‘Makes no sense’: Liberals slammed over ‘extreme’ preference deals

Daniel Andrews and Matthew Guy had their only televised debate for the election campaign on Tuesday.

Daniel Andrews and Matthew Guy had their only televised debate for the election campaign on Tuesday. Photo: AAP/TND

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has accused the state’s opposition of importing the worst of American politics by preferencing minor parties with “extreme views” in Saturday’s state election.

Mr Andrews squared off with Opposition Leader Matthew Guy in a televised debate in the key marginal seat of Box Hill on Tuesday night, their only exchange on the campaign trail before Saturday’s Victorian election.

The Premier, who emerged narrowly ahead in a post-debate poll, hit out at the Victorian Liberals for preferencing minor parties on the extreme right, saying none belonged in government.

‘It’s not us’

The Liberals listed a candidate with a long history of making anti-Semitic remarks above Labor in the seat of Narre Warren South, it was revealed on Tuesday.

“Why then preference these micro-parties who have – on any reasonable measure – extreme views?” Mr Andrews said.

“[It’s] not just carrying guns, but, you know, using them. This just doesn’t make any sense. It’s not us.”

There has been a surge of interest from the far right in this weekend’s poll; campaigning against Victoria’s COVID lockdowns was a major boon for conservative protest parties.

Mr Andrews said he accepted the parties’ right to run, but condemned packaging “the very worst of American politics” and importing it.

“I think that so many of these parties and what they put forward and their rhetoric […] and indeed some of their actions [are] really out of step with our best selves,” he said.

The issue was raised by an undecided voter, who asked Mr Guy why the Liberals were preferencing another minor party on the right, the Freedom Party, in his own electorate of Bulleen.

“You make choices on how-to-vote cards,” Mr Guy said.

“From our point of view, we’ve said that [what] we want to get [is] a change of government in Victoria.

“That party isn’t going to be represented in the lower house; it’s pretty clear to all of us who are political pundits.”

The Freedom Party’s platform endorses gun ownership as a “right not a privilege”.

The Sky network’s poll of audience members found Mr Andrews won Tuesday’s debate and the support of 38 per cent of the audience; 34 per cent backed Mr Guy; 28 per cent were undecided.

The Liberals have accused Mr Andrews’ government of seeking to tarnish them with “baseless” associations with Nazism.

After eight years in power, Mr Andrews and his government are seeking a third term at Saturday’s poll.

State debt

Mr Guy said Victoria’s state debt, projected to hit $165 billion, had run out of control but he promised to “fix the healthcare system once and for all”.

“We can’t do everything,” Mr Guy said.

“We’ve got more debt in this state [than all] of NSW, Queensland and Tasmania combined.”

Mr Andrews responded by saying that the opposition’s spending commitments tallied to a higher cost than his government’s, a charge his opposite number denied.

In response to a separate question, Mr Guy defended the Liberals’ candidate vetting procedures.

“There’s a democratic process in the party,” he said.

One preselected candidate, Renee Heath, was dumped by Mr Guy after she faced scrutiny over her family ties to the City Builders Church, which espouses controversial views on abortion and gay rights.

Mr Guy promised a change in attitude, saying that Victorians needed a leader who could unite the state and respond to cost-of-living rises.

The Premier closed by spruiking a government renewable energy policy that he said would put downward pressure on rising home power bills.

The debate was held after a Resolve poll showed that Labor’s primary vote has fallen seven points since the last state election to 36 per cent – making it level with the Coalition.

On a two-party preferred basis, Labor maintains a 53 to 47 per cent lead.

The Greens, running on campaign proposals including free public transport for Victorians aged under 21, are figuring as likely beneficiaries of any swing away from the government.

The minor party said it was “very open” to working with a minority Labor government, but has called for policies including capping rent increases.

Mr Andrews management of the state during the pandemic has come in for criticism from some conservative commentators.

The Coalition needs to win 18 seats to form government, or a swing of nearly 11 points on a two-party preferred basis.

At the May federal election, the Liberal Party lost two Victorian seats to Labor. Another two, including the prized Liberal electorate of Kooyong, held by presumed future leader Josh Frydenberg, were lost to challenges from ‘teal’ independents.

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.