As John Brumby and Ted Baillieu prepare for tonight’s leaders debate (unlikely to have much impact, being buried on a Friday evening three weeks out from polling day), here are some notable happenings from the first week of the campaign:
• Paul Austin of The Age has received a “detailed strategy document” from the ALP in which campaign spending is allocated to electorates according to need, although its veracity is disupted by party state secretary Nick Reece. The document identifies 13 seats as “in danger”, including four held by ministers: Melbourne (Bronwyn Pike), Bendigo East (Jacinta Allan), Mount Waverley (Maxime Morand) and Ripon (Joe Helper). Also on the list are Prahran, Forest Hill, Gembrook, Mordialloc, South Barwon, Seymour, Eltham, Frankston and Bentleigh. Another six are at the apparently lower but still high threat level of “critical”: Richmond, Brunswick, Burwood, Mitcham, Ballarat West and Macedon. Of lesser but still real concern are Monbulk, Narre Warren South, Narre Warren North, Bellarine, Ballarat East and Yan Yean. More broadly, Labor is said to fear a backlash among “white males aged between 30 and 50” who are aggreived over “law and order and so-called ‘nanny state’ issues”.
• Stephen McMahon of the Herald-Sun reports Liberal candidates were “summoned to a special meeting last night” on the back of squabbles and resignations which have “threatened to derail Ted Baillieu’s campaign”. McMahon points to a dangerous number of Liberal MPs briefing against Baillieu, and beats the drum of internal “dismay” over a “deal” with the Greens on preferences (which in fact amounts to the party simply doing what it’s always done).
• The Liberals are currently without a candidate in the winnable country seat of Seymour after the withdrawal of Mike Laker on Saturday. Though ostensibly for “personal reasons”, this obviously related to a talk radio caller’s claim that Laker had told him of government plans to house 50 Somali families in the electorate and provide them with free cars. The Weekly Times likes the chances of independent Jan Beer, running on behalf of the Plug the Pipe campaign against the controversial north-south pipeline.
• The Liberal candidate for Richmond, Tom McFeely, is back in the party fold after announcing on Wednesday he would quit and run as an independent. The owner of Collingwood gay pub the Peel Hotel, McFeely had been affonted by a rebuke he received from a Liberal apparatchik for conducting media appearances without party clearance.
• The mayor of Mildura, one Glenn Milne, has announced he will take a leave of absence from council to run for the seat of Mildura as an independent. Mildura was held by independent Russell Savage for three terms from 1996, but he was defeated in 2006 by Nationals candidate Peter Crisp.
• Antony Green has calculated margins in key seats based on results from the federal election – not normally an exercise psephologists have much time for, but more than useful on this occasion in demonstrating Victoria’s electoral stability since the last state election.
UPDATE: Essential Research has published state poll results based on its last six weeks of surveying, and its the first published poll to support Labor concerns raised in Paul Austin’s article: the two parties are tied on two-party preferred, with the Coalition on a clear primary vote lead of 44 per cent to 38 per cent. As usual, Essential shows the Greens more modestly placed than other pollsters on 12 per cent.
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