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Victorian Election Newsletter
Issue 3, 21 November 2014
The penultimate week of the Victorian election campaign saw both the Premier and Opposition Leader face-off in a “Peoples’ Forum” type debate on Wednesday night in the marginal seat of Frankston.  The leaders answered questions from a cross-section of Victorian voters on familiar and more nuanced policy issues that have been raised in the campaign thus far, including the East-West Link, legalising marijuana, election costings, and political credibility when it comes to breaking election promises.
Commentators largely agreed there was no clear ‘winner’ of the debate, with Opposition Leader Andrews favoured by 39 audience members, compared to 38 voting for Premier Napthine, while 23 remained undecided.  The Herald Sun’s Political Editor James Campbell wrote that he saw the Opposition Leader as “the better performer”, while The Age stated that “Dr Napthine began the debate more confidently, but Mr Andrews was stronger in the second half.”
The debate comes on the back of polling conducted last week in the must-win seats of Bentleigh and Buninyong.  The Herald Sun/Galaxy poll found that the Coalition is improving its position in Bentleigh with a two-party preferred vote favouring the Government 52 to 48 per cent.  In Buninyong, a key regional electorate which encompasses Ballarat East, Labor leads 54 to 46 per cent.  The latest state wide Herald Sun/Galaxy published this morning shows Labor maintaining an election winning lead with a 52 to 48 per cent advantage.  If this trend continues across the state it is predicated the Opposition would win government with an eight seat majority.
This week both parties continued a gruelling pace on the campaign trail, making commitments in key marginal seats within the regions and metropolitan Melbourne.  On Tuesday, the Premier visited the newly redistributed electorates of Wendouree and Buninyong to announce $24 million in funding to expand, upgrade and enhance six community sports venues across the Ballarat region.  Other announcements from the Coalition this week include:
  • Ballarat will also receive the Government’s commitment to improve peak and off-peak train services on the Ballarat line with 40 extra train trips a week;
  • $21 million has been committed by the Coalition to upgrade and relocate Wonthaggi Secondary College;
  • A $22 million traffic improvement package was announced for the very marginal Eltham electorate;
  • The Premier visited the “must-win” electorate of Yan Yean to announce a new $15 million police complex in the rapidly growing suburb of Mernda;
  • A $33 million package of works for the Frankston station precinct was announced, including $23 million to build a new six-level free commuter car park.
Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews also campaigned in the marginal seats with a focus on Labor’s key messages in regional policy and education.  Key developments include:
  • Labor will deliver its own $500 million Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund.  $250 million has been allocated for a Regional Infrastructure Development Fund, $200 million for a Regional Jobs Fund, and $50 million for a Stronger Regional Communities plan;
  • Also campaigning in Ballarat, Labor announced $8 million to expand the popular Sovereign Hill By Night experience, and update technology for the Blood on the Southern Cross sound and light show;
  • Melbourne’s outer-east electorate of Evelyn and the abandoned Swinburne Lilydale TAFE will receive $320 million through the TAFE Rescue Fund.  $10 million will be invested to re-open the Swinburne Lilydale campus, along with $10 million to re-open TAFE in Greensborough;
  • Not to be outdone in the key seat of Frankston, Labor has also announced a plan to transform Frankston station.  Labor has committed to invest a further $50 million to transform the precinct and will establish a Station Precinct Taskforce.  Labor’s plan seeks to a build a state-of-the-art transport hub, which will make Chisholm TAFE more accessible and provide a home for new businesses.

Seats to Watch

Bentleigh is located in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and incorporates suburbs including Bentleigh, McKinnon, Moorabbin, Hampton east, most of Bentleigh East and parts of Ormond and Brighton East.  The electorate is predominately residential, with notable features including the home of the St Kilda Football Club at Morrabbin Oval, and the Monash Medical Centre.
Bentleigh was first contested in 1967 and has changed representation numerous times.  Originally held by the Liberal Party, the seat was won by the Labor Party in 1979, only to be returned to the Liberal Party in 1992.
At the 2002 election, Labor’s Rob Hudson won the seat in the landslide re-election of the Bracks Government.  Hudson remained the Member for Bentleigh until 2010 when he suffered a 7.1 per cent swing.  Currently held by the Liberal’s Elizabeth Miller, Bentleigh is now very slightly notionally Liberal following the redistribution and the voters it has gained from the Brighton district.
Bentleigh is a key seat to watch for this election given its extremely tight margin of 0.9 per cent.  A recent Galaxy poll of the seat has the Liberal Party ahead on a two-party preferred basis of 52 per cent to 48 per cent.  The main issues of interest for the area are level crossing upgrades, the Cranbourne-Pakenham Rail corridor development, and upgrades to local schools.
Nick Staikos, who was most recently a staff member to politicians Martin Pakula and Simon Crean, and a former Councillor for Glen Eira, is contesting the seat for the Labor Party.
  • Sean Mulcahy (Greens)
  • Sofia Telemzouguer (People Power Victoria - No Smart Meters)
  • David Clark (Family First)
  • Ross McCawley (Sex Party)
  • Nick Staikos (ALP)
  • Chandra Ojha (Independent)
  • Kelley Moldovan (Rise Up Australia Party)
  • Elizabeth Miller (Liberal)
For more details see the Victorian Electoral Commission and the ABC.

Currently held by the Labor MP Steve Herbert, Eltham is an outer metropolitan electorate located 16 kilometres from Melbourne.  It is situated in a picturesque location along the northern bank of the Yarra River and includes the leafy suburbs of Eltham, Eltham North, St Helena, Briar Hill, Lower Plenty, Montmorency and Research, as well as parts of Diamond Creek, Greensborough and Kangaroo Ground.
Eltham was first contested in 1992 when it was won by the Liberal Party.  Steve Herbert gained the seat for the Labor Party ten years later.  Although the seat’s margin remains 0.8 per cent in Labor’s favour despite the redistribution, the benefits of incumbency have diminished following Steve Herbert’s decision to become Labor’s candidate for Northern Victoria in the upper house (Legislative Council).
Vicky Ward, currently a staff member for Federal Labor MP Jenny Macklin, is now the Labor Party candidate, and Steven Briffa, a long serving Banyule City councillor and local small business owner, is representing the Liberal Party. 
  • Chris Byrne (Independent)
  • Steven Briffa (Liberal)
  • Janna Fenn (Family First)
  • Michael Janson (Australian Christians)
  • Vicki Ward (ALP)
  • Liezl Shnookal (Greens)
  • Ryan Ebert (Independent)
For more details see the VEC and the ABC.

The Hon. Peter Ryan MP
Deputy Premier of Victoria
Minister for Regional and Rural Development
Minister for State Development
Leader of The Nationals

Member for Gippsland South (Victoria)
The Nationals
Peter Ryan was first elected to the Victorian Parliament in 1992 when he won the regional seat of Gippsland South in the Legislative Assembly.  
Ryan’s electorate includes the Victorian country towns of Foster, Korumburra, Leongatha, Mirboo North, Port Albert, Port Welshpool, Rosedale, Sale, Venus Bay and Yarram.
In December 1999, Ryan was elected unopposed as Leader of the National Party.
Following the 2010 Victorian election, Ryan was appointed Deputy Premier as well as Minister for Bushfire Response; Police and Emergency Services; and Regional and Rural Development in the Baillieu Coalition Government.  In March 2013 following the resignation of Ted Baillieu, Ryan was appointed Minster for State Development in addition to his responsibility as Minister for Regional and Rural Development by new Premier Denis Napthine.
As the Leader of the National Party and Deputy Premier, Ryan plays a significant leadership role in coordinating a consistent policy approach across the Coalition.
Prior to entering parliament, Ryan practised law for almost 20 years in regional Victoria where he specialised in litigation.
He is married to Trish and they have three children.
The Hon. James Merlino MP
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Education
Member for Monbulk (Victoria)
Australian Labor Party
James Merlino was first elected to the Victorian Parliament as the Member for Monbulk in November 2002. 
Monbulk is located in the outer eastern region of Melbourne and includes the suburbs of Kalorama, Kilsyth South, Monbulk, Mount Dandenong, Olinda, Upwey and parts of Belgrave, Ferntree Gully, Lysterfield, Macclesfield, Montrose, and Selby.  The electorate features many tourist attractions including the Dandenong Ranges National Park and Puffing Billy.
Merlino was first promoted to the Cabinet as Minister for Sport, Recreation and Youth Affairs in December 2006, following his re-election to the seat of Monbulk.  He was given the additional portfolio of Minister Assisting the Premier on Multicultural Affairs in August 2007 following John Brumby’s appointment as Premier.  He was later appointed Minister for Police and Minister for Corrections in October 2010.
Following the defeat of the Labor Government at the November 2010 election, Merlino was appointed to his current role as Shadow Minister for Education.  He was also elected Deputy Leader of the Opposition by his Parliamentary colleagues.
Prior to entering politics, Merlino was a bricklayer’s labourer (1990-1995), electorate officer for Jan Wilson MP (1996-1999), and national industrial officer of the Shop Distributive & Allied Employees Association (1999-2002).
Merlino has held several executive positions within the ALP throughout his parliamentary career.  He also served on the Yarra Ranges Council from 1997 until his election to State Parliament in 2002, a period that included a term as Deputy Mayor.
Merlino and his wife Meagan live in Montrose and together they have three children.
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