The Victorian Liberal Party yesterday opened applications for
preselection in another eight Labor-held seats in readiness for next
year’s state election: Bayswater, Prahran, Mordialloc, Bentleigh, South
Barwon, Ripon, Ballarat East and Ballarat West. (Details here.)
Preselections are already under way for the six most marginal Labor
seats, and have drawn some fire for the indifferent quality of
candidates (see here). Now this is the next group.

But they’re not, as you might think, the eight seats that come next on
the pendulum. The first five are certainly marginal, requiring swings
up to 5%, but the other three are regional seats that Labor won in
1999, where its margins now range up to 9%.

Now this might indicate that the Liberals particularly fancy their
chances in the bush, where the Bracks government has been having some
problems. But it might also be a sign of the difficulty of getting
decent applicants in the urban seats. Places like Burwood, Frankston
and Forest Hill, where applications have not been opened, were once
solid Liberal territory, but moves to attract high-profile candidates
have so far come to nothing.

State leader Robert Doyle, despite much criticism, has taken a position
of protecting all of the party’s sitting MPs from challenge (including
his factional enemies). But combined with the lack of enthusiasm for
taking on marginal Labor seats, it means the prospects for getting new
talent into the parliamentary Liberal Party are pretty thin. Even if
this next round of preselections turns up some unexpected gems, they
are unlikely to make it into parliament this time around: the latest
polls show a swing against Labor of only one to two per cent – not
enough for more than a handful of seats to be in danger.

Peter Fray

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