The Latrobe Regional Hospital sits right in the middle of the marginal seat of Morwell. (ABC Gippsland: Emma Field)
Premier Daniel Andrews has added to his growing election health promises with a $217 million promise upgrade the Latrobe Hospital in Traralgon.
- There are seven declared candidates for Morwell, including Ricky Muir but it’s not clear if independent Russell Northe will recontest
- Labor only needs to lose three seats to cause a hung parliament
- The Premier promised $217 million for an upgrade of the Latrobe Regional Hospital if Labor is re-elected
Already Labor has committed more than $2 billion to build new and upgrade hospitals including at Frankston and in Footscray.
The Latrobe Hospital sits slap-bang in the middle of marginal Morwell, which is held by National-turned independent Russell Northe by just 1.8 per cent.
Whoever wins the seat — and there already seven declared candidates with reasonable local profiles — could determine who forms government.
While Labor leads in most polls, experts and party strategists say the prospect of a minority government is possible with Labor only needing to lose three seats to cause a hung parliament.
The hospital is the major health service for the Latrobe Valley and the cash promise will deliver 44 new hospital beds, with the Government promising it will reduce elective surgery wait times with new operating theatres.
“This will get people in Gippsland off waiting lists and into surgery sooner, in a modern hospital that’s close to home with the very best care,” said Mr Andrews.
Maternity services are also being expanded and the six new beds will be added to the intensive care unit.
The economic and social problems of the Latrobe Valley are well storied and were exacerbated by the closure of the Hazelwood Power Plant in March 2017.
The average age in Morwell is 40 and the area has higher than average unemployment.
The 2016 census shows that the average weekly personal income is $561— the state average is $644.
The Opposition has used the plant’s shutdown to attack the Government, accusing it of forcing the generator’s closure.
French company Engie made the decision partly as part of a global effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
Labor bullish about chances in Morwell
To seize government Matthew Guy’s Opposition needs to win at least 7 seats, as well as regain Morwell for the Coalition from former Nationals MP Northe.
And with the prospect of a hung Parliament on November 25, the victor in Morwell could determine who wins government.
A Melbourne Cup field of candidates is predicted, including former Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir running under the Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party banner.
Ricky Muir is running in Morwell for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. (ABC News: Karen Percy)
It is a complicated seat where the conservative vote could splinter across multiple candidates, meaning preferences will decide the winner.
Mr Northe is yet to decide if he will recontest the seat as he continues to deal with personal issues.
Former Hazelwood worker Mark Richards is Labor’s candidate and has the backing of the industrial left group of unions centred around the CFMMEU.
Russell Northe has not yet decided if he will recontest the seat. (Supplied: Nationals Party)
In recent weeks, Labor has moved Morwell into the top tier of its target seats, with internal polling making the party more bullish about its chances.
And it would not be disappointed with a loss to Mr Muir or another independent because in the event of a hung parliament it would reduce any reliance on the Greens to secure government, a problem that continues to be asked of the Premier.
Just this week he ruled out any deal with the Greens who are threatening to add to their three-inner city Lower House seats at the November poll.
“I have been very clear, no deal will be offered and no deal will be done. That is my position and has been for the best part of eight years,” Mr Andrews said at a school on Monday.
“Anyone who has votes on the floor of the Parliament would need to make their own decision about whether they supported Labor or another government. We are running to provide a strong, stable, majority Labor Government.”