Victoria: Napthine Takes Poll Position In Latest Newspoll

NEWSPOLL has published findings from its latest bimonthly survey of state voting intentions in Victoria; conducted for The Australian, it finds the Liberal-National Coalition back in a winning position under new Premier Denis Napthine in a disastrous result for the state ALP.

For the first time in 12 months — since a 50-50 result last August, immediately prior to the poll ratings of ex-Premier Ted Baillieu heading into a tailspin — Newspoll is showing the Coalition under new leader Denis Napthine in an election-winning position, leading Labor 51-49 after preferences.

The result puts the conservative parties almost back to the support they recorded at the 2010 state election, at which they won 45 of Victoria’s 88 lower house seats (and an upper house majority) with 51.6% of the two-party preferred vote.

And with an electoral redistribution nearing finalisation — and new boundaries that would appear to favour the Coalition slightly, the creation of two new safe Labor seats notwithstanding — 51% may well be enough for Napthine to win if repeated at an election.

Newspoll shows the Coalition primary vote unchanged at 43% from its survey two months ago (Liberals 40%, +2%, Nationals 3%, -2%), Labor on 35% (-2%), Greens on 12% (unch), and “Others” on 10% (+2%).

Napthine’s approval rating moves up to 53% (+3%) and his disapproval to 26% (+7%); the trend continues Napthine’s solid start in the role under Newspoll, and reflects the fact more Victorians are forming an opinion of his performance: and his approval rating remains, solidly, better than double his disapproval number.

Opposition leader Daniel Andrews, by contrast, sees his approval rating drop seven points, to 35%; his disapproval number rises six points to 34%, whilst 31% of respondents remain undecided.

It suggests the spike in his numbers two months ago was a rogue result.

And on the “preferred Premier” count, Napthine (49%, +3%) heads Andrews (26%, +2%).

Readers can access the Newspoll tables here.

Taken overall, this poll offers tremendous encouragement to the Liberals; it vindicates the decision to replace Baillieu, and it validates the argument that Victorians — having tossed their long-term Labor government out three years ago — remain disinclined to restore the ALP to power if the governing party presents well enough for them to avoid doing so.

The issue of Liberal-cum-Independent member for Frankston,  Geoff Shaw, and the allegations of misconduct he faces remain an irritant to the government that does not appear to be hindering Napthine’s ascension to the Premiership.

Napthine has embarked on his role as Premier with great energy, and — whilst not exactly mirroring the whirlwind pace of the Kennett years — has recreated an atmosphere of excitement around Victoria, and a sense something constructive is happening.

The imminent commencement, for example, of the first stage of the East-West Link — connecting Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway to CityLink and the Western Ring Road — is the first major project commenced in Victoria for some years, and promises to be a boon to motorists in relieving the congestion that has steadily brought the city’s traffic to a standstill since Kennett’s removal from office.

And if the pace of Napthine’s Premiership — and the increasingly positive way in which it is received — continues at speed, then the Labor Party in Victoria faces a big problem.

I have written in this column previously –and repeatedly — that some of the utterances of Labor leader Andrews are juvenile, to the point of childishness.

He is a poor and vapid performer in front of the media, and after three years in the job could have been expected to polish his skills — and the suitability of some of his rhetoric — in this area.

He gives every indication of being completely out of his depth in a leadership capacity.

There is a time bomb lying in wait come next year’s state election campaign: Andrews’ own words as Health minister in the Brumby government, and a fracas at the time over doctored hospital waiting lists that is almost certain to come back to bite him.

Andrews exhibits no real evidence of a capacity to deal with these things.

But more worrying for Labor is the fact there is no clear alternative leader in its ranks.

When Baillieu was moved on, the Liberals had Napthine, deputy leader Louise Asher, Transport minister Terry Mulder, and Planning minister Matthew Guy (if a lower house seat could be found for him) who could all have seamlessly filled the role of Premier.

Labor has no such luxury, and no apparent leadership prospect — especially since former minister Tim Holding left state Parliament earlier this year.

And it must be said that any “bounce” for state Labor from Kevin Rudd’s return has, at the very least, been masked by the local ALP’s performance if these figures are anything to go by.

Given a state election is now a little over a year away in Victoria, these results will cause great consternation in ALP ranks, and especially because they simply resume a trend of bad numbers for Andrews and Labor that was interrupted by Baillieu’s demise.

If Andrews can’t lift his game there is nowhere else for him to go but downwards — barring an unlikely implosion on the Liberals’ part — and nowhere else for Labor to turn.

Detailed Breakdown Of The Victorian State Redistribution

AS PER NSW recently, this is for readers into in all things psephological; the latest redistribution is in Victoria, and I’m again sharing information from ABC election supremo Antony Green, who has analysed the draft boundaries published by the Victorian Electoral Commission for the 2014 election.

You can access a link to Antony’s page here. (I suggest you refresh this page over the weekend, as it’s clear Antony is still updating some sections of it).

A few observations on key points, as I see them:

The number of lower house seats is unchanged at 88, although 12 seats on the old boundaries have been abolished and replaced, or substantially modified and renamed.

Two seats have been abolished altogether: the uber-safe National Party seat of Rodney, in the state’s north, and the safe Liberal seat of Doncaster (held by Health minister Mary Wooldridge) in Melbourne’s outer north-east.

Labor notionally picks up an additional seat in its western suburbs heartland (Werribee, at the centre of Julia Gillard’s federal electorate of Lalor), whilst a new, notionally safe Liberal seat appears in Eildon, just south of Seymour.

Seymour — speaking of central Victoria — switches on paper from a Liberal Party seat to a National Party seat, and becomes much safer for the Coalition overall.

Opposition leader Daniel Andrews’ traditionally safe Labor electorate of Mulgrave becomes quite marginal as a result of this redivision, and now sits on a notional margin of 2.5% (as opposed to 8.5% at the 2010 state election).

The effect of these draft boundary changes is to notionally alter the state of the parties, thus: Liberal Party 37 seats (+2); National Party 9 (-1); ALP 42 (-1).

The result of this redraw of the boundaries is that the Coalition now controls, on paper, a notional 46 of the 88 lower house seats, and I have to say that this tally seems more in line with the 51.6% result recorded at the 2010 election, when former Premier Ted Baillieu led the Coalition back to office on a swing of some 6.1%.

I have long suspected the state boundaries in Victoria contain an inherent bias towards the ALP, largely on account of the swathe of electorates it holds (and almost always holds) in Melbourne’s north and west, where most of the highest population growth in Victoria also happens to occur.

And to prove it — and I’m not talking about anything sinister — based on these revised boundaries, a 3.2% swing to the ALP in 2014 (which would produce the same 51.6% result for the winner as occurred in 2010) would see Labor win seven seats on paper from the Liberals for a total of 49: three more than these draft electorates currently show for the Coalition.

So whilst this redistribution (and it isn’t final as yet) does redress that bias to an extent, adding one paper seat to the tally the Coalition recorded in 2010, it doesn’t eliminate it either.

Anyhow, for those who like to crunch the numbers and pore over the minutiae — enjoy!

The Commission will gazette finalised boundaries toward the end of 2013.

Simon Overland Quits as Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police

The news a few minutes ago that Simon Overland has resigned as Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police is welcome and, in the eyes of The Red And The Blue, overdue.

The report tabled this morning by the Ombudsman into the release of “incomplete” crime statistics in the run-up to last year’s state election is damning and an indictment of the way Victoria Police has come to operate.

Coverage in the Melbourne press this morning has suggested that Overland was unaware the statistics in question were unqualified and invalidated. Yet anecdotal evidence at least suggests he had been warned.

And the buck had to stop somewhere: on such a sensitive matter of public safety, confidence in Police and full disclosure — tainted as this episode has been with allegations of political interference and manipulation — Mr Overland had little choice other than to shoulder responsibility for the debacle and quit.

There is little doubt Simon Overland is a very impressive individual; I for one was vocal in my endorsement of his appointment by the previous Labor government in early 2009. But initially through a perception there was too much continuity with the agenda pursued by the previous Chief Commissioner, and later as it became clear there were deep-rooted problems in the force, that endorsement has long been withdrawn.

The Red And The Blue wishes Mr Overland well on whatever new course he takes. His departure presents both an opportunity and a challenge.

An opportunity, in that his resignation provides a circuit-breaker, and allows the various inquiries into what has gone wrong inside Victoria Police the breathing space to run their course and deliver clear and unambiguous answers.

And a challenge: having approached this matter with diligence and in the face of some considerable discord, Messrs Baillieu and Ryan must now ensure that the process they have begun is seen through to conclusion.

I have said previously that there are serious issues affecting Victoria Police. In the interests of public safety, public confidence and good governance, it is critically important these are investigated thoroughly, identified in full, and resolved.

Today’s events are a constructive first step.