METROPOLITAN Melbourne can win you seats, but regional Victoria will win you government.
Source Herald Sun
That is the fact John Brumby and Ted Baillieu face as they head into the final days of the state election campaign.
Regional Victoria looks set to take on the role of kingmaker on Saturday.
While there is a swag of seats on offer in metropolitan Melbourne, it is the regional seats that must either stay with Labor or head to the Coalition for a change of government to occur.
Regional seats such as Ballarat East and West, Bendigo East and West, South Barwon, Macedon, Ripon and Seymour will prove crucial to deciding the result.
If there is a swing against the Government of 5 per cent, then seven metropolitan Melbourne seats, plus Gembrook, South Barwon and Ripon would fall into into Coalition hands.
Labor would then be left with at least 45 of the 88 seats in the Lower House. That assumes the Greens don't win a Lower House seat.
The Coalition would then need to win three more seats held by margins of 5-10 per cent to win government.
These seats are in regional Victoria.
You can see why John Brumby and Ted Baillieu will be clocking up the miles in the next few days as they make last-ditch appeals for votes in Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.
There is no doubt that after 11 years in power, the Brumby Government is on the nose with a large section of the community.
But is the stench as strong as in 1999 when rural Victoria turned on premier Jeff Kennett and turfed out Coalition MPs in favour of Labor and independents?
In 1999 the Coalition lost three heartland conservative rural seats - Gippsland East, Gippsland West and Mildura - to independents, and the semi-urban seats in and around Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong to Labor.
It was a clear case of the electorate rebelling and kicking out the sitting government member.
But in 2010 those seats that lie beyond Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong (with the exception of Ripon, which is close to Ballarat) are already held by either the Coalition or the sole independent, Craig Ingram.
How do you give Labor a kick when they are not even the member in your seat?
It makes those seats around the major urban centres that are held by Labor so crucial.
Is there the same anger with the Government in Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong?
If there were, the Government would be sorely disappointed, given the amount of promises they have heaped on these centres.
For rural voters, there doesn't appear much discernible difference between Labor and the Coalition.
Both have made near identical promises on issues such as regional development, fire services, planning and infrastructure spending.
Any differences are on the margins.
Yet, despite that sameness, country Victorians have to ask themselves two questions: Has John Brumby and his government delivered for rural Victoria and do they deserve another four-year term?
Does Ted Baillieu and the Coalition offer a better deal for rural Victoria and deserve the chance to take government?
How regional Victoria answers these questions could well determine who governs Victoria for the next four years.
Ed Gannon is editor of The Weekly Times