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Victorian election result a triumph for Dan Andrews and a nightmare for the Liberal Party

The deafening noise of the divisive pandemic era — leading into a toxic election campaign — had continuously amplified the voices of the angriest, most-disgruntled Victorians, but quiet voters had the final say, writes Patricia Karvelas.

Quiet Victorians spoke on Saturday night to deliver Dan Andrews another term as Victorian premier.

The deafening noise of the divisive pandemic era — leading into a toxic election campaign — had continuously amplified the voices of the angriest, most-disgruntled Victorians.

Quiet voters don’t get the headlines. They don’t make the fuss. They just get on with their lives, and they made the decision that Labor and its polarising premier were worth re-electing. 

Former prime minister Scott Morrison might have won the so-called unwinnable 2019 election on the back of what he called the quiet Australians, but it was understated Victorians that delivered Labor a historic third term.

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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ victory speech in full.

"Friends, hope always defeats hate," he told Labor supporters in his victory speech.

"And a part of leadership, doing what is right, not being dominated and fixated into doing the popular thing. The other part of leadership is to move this state forward, and that is why it was so important that we put to the Victorian community a positive and optimistic plan."

While the Andrews government has received a substantial swing against it — especially in its western suburbs heartland — the Liberal Party failed to capitalise on it at a time where the dominant media narrative was that Labor was finished.

This result is the biggest wake-up call for the Liberal Party. Its strategy failed to appeal to millennial voters and those younger still, and the party is now in substantial trouble.

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Antony Green calls majority for Labor party.
Warning shot ignored

The Liberal Party was given a warning shot from Victorians in the May federal election, but the party still believed that anti-lockdown sentiment could be cultivated to smash the Andrews government. They were wrong.

What should be concerning for the Liberals is that even the seats Labor appears to have lost look largely to have gone further left to the Greens.

The defeat comes as the Liberal Party will consider the results of the federal party review to be delivered on Monday.

The Liberals are suffering an existential threat based on massive, generational electoral change, which they have failed to understand.

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Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam says voters want to move away from the major parties.
Libs gamble, Greens win

The story of the Greens at this election is a game-changer for politics as we know it.

The Liberals, with their “put Labor last” preference strategy, have kicked an own goal, making the parliament more progressive with very few wins for their side of politics.

It’s an extraordinary failure in strategy. It was a gamble — and it has blown up in their face.

For Labor, this result will be a relief — a win is a win, and a majority is a significant political victory for a premier who faced extreme levels of negativity, including in the mainstream media. 

However, a smart party will learn the lessons and read the room on the backlash in its heartland.

The pandemic hit those in insecure work — or unable to work at home — the hardest. Those communities have felt isolated and ignored.

Now they need the investment and care they deserve. Those suburbs are hurting. Labor must lean in and arrest its decline in its working-class heartland if it wants to keep its historically safe seats that way. 

Soul-searching must go beyond parties 

Recriminations and soul-searching can't just be confined to the Liberals, and to a lesser extent the Labor Party.

The media — particularly elements, including News Corp, that actively campaigned against Dan Andrews — overreached and demonstrated a massive disconnect from their own readers.

All politicians deserve to be scrutinised, and the premier is no different, but some stories were clear campaigning, including the story which revealed “the steps that brought down Dan”, with a photo of the steps where Daniel Andrews had his “horror fall in Sorrento”. It was bizarre and over the top.

Already, the recriminations in the Liberal Party have begun in earnest. 

Former state Liberal president Michael Kroger declared that the Victorian Liberal Party does not know what it stands for — and hasn’t done since former premier Jeff Kennett left parliament after the 1999 election.

Speaking to ABC TV, former Liberal leader Michael O’Brien said the Liberal Party needed to renew itself. The truth is that, if it doesn’t, it will be in terminal decline and become a relic in Victoria. 

A wake-up call for Dutton

This election has obvious federal implications.

The result is a wake-up call to Peter Dutton’s opposition, which has been grappling with its own thumping.

Seats that were once in the Liberal column and have been lost are not budging back. That is a devastating result for the Liberals.

The Liberals are in turmoil in metropolitan Australia, and the soul-searching will have to be long and meaningful. 

They made this campaign a referendum on Dan Andrews.

The opposition's slogan, "Don't let him get away with it", hinted at punishment for Andrews on having the nation’s longest lockdowns. But the electorate has spoken. 

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