JOHN Brumby’s Labor government could be swept from office today, with a late Age/Nielsen poll showing Ted Baillieu’s Coalition has surged to the lead in the final days of the election campaign.
Source: The Age
The poll, taken on Wednesday and Thursday, shows the Coalition with a potentially election-winning lead of 52 per cent of the vote after distribution of preferences, with Labor on 48 per cent. This is a swing against the government of 4 per cent over the past two weeks and an anti-Labor swing of 6.5 per cent since the last state election in 2006.
Nielsen pollster John Stirton last night said that after taking into account the margin of error in the poll, ‘‘the election result could range from a narrow Labor win to a comfortable Coalition win’’.
A Morgan poll taken over the first four days of this week found the Coalition ahead by 51 per cent to Labor’s 49 per cent.
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Strategists from both camps last night said the election was shaping as a cliffhanger, with three results possible: Labor winning a historic fourth term, a hung parliament with the Greens and/or one or more independents determining who forms government, or a Coalition victory.
The Age/Nielsen poll — the biggest of the election campaign, with 1533 voters surveyed — shows Labor’s primary vote collapsing, Mr Baillieu’s approval rating ahead of Mr Brumby’s for the first time, and the Greens polling strongly.
It suggests Labor is still under some threat from the Greens in its inner-city heartland — and that the Coalition could win enough seats to defeat the 11-year-old government.
Mr Brumby’s lead over Mr Baillieu as preferred premier has almost disappeared. Two weeks ago, Mr Brumby had a 53 per cent to 37 per cent lead on this measure, but the latest poll has Mr Brumby down 4 points to 49 per cent and Mr Baillieu up 7 to 44 per cent.
Mr Brumby’s personal approval rating has dropped 7 points in the past two weeks to 46 per cent, and his disapproval rating has leapt 7 points to 47 per cent. This is the first time more people have disapproved than approved of Mr Brumby’s performance since he replaced Steve Bracks as Premier in mid-2007.
Mr Baillieu’s approval rating is 48 per cent, up 3 points in the past two weeks; his disapproval rating is down 3 to 42 per cent.
This is the first time the Baillieu-led opposition has been ahead of Labor in the Nielsen poll.
During a frantic final day of campaigning yesterday, Mr Brumby conceded his government had been ‘‘far from perfect’’, adding: ‘‘I know if we’re re-elected we have to do better.’’
He warned Victorians could wake up tomorrow with Mr Baillieu as premier. ‘‘I don’t believe he’s up to the job,’’ he said.
Mr Baillieu said voters had a clear choice, between four years of ‘‘more of the same from a tired Labor government that is not listening to us, or a vote to change’’.
‘‘Victorians can choose between stability and certainty under the Liberal Coalition, or an unstable and uncertain Labor-Greens alliance,’’ he said.
The election result might not be known for days, because almost 15 per cent of voters have voted already at pre-poll booths throughout the state — and their votes will not be counted until next week.
By last night, a record 550,000 voters had cast pre-poll votes to avoid having to line up at the polling booths on election day.
The Electoral Commission has sent out more than 300,000 forms for postal votes. Some of these will be counted tonight, but all told, just 80 per cent of votes are likely to be in tonight’s count. The remaining 20 per cent will shift the results slightly in the Liberals’ favour.
The upper house result will not be known for weeks, but neither side is expected to win a majority, with the Greens and minor parties retaining the balance of power.
The Age/Nielsen poll has Labor’s primary vote across Victoria at just 34 per cent, down 4 points in the past two weeks and 9 points since Mr Bracks’s big win at the 2006 election.
The Coalition’s primary vote has surged to 45 per cent, up 5 points in the past two weeks and 5 points on its 2006 vote.
The Greens are attracting 14 per cent of the primary vote, down 2 points on two weeks ago but still well up on the 10 per cent they had at the last election.
Their primary vote in metropolitan Melbourne is 16 per cent, suggesting they could still win lower house seats for the first time, despite the Coalition’s decision to direct its preferences to Labor ahead of the Greens.
The Greens last night were hopeful of seizing two seats from Labor — Brunswick, being contested for Labor by Yarra mayor Jane Garrett, with a margin of 3.6 per cent, and Melbourne, held by Education Minister Bronwyn Pike with a margin of 2 per cent — and possibly a third, Richmond, where Housing Minister Richard Wynne is defending a 3.6 per cent margin.
If the Age/Nielsen poll results were replicated at today’s election, Labor would also be in danger of losing at least 13 seats to the Liberals — the number the Coalition needs to pick up to govern in its own right.
The government seats under threat from the Liberals include: Mount Waverley, held by Women’s Affairs Minister Maxine Morand with a margin of just 0.3per cent; Gembrook (backbencher Tammy Lobato, 0.7 per cent); Forest Hill (backbencher Kirstie Marshall, 0.8 per cent); Mitcham (Gaming Minister Tony Robinson, 2 per cent); South Barwon (parliamentary secretary for water Michael Crutchfield, 2.3 per cent); Frankston (backbencher Alistair Harkness, 3.2 per cent); Mordialloc (backbencher Janice Munt, 3.6 per cent); Prahran (cabinet secretary Tony Lupton, 3.6 per cent); Burwood (backbencher Bob Stensholt, 3.8 per cent); Ripon (Agriculture Minister Joe Helper, 4.4 per cent), Bendigo East (Regional and Rural Development Minister Jacinta Allan, 5.4 per cent); Bentleigh (parliamentary secretary for public transport Rob Hudson, 6.3 per cent); and Eltham (parliamentary secretary for education Steve Herbert, 6.5 per cent).
If the Coalition were to pick up a further swing of 0.5 per cent, another five Labor-held seats could be in jeopardy: Ballarat West (being contested for the ALP by disability advocate Sharon Knight, with a margin of 6.6 per cent); Ballarat East (backbencher Geoff Howard, 6.7 per cent); Seymour (parliamentary secretary for agriculture Ben Hardman, 6.7 per cent); Monbulk (Police Minister James Merlino, 6.7 per cent); and Carrum (lower house Speaker Jenny Lindell, 6.7 per cent).
The poll suggests Labor’s position is weak outside metropolitan Melbourne, with its two-party preferred vote in regional and rural Victoria 41 per cent, compared with the Coalition’s 59 per cent.
With TIM COLEBATCH