In this morning’s AgePaul Austin
puts the spotlight back on hapless Victorian opposition leader Robert Doyle,
stagnant in the polls and beset by internal enemies, of whom Ron Walker
is the latest to come forward.

Doyle is putting a brave face on things, attacking the “rats” in his
party room and revealing that “he hoped to emulate Steve Bracks’s surprise 1999 win against Jeff Kennett by riding on a wave of
anti-government sentiment in regional Victoria. “If it happened in
1999 there’s no reason why it can’t happen in 2006,” he said.

Well, here’s a reason: in 1999, Labor was coming off a swing in its
favour in 1996. As a result, the swing it needed was only about 5% (it got a bit less, but was fortunate in its distribution).
Doyle’s Liberals are coming off a huge adverse swing, and they need a
movement back (even with the independents and the National Party on
side) of 7.6%. That’s not going to happen.

And if that’s not bad enough, Doyle’s organisational wing is scraping
the bottom of the barrel in giving him candidates to fight the election
with. On Sunday, for a safe seat in the reformed upper house, they
preselected another recycled former MP, rabid right-wing populist
Bernie Finn, ex-NCCer and talkback radio host.

For Doyle, the Western Metro vote was a no-win proposition; the
alternative was Jenny Matic, who would have been a competent candidate
but is an operator for his factional enemies. The Kroger-Costello group
pulled out all the stops to get Finn up, with such success that they
won the number two spot as well.

Stop the press: last night the Liberals did better with the Northern Metro
region, selecting Matthew Guy, well-respected former chief of staff to
Dennis Napthine, to head their ticket. But since only two candidates
had offered themselves it would have been hard to get that one wrong.

Peter Fray

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