Voters in knife-edge Victorian seats in the sandbelt of Melbourne might think they are in for a spate of independents, with Liberal incumbents hiding their party affiliations.

Bayside electorates have had election material erected on private property without showing the Liberal Party logo. A new brand appears on signs referring to a Napthine Coalition government, but leaving the Liberals out entirely.

Political watchers say it is no wonder the Liberals are distancing themselves from their logo — the Liberal brand is in trouble, and Tony Abbott’s unpopularity at a federal level is trickling down to the states.

An ALP source says the lack of Liberal branding is certainly unusual: “To be honest, it’s a bit odd.”

“You minimise the brand when the brand is in trouble — my guess is the brand is in a lot of trouble.”

A source in the Liberal Party says the campaign has lacked a strategy. “I think it will be tough [for Liberals to win],” the source said.

Opinion polling for the state election released this week shows the Liberals trailing Labor 47-53% after preferences. But curiously, the same polling showed a vital slice of Victorian voters still don’t know who party leaders are. The ReachTEL robo-phone poll of 1153 Victorians showed 4.1% of respondents didn’t know who Liberal Premier Denis Napthine was, and 3.5% said they didn’t know who Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews was.

In some seats like Carrum or Bentleigh, which Liberal holds with razor-thin margins, 3.5% could be an earthquake.

In Bentleigh, Liberal MP Elizabeth Miller won her seat in 2010 with a 0.75% lead, which the ABC estimates to have grown to 0.9% after last year’s redivision of the electorate. Miller’s corflutes are already up in Bentleigh, but those Crikey has seen lack clear Liberal Party affiliation.

The word Liberal is avoided in all but the fine print of Miller’s campaign website, which simply calls her the member for Bentleigh.

In Carrum Liberal MP Donna Bauer is just hanging on with an estimated 0.3% lead after the redivision since winning with a 2.04% lead. Crikey found once again a surprising dearth of the word “Liberal” in prominent sections, with the word relegated to obscure article tags on her website, Donna for Carrum. The campaign’s colour scheme has also been lightened up to include yellow, reminiscent of the Palmer United Party, and a lighter shade of Liberal blue.

An email to Bauer’s volunteers was shared on Twitter telling them not to wear campaign T-shirts to a handout of mock-newspapers spruiking the Liberal government’s announcement of the day — supposedly faster trains on the line to outer-suburban Frankston, which were limited to the same speed as those they replaced.

Prahran is held by a small estimated lead of 4.7%, and incumbent Liberal Clem Newton-Brown has erected auction-style mini-billboards without the Liberal logo. The signs refer to Newton-Brown as the member for Prahran and sometimes refer to Victorian Premier Denis Napthine. Newton-Brown’s website shows his party affiliation.

The corflute above does have the Liberal logo, but it is well hidden beneath the window ledge

As a point of difference, Liberal David Southwick’s seat of Caulfield is held with about a 19% margin, and his campaign material clearly shows his affiliation with the party.

Liberal Party spokesman  James Copsey told Crikey all election signs “very clearly say Napthine Coalition government”, but he did not comment specifically on why the signs do not mention the Liberal Party.

Victorian Electoral Commission spokeswoman Mary Sammut says the posters are not breaking any rules as long as they have an authorisation statement.

Have you seen any unusual corflutes or election material in the lead-up to Victoria’s election? Send us your pictures.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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