From such a small pool, its very hard for the Liberals to think big – The Age

Posted: March 21, 2021 at 4:55 pm

Still, with Daniel Andrews out of commission for a few months while he recovers from his fall, there was a chance that a fresh face at the helm on the other side would attract considerable attention something the dour OBrien has not managed.

Daniel Andrews shares a photo after being moved out of ICU.

However, thats as far as it would go. After that, what?

The dire number of 31 MPs predates the pandemic and it was not arrived at by accident. It was the culmination of years of desultory policy-making, self-indulgent factional behaviour and a belief that most voters detested the ALP as much as the Liberals and their media supporters did.

Bizarrely, in the lead-up to the last election under Matthew Guys leadership, the focus was on African gangs, a Labor scandal involving party workers and the treatment of CFA volunteers. Most voters wondered what those things had to do with them, and the government picked up a five-point swing.

At the election before that, the Liberal-National government, led first by Ted Baillieu and then Denis Napthine, lost office after a single term which takes some doing.

Premier Denis Napthine and Ted Baillieu in July 2014. Credit:Joe Armao

That period of office was when the real trouble started; that government took too long to get started and looked ineffectual. It did introduce the anti-corruption commission IBAC and finally embraced the need for big infrastructure programs, but it was all too late.

One thing the Liberals are still to deal with is the shadow cast by Jeff Kennett.

Labor under Andrews has avoided that mistake: it is now seen as the party of infrastructure and service delivery a crucial point of difference at the state level.

One thing the Liberals are still to deal with is the shadow cast by Jeff Kennett, who continues to play a big public role as a commentator and football identity.

Jeff Kennett still looms large over conservative politics.Credit:Eddie Jim

When Battins challenge became news on Monday, Kennett publicly toyed with the idea of standing for the partys state presidency. After the challenge flopped, he was on radio offering his view about it.

Kennett is a substantial figure in the history of the Liberal Party and the state but its an open question whether his regular public critiques and interventions are helpful to a new generation of Liberals 25 years after he last won an election.

The Andrews government does have vulnerabilities. The Premier is not travelling as well as other interstate counterparts thanks to the hotel quarantine fiasco and the states lockdowns.

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He cannot boast the near-monolithic levels of support enjoyed by Mark McGowan in Western Australia and Gladys Berejiklian in New South Wales.

But the government is still in a strong position. It will take more than a change of opposition leader to alter that.

Shaun Carney is a regular columnist. He is the author of books on industrial relations and the life of Peter Costello, and has been commended by the Walkley Award judges for his political columns.

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From such a small pool, its very hard for the Liberals to think big - The Age

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