Apr 20

Victoria state election: Denis Napthine puts trust on line as campaign kicks off

State election full coverageAnalysis: Voters need a visionAnalysis: Napthine on the way out

Denis Napthine has tried to reclaim the political agenda, declaring the November 29 election will be a referendum on “choice, trust and good decisions”.

The election campaign officially kicked off on Monday after the Premier travelled to Government House to deliver the writs for the election to Governor Alex Chernov.

After a series of disastrous opinion polls for the Coalition, Dr Napthine predicted the government would stage a comeback once voters recognised its economic credentials and the risks of Labor.

“It is about trust,” he said.

“Trust that your government will stand by its word and work to improve the lives of all Victorians. Not like Daniel Andrews and Labor who would govern for a self-interested few and their rogue union mates.”

Dr Napthine’s pitch to voters coincided with explosive comments from racing identity Lloyd Williams, who was filmed telling Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews that multi-billionaire James Packer would “kick every goal he can” for the Labor leader.

The Premier spent the afternoon campaigning on the East West Link in the potentially vulnerable seat of Ringwood, while Mr Andrews campaigned in Richmond and the marginal seat of Bentleigh.

The Coalition’s attack strategy will focus heavily on Labor’s record at managing major projects such as the desalination plant and the Myki ticketing system. It will also highlight Labor’s ties with allegedly corrupt unions.

In the latest development, embattled Labor MP Cesar Melhem came under fire at the royal commission into union corruption, which heard he acted “improperly” with a slush fund. The Napthine government has attempted to highlight Labor’s ties with allegedly corrupt unions and hopes the royal commission inflicts pain on Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews.

In a busy day of campaigning alongside his wife Catherine, Mr Andrews said the election would be about jobs, citing the highest unemployment rate in more than a decade, and fixing the education and health systems.

Labor made two policy announcements on Monday including $22.2 million for the music industry and news that it would remove the level crossing at McKinnon station if elected.

“Labor has a plan to put people first, focus on the basics and to make sure we don’t have another four years like the last four, four years of cutbacks and closures,” Mr Andrews said.

Asked about the Premier’s comments that the election was about trust, Mr Andrews said he was “not here to talk about Denis Napthine”.

“Mr Napthine is completely irrelevant to my plan to put people first.”

A series of opinion polls suggest the Coalition is on track to become Victoria’s first single-term government in more than 50 years, although strategists on both sides expect the contest to tighten.

The Coalition will also campaign on its record managing the budget, having delivered the strongest financial position in the nation.

“We’ve repaired the budget and put Victoria in the strongest financial position of any state or territory in Australia. This strong economy is the foundation on which we can build a better Victoria for you and your family. If you don’t have a strong economy, you can’t fix problems and you can’t improve things,” Dr Napthine said.

He repeatedly said Labor could not be trusted, and they said one thing and did another.

On Monday afternoon, Dr Napthine spruiked the first stage of the Coalition’s signature East West Link at a garden supplies business in Ringwood East.

He said the $6 billion to $8 billion project would “massively benefit” the business by saving it time, improving productivity and creating opportunities for growth.

Trucks would save half an hour for every trip they made from the end of the Eastern Freeway through to City Link and Tullamarine, he said.

With Richard Willingham

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