Opposition leader Matthew Guy pledged an expanded prison build at Lara, west of Melbourne. (ABC News: Stephanie Anderson)
The Victorian Liberal Party has not nominated candidates in four key inner-city Melbourne seats where the Greens and Labor are going head-to-head at the November 24 election, in a major break with tradition.
- The move makes it harder for Labor to defeat the Greens in inner-city seats
- Opposition spruiks public-private partnership to expand prison build
- Labor pledges ‘profound’ investment in schools for high-growth areas
The news came as the Coalition promised hundreds of additional prison beds, while Labor announced a commitment to build 100 new schools over eight years.
The Liberal Party today lodged nominations with the Victorian Electoral Commission for all seats except for Nationals-held seats, the Greens-held seats of Melbourne and Northcote, and the Labor-held seats of Richmond and Brunswick.
The Greens have already won or are threatening to win a swag of formerly safe Labor seats.
The Greens won Melbourne from Labor and Prahran from the Liberals in 2014, before winning Northcote off Labor last year in a by-election triggered by the death of former minister Fiona Richardson.
This year the Greens are hopeful of picking up Brunswick and Richmond, which could hand the party the balance of power.
Nominations for parties formally close at midday on Thursday, and shadow treasurer Michael O’Brien said no final decision had been made on fielding candidates in the seats.
“We’ll run our candidates and arrange our preferences in a way that we think as a party maximises our opportunities to win,” he said.
Mr O’Brien rejected the suggestion that Liberal voters would be angered if the decision not to run delivered Labor-held seats to the Greens.
“You have the far-left in the Greens, you have rorters in Labor, I mean for a Liberal voter it’s between the devil and the deep blue sea,” he said.
“What I think Liberal supporters want is for the Liberals to win this election … and we’ll make strategic decisions that will help us achieve that end.”
Traditionally the Liberal Party has run candidates in these seats and preferenced the ALP ahead of the Greens which has helped Labor hold off the minor party.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, party president Michael Kroger and state director Nick Demiris were given authority to decide whether to field candidates in the inner-city seats.
Mr Guy has previously said the Liberals would not be a preference machine for Labor, especially given it was trying to defeat the ALP for government.
The decision is likely to force Labor to use more resources protecting some inner-city seats, which the Liberals hope will divert Labor resources from key suburban battles.
But by not running, the Liberals are set to forgo hundreds of thousands of dollars of election funding, calculated at $6 per vote.
There are some in the Liberal Party who have objected to the idea of not running in the inner-city seats, arguing it sends a poor message to the community for a party that wants to win government.
The Liberals will contest the seat of Prahran, which its candidate Katie Allen will seek to take from Greens MP Sam Hibbins.
Coalition promises hundreds more prison beds
Mr Guy today travelled to the prison precinct at Lara, near Geelong, where he promised to build a new prison with almost twice as many beds as the facility promised by Labor.
He said a Coalition government would build a 1,300 bed facility, with 700 beds in maximum security, 300 in medium security and a 300-bed remand centre.
Mr Guy said the Coalition’s plans for tougher sentencing and bail conditions would create the need for more prison beds.
“It is so important that we get back control of our law and order regime and get back control of our streets, and to do that a number of people who are repeatedly committing offences will need to be incarcerated,” he said.
Labor has already announced plans to build a new 700-bed prison at the precinct at a cost of almost $690 million.
Nearly 2,500 prisoners would be housed in the Lara precinct under the Coalition’s plan. (ABC News: Stephanie Anderson)
Shadow Corrections Minister Ed O’Donohue said the Coalition could deliver almost double that number of beds for the same price, by entering into a public-private partnership for the construction and maintenance of the facility.
He said his party was undecided about whether the prison would be operated by a private company.
“We are open to the best outcome for Victorians when it comes to the operation of that prison,” he said.
Mr O’Donohue said the new facility would be a centre of excellence for drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and would include a Magistrates’ Court on site to reduce the pressure on the Victorian court system and the burden on police in transporting prisoners to court.
“This is more than just a new prison, this is about reconfiguring the prison system to put more police back on the front line,” he said.
Labor pledges ‘profound’ investment in schools
Meanwhile, Premier Daniel Andrews and Education Minister James Merlino visited Pakenham in Melbourne’s outer south-east, where they announced an $850-million commitment to build new schools in Victoria’s fastest growing suburbs and towns.
Labor is promising to build 100 new schools over the next eight years, with 45 schools scheduled to open within the next term of government.
“This is a profound investment and it’s about doing more than simply talking about growth — it’s about a positive and optimistic plan to cater for that growth and to make sure that these kids, like all kids, get the very best so that they can reach the unique potential that belongs to them,” Mr Andrews said.
The pair made the announcement at a school in Pakenham, in Melbourne’s south-east, that will open next year.
Daniel Andrews said 45 of the new schools would open in the next term of government. (ABC News)
Labor is also promising to build a kindergarten alongside every new primary school, beginning with the eight schools slated for opening in 2021.
“This is all about practical support, commonsense support for busy families,” Mr Andrews said.
The 45 new schools promised in the first term are spread across inner and outer council areas of Melbourne as well Geelong, Ballarat and the Macedon Ranges.
The fast growing areas of Casey in Melbourne’s south-east, and Wyndham, west of the city, would get seven new schools each, while Hume and Melton, north-west of Melbourne, would get six and five new schools respectively.