victorian election
Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam. Image credit: Julian Smith/AAP

With the official campaign period under way as of Tuesday, early indications are that the Victorian state election on November 24 will join a grim litany of disasters suffered by the Liberal Party since its epochal act of self-sabotage in August.

The change in temperature post-Turnbull emerges with some clarity from poll trend measures that show a formerly tight race developing into a Labor blowout, typified by this week’s finding from Newspoll that the Labor is out from 51-49 to 54-46.

This is all the more remarkable for having unfolded at a time when state politics has been dominated by the “red shirt rorts” that have implicated a swathe of Labor MPs.

While the Coalition has some cause to hope for improvement as the campaign focuses attention on state issues, victory seems a distant prospect at best.

However, a view through the lens of the major contest increasingly fails to tell the full story of modern elections, and this one is no exception.

Going into the election with the barest of majorities, Labor has every reason to be nervous about the ongoing tide to the Greens in its once-safe inner-city seats.

After a string of near-misses going back to 2002, the Greens finally broke through in 2014 in the long-coveted seat of Melbourne, made a further unexpected gain from the Liberals in Prahran, and scored a third seat with their win over Labor in the Northcote byelection last November.

Their existing three seats are neighboured by Richmond, where they ran Labor closer than ever before in 2014, and Brunswick, where Labor member Jane Garrett has deemed her prospects so bleak she is switching to the upper house, a move that caused considerable upset to the party’s delicate factional equilibrium.

The big question in these seats is whether the Liberals come through on their mooted strategy of leaving it to Labor and the Greens to fight them out — and it seems they plan on keeping Labor guessing right up to the close of nominations next Thursday.

A Liberal decision to forfeit would be a body blow to Labor, who for the past two elections have been put ahead of the Greens on Liberal how-to-vote cards, which are diligently followed by around two in five of their supporters.

How these votes would behave let loose in the wild is not precisely known, but the result could only be less favourable than the current situation for Labor, who need every vote they can get.

Further prospects for a swollen crossbench are offered by a brace of independents who believe they have sniffed a breeze wafting from Wentworth and Wagga Wagga.

Mostly this is a problem for the Coalition, particularly the Nationals — but Labor isn’t entirely off the hook.

In the normally bolted-down seat of Pascoe Vale in Melbourne’s middle north, independent candidate and former Moreland mayor Oscar Yildiz is making his presence felt through a high-visibility campaign he estimates will cost him $150,000.

Then there’s the question of an upper house that will — God forbid — be chosen under an unreformed system that continues to make use of group voting tickets, virtually guaranteeing a micro-party grab bag elected through industrial scale preference trafficking.

Seemingly the only wild card not in the deck is One Nation, who have never had much luck in Victoria, and are opting to save their money on this occasion.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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