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Victorian State Election 2022

If the opinion polls and betting markets are to be believed, the Labor Party will be returned to government for a third term on November 26. It is certainly true that in the course of the campaign the Coalition has narrowed the odds, but Labor has started with a significant majority (Labor 55, Coalition 27, Greens 3, Independent 3). A key (and strange) decision of the Coalition was to put Labor last in preferences, even behind extremist parties and the Greens; the last time they did that they elected Adam Bandt, who has been there since. Of course, elections are more volatile these days and the past three years of COVID conditions have been very unusual. The most likely result is a reduction in Labor seats, with an increase in Greens and Independent seats. A minority government is quite plausible.

The Coalition has run a very careful campaign. Instead of pitching directly to populist-extremism, as they did in the last election with their terrible law-and-order platform, they have focussed on Dan Andrews with plentiful vague references to "corruption". Other policies include redirecting public transport funding to health expenditure, reducing payroll tax, and putting a cap on state expenditure. There is also a strong pitch to the conspiratorial and anti-science "cooker" vote with a promise of no future lockdowns, no vaccination mandates, and a Royal Commission to the pandemic response; whilst this is smart politics it is, in terms of health, a very irresponsible promise.

For their own part, the Labor Party has been able to run on its record of providing a combination of investment in infrastructure (transport, health), education (TAFE, school upgrades), and social liberalism. These investments (and they are investments) have resulted in strong economic growth, low unemployment, but at the cost of a high state debt (although not nearly as high as the Liberals have rather dishonestly claimed in their advertising). Labor's promises for the next term include, as key items, a new State Electricity Commission based on renewables, the suburban rail loop, and Australia's biggest hospital infrastructure upgrade.

Whilst the election campaign has been largely low-key, serious concerns remain with the capacity of the Coalition to govern itself. In the course of the campaign, the Liberal Party has had to reject a leading candidate due to their involvement with an ultra-conservative church, and another has issued a mouthful about indigenous people, women's reproductive choices, and climate change. Serious questions have been asked how the National Party preselected a (now deceased) candidate who had been charged with sex offenses. It is fair to say that Matthew Guy is hardly without blemish, either.

The bottom line is that we have a very good idea of what Labor is going to deliver (transport, health, education, and renewables employment and infrastructure), based on previous performance with the big new pledges of a revived State Electricity Commission. The Coalition, for their part, has undersold themselves with the virtues of further reductions in payroll tax (which really should be abolished entirely). There are legitimate concerns that a re-elected Labor government could be prone to hubris, having won five out of the last six state elections. However, despite the fact that they have run a better campaign, the Coalition has repeatedly shown that they are not capable of governing themselves, let alone the state. There are too many extremists involved and they really need to clean up their own house first. That is what people should keep in mind tomorrow.

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