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Malcolm Turnbull and Victorian parliamentary Liberal leader Matthew Guy. Photo: Daniel Pockett Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and state opposition Leader Daniel Andrews. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer
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After a federal election full of surprises and salient lessons, here are five things to watch in Victoria as Premier Daniel Andrews and state Liberal leader Matthew Guy prepare for battle in 2018.

THE GREENS: Forget the CFA dispute. Andrews’ big battle will take place in the inner city – and partly on the turf of the former minister who quit over the firefighter stoush. While the Greens didn’t exactly reach the dizzy heights they expected, favourable swings in Wills, Batman and Melbourne reaffirmed that the state Labor seats within those electorates are at risk, particularly if the Liberals decide to preference the minor party ahead of the ALP. The seats in potential danger include the prized electorates of Brunswick (held by former emergency services minister Jane Garrett); Richmond (held by planning minister Richard Wynne); and Northcote (held by women’s minister Fiona Richardson) although it’s worth noting that the Libs also face a rising Green tide in once blue-ribbon areas such as Hawthorn and Malvern. Mind you, a Liberal-Green preference deal isn’t exactly guaranteed – not if opposition leader Matthew Guy has anything to do with it. “The Greens are a menace,” he told The Sunday Age when asked if he’d be prepared to enter into any such arrangements. “In the main, they’re just reformed East German socialists and I’m untrusting of anything they do.”

THE HANSON FACTOR: It was a political comeback almost 20 years in the making. But with Pauline Hanson securing a place in the federal Senate – and micro parties benefiting from the crisis of confidence in politics more broadly – some are already starting to question what this could mean for Spring Street. Take a look at the upper house seat of Eastern Victoria, for example, which takes in federal electorates such as Gippsland, Flinders and McMillan. If you break down One Nation’s Senate vote in that region, it ranges between 2.55 per cent and 4.56 per cent depending on the area – which is more than the 2.44 per cent primary vote that saw the Shooters and Fishers MP Jeff Bourman win a spot in Eastern Victoria at the 2014 state election. Likewise, in Western Victoria, former mayor James Purcell secured his crossbench seat with 1.28 per cent of the vote. AEC figures suggest One Nation’s support in that region (which takes in federal electorates such as Corangamite, Ballarat and Wannon) ranges between 1.52 per cent to 2.87 per cent. Could this mean Pauline Hanson might one day make her mark in Australia’s progressive capital?  Given the fragmented nature of politics at the moment, who knows?

THE LINGERING CFA STOUSH: It was the hotly contested question for Victoria in the wake of Saturday’s election: did Daniel Andrews’ handing of the CFA dispute cost his federal colleagues dearly? There’s no doubt that the bitter fight deprived Bill Shorten of oxygen in his home state, where the Coalition ended up winning Chisholm – the only seat Turnbull has managed to snatch from the ALP so far. But if votes shifted anywhere on this particular issue, perhaps it was the hilly parts of La Trobe where about 10 booths (such as Ferntree Gully, Belgrave South and Cockatoo) swung to the Liberals and ultimately helped incumbent Jason Wood retain the marginal seat. As the dust settles on the election result, the new question is this: given the brawl between the CFA and the United Firefighters Union is a state issue, what will Labor do to ensure it doesn’t keep burning in the long term? Party strategists have already prepared a field campaign involving firefighters, volunteers and MPs having “one-on-one conversations” with voters to counter what they claim are Liberal lies. Scripts have been written, mail-outs have been planned.  As one insider put it, the last thing Andrews wants is another TAFE fiasco: a reference to the tertiary cuts that continued to hurt the former Napthine government, particularly in regional Victoria, all the way to polling day.

SKY RAIL: The Liberals sought to whip up sky-rail sentiment in the lead up to the July 2 election, including leaflets urging people to “Tell Labor No Sky rail” by putting the ALP last on how-to-vote cards. While Labor hardheads insist the issue had no impact, Coalition insiders point to their own analysis comparing swings in some booths along the Frankston and Dandenong train lines that have dipped slightly since the last poll. Whichever way you spin it, one thing is certain: sky rail will continue to be an issue that the Andrews government will need to manage carefully between now and 2018. The political backlash is likely to be less damaging along the Cranbourne-Pakenham corridor, which cuts through the Labor strongholds of Oakleigh (currently on an 8.18 per cent buffer); Clarinda (held 15.8 per cent); Keysborough (11.9 per cent) and Mulgrave (which happens to be Andrews’ own electorate, on a margin of 4.48 per cent). However, if the government decides to elevate the track along the Frankston corridor, things will really heat up. After all, that train line takes in the ultra marginal sandbelt seats of Frankston, Carrum, Mordialloc and Bentleigh, where, in some cases, only a few hundred votes separate the major parties.

TURNBULL AND THE POLITICAL MIDDLE GROUND: You could almost hear the sigh of relief from opposition leader Matthew Guy and his team when Malcolm Turnbull took over as Prime Minister last September. Tony Abbott, after all, was regarded by Victorians as out touch, and often viewed through the prism of the issues he opposed – marriage equality, asylum seekers, climate change – rather than having a positive agenda to sell. But after last week’s election result, it’s Andrews who has good reason to be chirpy. Not only do voters tend to like their state and federal governments cut from different cloths, the electorate’s disappointment in the PM is palpable. If Turnbull remains leader in the longer term – and that’s still a big “if”– Andrews will no doubt use every opportunity to talk up his own socially policy credentials while painting the Coalition as an “all-talk, no-action” kind of party. This could have the two-tiered effect of boosting Labor’s chances its in never ending battle against the Greens, as well as putting a dent in Guy’s attempts to recast the Victorian Liberals as a more modern and progressive outfit than before. Elections are won and lost in the political middle ground and the next Victorian poll will be no different.

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