ACT News

Gallagher: Liberal defeat shows voters prepared to shift loyalties

Katy Gallagher and Jeremy Hanson on the one-term defeat for Victoria's Liberals.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher says the lesson of the Victorian election is that voters no longer have long-term loyalty to a government, but are prepared to change their allegiance after just one term.

"On local issues people are prepared to put in whoever they think is going to do the best job," Ms Gallagher said on Sunday. "The idea has well and truly gone that people are prepared to give you another go even if they're cranky with you. I don't think that's true any more and this result would indicate it makes no difference whether you have been in three years or six or 10, if you are not doing a good job you are going to get the boot."

The ACT's Government will have been in power for 15 years by the time it faces the voters at the next election, in 2016. The Liberal Government of Denis Napthine in Victoria was the first one-term government in Victoria for more than 50 years.

Ms Gallagher said the length of time in office "really has nothing to do with it".

"If there's probably one lesson out of today it's reinforcing people will go with whoever's going to do the best job … regardless of whether they've been in for a long time or a short time."

She pointed to the preparedness of the younger generation to change careers, lifestyles and political allegiance, with an increasingly large group prepared to move between the Labor and Liberal. "The world is moving at a much faster pace than it has in the past and I don't see why politics should be any different," she said.

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"The world is changing. If people want to see change they will vote for it and that's what happened last night."

She said the Liberals' problems with internal instability and support for controversial projects had allowed a unified Labor party to win with a "simple solid narrative" based on local issues – solving the paramedics' dispute and getting rid of level crossings. Federal issues had also played a big part, with the mood turning against the Abbott government after its budget.

For ACT Liberal leader Jeremy Hanson rejected the suggestion that federal issues had played a big part, saying voters were smart enough to distinguish between state and federal governments.

The take-home message was the risk the ACT Government was taking by building the Gungahlin tram.

"A lot of the issues were local issues so I think that the implications for the ACT are limited," he said. "The obvious parallel, though, is the east-west link [a toll road planned by the Liberals and opposed by Labor] and it's clear that if the government builds infrastructure that the community doesn't support they will pay the price at the ballot box. So that certainly is a lesson for the ACT Government for their light rail proposal."

As for his own chances in 2016, Mr Hanson predicted the election would be fought on local issues "like light rail, like rates tripling and increased costs of living".

"Regardless of who's in power federally the challenge for us is to present a good alternative suite of policies and I think Canberrans are smart enough to understand the difference." 

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