNAquilina
Bridget Bourke, 20. Young Labor, Melbourne University.
The 2014 Victorian election has proven that even the safest seats can't be taken for granted. But more importantly it's revolutionised local political campaigning.
Labor's model of targeting local issues shows that public responses have shifted. Focusing on vague, overarching policies that attempt to please all and affect none no longer works. Voters have decided that ambulance response times are more important than union scaremongering, for example. And the ALP has cashed in on this, with policies designed for each electorate, presented and sold by individuals in that community.
This new style of campaigning also means the often overlooked safe seats are becoming vulnerable. Overlooking the closure of the SPC factory may have lost Shepparton to a new independent. Likewise, the lack of response to the Hazelwood mine fire in Morwell also appears to have brought an unimaginable swing towards Jadon Mintern for the ALP.
Whilst the Labor Party does have state-wide policies - a Royal Commission into family violence for example - I do not believe these are what swayed voters enough to boot out a one-term government. It's no longer about a broad promise attempting to woo all Victorians, it's about dealing with local issues. It's returning to a vote for hardworking individual MPs rather than a charismatic leader (sorry Daniel).
The only thing we really know for sure is that in a year where even the safest seats have been shown to a fall, every vote really does count.
Follow Bridget: @gobuildabridget
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