John Brumby and Ted Baillieu went head-to-head on Friday for a low-rating and soon-to-be-forgotten leaders debate. Milanda Rout of The Australia wrote approvingly that Ted Baillieu “took a risk and showed he had some political backbone”, by “throwing insults and delivering the best and funniest lines of the debate”. John Ferguson of the Herald Sun thought Baillieu’s dithering over preferences meant he “won the theatre, but lost the politics”. Shaun Carney of The Age believed Brumby suffered from lack of experience – this was his first leaders debate, as there wasn’t one when he ran against Jeff Kennett in 1996 – while James Campbell of the Sunday Herald Sun faulted Brumby for “staring statesmanlike into the distance and talking about the future”. If you’d prefer to make up your own mind, you can watch it on iView.
• Tim Colebatch of The Age makes the unarguable assertion that Ted Baillieu’s efforts to get his message out have been “drowned out by factional opponents beating their drum to insist that the Liberals should not direct preferences to the Greens”. He also casts an eye over the Liberals’ recent record in Tasmania, the only case study where the Liberals have pursued the strategy of privileging Labor over the Greens advocated by John Howard and Helen Kroger:
Tasmania went to the polls in March. The Liberals topped the vote, but both sides ended up with 10 seats and the Greens with five. Liberal leader Will Hodgman had first rights but, under pressure from right-wing powerbroker Senator Eric Abetz, refused to negotiate with the Greens. Labor leader David Bartlett went ahead and did so. So Labor and the Greens now have a coalition government, and it’s working well. The federal election saw the Liberal vote in Tasmania slump to 39 per cent after preferences — the party’s lowest vote in any state since World War II. Opinion polls show a collapse in Liberal support at state level. And The Mercury reports that Hodgman has now taken on Abetz for control of the party, declaring: “We cannot give away the middle ground. I will fight to make sure that doesn’t happen, even if it costs me my job.”
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• Former federal Wills independent Phil Cleary has confirmed he will run in the seat of Brunswick. This further complicates the contest between Labor candidate Jane Garrett and Cyndi Dawes of the Greens, with Cleary making no secret of his intention to direct preferences to the latter. The seat is being vacated by the retirement of Labor member Carlo Carli.
• David Rood of The Age tells of “secret party research” from the ALP telling a familiar tale of ongoing inner-city drift to the Greens. The report found the most potent campaign remedy would be pamphlets trumpeting the fact that the Greens had voted with the Liberals 69 per cent of the time in parliament, as distinct from an existing strategy of “promoting the party’s stance on climate change and other progressive issues like social housing”.