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Issues Monitor September 2014: Victoria

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Top Issues Facing Victoria

As we close on November’s election, the issues of most concern to Victorians’ have remained largely unchanged for some time. Anxiety around ‘Healthcare’ continues to lead the way, a few lengths ahead of the peloton; a pack that includes relative newcomer but now mainstay ‘Unemployment’, ‘Crime’, ‘Cost of Living’ and our (uniquely Victorian) worries around ‘Transport’.

When the Liberal-National Coalition took office in November 2010, just eight percent of Victorians cited ‘Unemployment’ as one of the top three issues facing our state.  It was the 13th most important issue and barely rated a mention from Messrs Brumby and Ballieu in the lead up to the poll. This reflected an unemployment rate that was only a shade over five percent, had been below six percent for the best part of ten years with workforce participation was on a slow continuous incline.  Sensibly, the focus was elsewhere.

Fast forward four years and ‘Unemployment’ is now the second most important issue facing the state.  Our unemployment rate is bordering on seven percent (6.8%) for the first time in fifteen years and workplace participation has contracted to levels not seen since the early 1990s. Clearly, this change in fortunes has presented challenges for the Coalition during its first term.

We have written before about issue-link. Issue-link occurs when discrete policy is announced as a vehicle to address multiple issues of acute concern.  As observed in earlier editions, the Coalition’s ability to issue-link their game-changing Protective Services Officer (PSO) policy from 2010 addressed two of the greatest concerns of the day: ‘Crime’ and ‘Transport’. It proved a winner.

The challenge for both major parties will be to find credible means to issue-link their programs, policies and election promises with concerns around ‘Unemployment’.

Both parties are taking mature and distinct infrastructure agendas to this election.  The Coalition framed their May budget with an infrastructure program and self-described ‘jobs bonanza’ – rewarding Victorians for three years of conservative fiscal management by promising to deliver the Airport Rail Link, Melbourne Rail Link and the western section of the East-West Link. The ALP has pressed their alternative: Project 10,000, a plan to remove Victoria’s 50 worst railway crossings and create 10,000 jobs in the process.

More recently, the ALP advised that if elected they would not deliver the approved eastern section of East-West Link. A contentious move, given the project has been awarded and would otherwise proceed to construction in 2015.

Nationally, Australians are more likely to have confidence in the ALP to manage ‘Unemployment’ relative to the Coalition. The ALP is considered more ‘worker-friendly’ and this should present a natural advantage to Daniel Andrews given current concerns around unemployment.  In saying this, Mr Andrews’ bold decision to halt delivery at five minutes to midnight could have Victorians questioning just how worker-friendly he really is.

While the outcome is unknown, you can be sure that jobs will be the hottest political topic in Victoria over the next two months.

Last updated October 2014