Libs not run­ning forces Wynne’s loss to Greens

The Australian - - THE NATION - SAMAN­THA HUTCHIN­SON RACHEL BAXENDALE

The Vic­to­rian Lib­er­als be­lieve they have dealt a near unas­sail­able blow to Plan­ning Min­is­ter Richard Wynne’s re-elec­tion chances af­ter de­cid­ing not to field a can­di­date in his mar­ginal seat of Rich­mond.

Vic­to­rian Lib­eral pres­i­dent Michael Kroger con­firmed yes­ter­day that the party would run in the seats of Bruns­wick, Mel­bourne and North­cote, but not in Rich­mond. It’s a di­rect hit on Mr Wynne, whose seat is un­der at­tack from the Greens and who would have re­lied upon Lib­eral pref­er­ences to win.

The de­ci­sion came af­ter weeks of de­lib­er­a­tions in which the party toyed with the idea of leav­ing all four seats “dead” or with­out a can­di­date, in a bid to force La­bor to square off against the Greens in a di­rect bat­tle.

A for­mer Mel­bourne lord mayor, Mr Wynne won the seat by fewer than 1500 votes in 2014, and was trail­ing Greens can­di­date Kath­leen Maltzahn in the count be­fore Lib­eral pref­er­ences pushed him into the win­ning spot.

Speak­ing to The Aus­tralian, Mr Kroger de­clared the Lib­eral Party was not a “pref­er­ence ma­chine” to help the re-elec­tion of the An­drews govern­ment. “(We) will not be com­plicit in as­sist­ing in the re-elec­tion of Richard Wynne,” he said. The party made the de­ci­sion just hours be­fore the Vic­to­rian Elec­tion Com­mis­sion closed nom­i­na­tions at noon.

While the Lib­er­als will now field can­di­dates in North­cote, Bruns­wick and Mel­bourne, Mr Kroger said no fi­nal de­ci­sions on pref­er­ences had been made.

The Lib­eral Party scored 24 per cent in Mel­bourne, 21 per cent in Rich­mond, and slightly more than 16 per cent in both North­cote and Bruns­wick.

While Lib­eral strate­gists be­lieve the move has as­sured the end of Mr Wynne’s al­most 20-year ten­ure in the seat, La­bor strate­gists have talked down the threat.

“Noth­ing changes,” a se­nior La­bor strate­gist said. “We al­ways an­tic­i­pated the Lib­er­als wouldn’t run, we’ve also based our strat­egy in the city on the re­al­ity that the Lib­eral Party would not stand in any of those seats.”

Within cam­paign ranks, there is a sense that La­bor’s pri­mary vote will hold up against the Greens, and that Pre­mier Daniel An­drews is pop­u­lar with in­ner-city vot­ers.

Cam­paign­ing shortly be­fore the de­ci­sion about in­ner-city can­di­dates was made pub­lic, Op­po­si­tion Leader Matthew Guy made it clear the Lib­er­als would not be help­ing Mr Wynne, even if it meant that some Lib­eral sup­port­ers liv­ing close to the in­ner city weren’t able to back a Lib­eral can­di­date come elec­tion day.

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