Victorian state election, 1999

Victorian state election, 1999

Elections for the Victorian Legislative Assembly and for half the seats in the Victorian Legislative Council were held on Saturday September 18, 1999. The Kennett Liberal National Coalition government was narrowly defeated by an alliance of the Australian Labor Party led by Steve Bracks and three independent MPs.

The Campaign

The Kennett government entered the campaign with a substantial lead in the polls and was widely expected to win, some commentators even tipped the government to increase their already large majority. [Woodward D. & Costar B.J., 'The Victorian Election of 18 September 1999' in "Australian Journal of Political Science", Vol. 35, No. 1 p. 126 ]

The Liberals ran a campaign centred on Jeff Kennett and the unusual jeff.com.au website. The presidential nature of the campaign was emphasised when the Herald Sun ran a damaging front page story revealing that most Liberal candidates were gagged from speaking to the media. [ Bennett S. & Newman G., 'Victorian Election 1999', Australian Parliamentary Library Research Paper 19 1999-2000 [http://www.aph.gov.au/LIBRARY/Pubs/rp/1999-2000/2000rp19.htm] ] The Coalition stuck to a message of focusing on its economic record, and promising modest increases in spending in schools, hospitals and police. [Woodward D. & Costar B.J., 'The Victorian Election of 18 September 1999' in "Australian Journal of Political Science", Vol. 35, No. 1 p. 126 ]

In contrast Labor sought to tap into perceptions in rural Victoria that the Kennett government had neglected them. Both John Brumby who lead Labor until early 1999 and Steve Bracks campaigned extensively in rural and regional Victoria, attacking Coalition policies of privatisation highlighting poor service delivery. Labor also took the unusual step of launching their campaign in the regional centre of Ballarat where it announced it would spend $170 million to improve rural infrastructure. In addition Labor campaigned on issues of government transparency and service administration. [ Bennett S. & Newman G., 'Victorian Election 1999', Australian Parliamentary Library Research Paper 19 1999-2000 ]

Election Day

By election day few people believed that there would be a change of government. When The Australian published a poll which suggested the result would be a cliffhanger, Steve Bracks is said to have stated 'I hope it's right, but I think "The Australian" is on drugs.' [Megalogenis, G., "The Longest Decade", Scribe, Melbourne, 2006 p. 54 ]

That afternoon it was learned that Liberal turned Independent member for key marginal seat of Frankston East Peter McLellan had died of a heart attack. The election in that division was postponed.

When the results started to come through, it was evident some unusual trends were emerging. There was only a modest swing in metropolitan Melbourne, even in the electorally volatile eastern suburbs, but there was a substantial swing to Labor in provincial and rural Victoria, the traditional stronghold of the Liberals. Antony Green has written of the night 'in the more than 35 elections I’ve been involved in, the 1999 Victorian election was the only one where I thought there was something wrong with the computer.' [http://www.pollbludger.com/356#comments]

When the VEC finished counting for the night, it was evident that the result was still to close to call. Labor had made several gains outside of Melbourne but the Liberal vote in the crucial south eastern marginal seats was also holding up.

The Aftermath

The Coalition had held 43 seats, Labor now had 41 seats while three independents were also elected. The supplementary election in Frankston East could now decide the election. If the Liberals could win the seat they would hold exactly half the seats in the Legislative Assembly and make it impossible for Labor to form a government even with the support of all three independents.

The three independent members elected, Russell Savage, Craig Ingram and Susan Davies released a charter of their demands. Labor accepted all of them while the Coalition accepted all but two, saying that the Upper House should only be reformed after a referendum and rejecting outright an enquiry into the effects of privatisation. The independents announced that they would announce their decision after the supplementary election. [Woodward D. & Costar B.J., 'The Victorian Election of 18 September 1999' in "Australian Journal of Political Science", Vol. 35, No. 1 p. 126 ] It was during this time that Kennett also made an astounding apology for his style of leadership. [ Bennett S. & Newman G., 'Victorian Election 1999', Australian Parliamentary Library Research Paper 19 1999-2000 ]

On October 16 the residents of Frankston East returned to the polls. They delivered a decisive 7% swing to Labor, with Matt Viney winning with nearly 55% of the two party preferred vote. The next morning Labor and the Independents signed an agreement which became public the following day. On October 20 the new Labor government was sworn in. [Woodward D. & Costar B.J., 'The Victorian Election of 18 September 1999' in "Australian Journal of Political Science", Vol. 35, No. 1 p. 132 ]

As if to prove the political tide had well and truly turned, Labor won Kennett's old seat of Burwood in a by-election that December. The following year they also won former Nationals leader Pat McNamara's hitherto safe seat of Benalla in another by-election.

The Liberal and National parties formally terminated their coalition agreement after the election, and it has not been renewed as of 2006.

Results

Seats which changed hands are shown in bold.

A plus (+) sign in front of a swing figure indicates a swing towards Labor and a minus (-) sign indicates a swing to the Liberal- National parties.

:1 No swing figure is available for this seat due to the lack of a Labor versus Liberal- National margin at the previous election.

:2 The margin for this seat is Independent (Craig Ingram) over National.

:3 The margin for this seat is Independent (Russell Savage) over Liberal.

:4 The margin for this seat is Independent (Susan Davies) over Liberal.

:5 The margin for this seat is National over Independent (Chris Hazelman).

:6 The margin for this seat is National over Independent (Carl Ditterich).

ee also

* Members of the Victorian Legislative Assembly, 1999-2002
* Members of the Victorian Legislative Council, 1999-2002

References


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