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Victorian election disaster for Liberals as loss sparks accusations and apologies

Written by on 25/11/2018

A senior Victorian Liberal MP is calling for a “root-and-branch review” of the party after its devastating election loss, while a federal counterpart has apologised for the impact Malcolm Turnbull’s axing had on the result.

Key points:

  • Senior Victorian Liberal MPs have lost their seats on a dire night for the party
  • Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Mr Turnbull’s axing “didn’t determine the outcome”
  • Shadow Attorney-General John Pesutto is among the Liberals who could be out of a job

Labor had an easy win in the Victorian election, returning Premier Daniel Andrews to power, after benefiting from large swings in Melbourne’s east.

Among the Liberal MPs at risk of losing their job was Shadow Attorney-General John Pesutto, who said “something’s gone horribly wrong” as he watched the vote count narrow in his own seat of Hawthorn.

“We shouldn’t be in this position — we did a lot of things right but obviously something’s gone horribly wrong,” he said.

“We’re going to clearly have to do a root-and-branch review, top to bottom, of all of this.

“My own preference would be that the party needs to take urgent action to re-orient, and get back on the right foot.”

Jane Hume speaks while seated at the ABC's election panel.PHOTO: Senator Jane Hume apologised over the damage done by Malcolm Turnbull’s removal. (ABC News)

Shadow Energy Minister David Southwick was also predicted to lose his seat of Caulfield to Labor, and former Napthine Government minister Heidi Victoria was fighting to hold her seat of Bayswater.

Meanwhile, a 19-year-old Labor candidate was posing a serious threat in the electorate of Brighton, which dates to 1856 but has never turned red.

Victorian Liberal Senator Jane Hume said “there is no doubt” the toppling of Mr Turnbull as prime minister had an impact on the election result.

“I can only apologise, JP [John Pesutto],” she said on ABC TV’s election broadcast.

“[The leadership change] was driven clearly by Queensland, but there were some Victorians involved and I don’t know if they had their state colleagues front and centre of mind when that happened and it is a shame,” she said.

“Don’t think it is a reflection on Scott Morrison … it is just the disruption that was caused by the loss of Malcolm Turnbull.”

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Liberal leader Matthew Guy made a concession speech in which he thanked Liberal supporters, staffers and his wife before conceding “tonight is clearly not our night”.

“I rang the Premier Daniel Andrews and offered my sincere and gracious congratulations to him on what has been a stunning night for him,” Mr Guy said.

However, he said he expected the Liberal Party to retain several seats which were being “written off” during the vote count.

Calls to resist right-wing ‘takeover’

Upper House Liberal MP Mary Wooldridge said a “takeover” of the party’s Victorian branches by ultra-conservative members needed to be corrected if it was to become competitive in Victoria again.

“There has been a takeover of the administrative side of the party — the membership side of the party — by a small but dominant group who are very right-wing,” Ms Wooldridge told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“And we need to make sure that those members who are Liberal, genuine Liberals, are empowered not to desert the party but hunker down with us to make sure that we can get back to being that broader party that we were in the past, and need to be in the future, in order to be successful.”

Ms Wooldridge, who was a minister in the Baillieu and Napthine governments, said while the changes had affected the party’s membership, it had not “permeated” through to parliamentary representation.

“If the trend of the membership level of the party continues … we won’t be elected to government in this state again in the future,” she said.

“The party needs to be broader, and that’s the party that Menzies set up — it is a party of Liberals, not a party of right-wing conservatives.”

Turnbull knifing ‘didn’t determine the outcome’

Former Liberal premier Jeff Kennett laid some of the blame at the feet of the party’s Victorian president Michael Kroger.

“I will say this — if there’s one person who should stand down tonight it is Michael Kroger,” he told Channel Seven.

“Because I think his leadership of the party over recent times has been appalling.

“Michael, if you’re listening, it’s 8:20, by midnight I hope your resignation is on the floor.”

But federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he did not believe Mr Kroger needed to resign as a result of the election loss.

“I have a great deal of respect for Michael, and as for what he does at the next state council and whether or not he seeks another term, is completely a matter for him,” Mr Frydenberg said.

Mr Frydenberg said the leadership scandal created by the removal of Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister was “noise [that] didn’t help, but didn’t determine the outcome”.

He also denied the state election would foreshadow a federal Coalition loss next year.

He pointed to the election of Liberal-led governments in 2018 state elections in South Australia and Tasmania as evidence of that.

“If Bill Shorten wants to get ahead of himself, and think that he can measure up the drapes in the lodge, then he’ll be as wrong as he was in 2016 when he did his famous victory lap of the country,” he said.

“I do want to pay credit to Matthew Guy and the campaign that he and his colleagues ran … but as Matthew said, this was a state election run on state issues.”


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