Catching everyone by surprise today is the announcement by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews that he will resign as Premier tomorrow.
Earlier this year Andrews passed John Cain Junior to become Labor’s longest serving Victorian Premier, and earlier this month he passed Rupert ‘Dick’ Hamer to become Victoria’s fourth longest serving Premier.
I doubt Andrews has been hanging around just to pass Hamer. If he had waited another week he would have passed Sir James McCulloch to become the state’s third longest serving Premier.
There are plenty of media stories analysing Andrews’ time in office, trying to explain the sudden departure and examining who might replace him. I don’t think there is anything I can add to the speculation and the political obituaries.
I’m posting here to direct everyone to my just published background piece on the by-election that must now be held in Andrews’ seat of Mulgrave. He won Mulgrave with a two-party margin of 10.2% last November. The seat should be safe for Labor, but you never know in a suddenly changed political climate.
Since its re-election last November, the Andrews government has been announcing and dealing with bad news, mostly in relation to the budget. The most spectacular backflip was the announcement that the state would no longer host the Commonwealth Games in 2026.
Mulgrave existed in a previous incarnation as a Liberal electorate between 1958 and 1967. It returned to the state’s electoral map in 2002 replacing the seat of Dandenong North. Daniel Andrews has been the only member for the seat since it adopted its new name in 2002.
Features of the Mulgrave electorate include the Sandown Racecourse and Entertainment Centre, Springvale Crematorium and Necropolis, and the new suburb that was once Waverley AFL Park.
Labor’s two-party preferred results in Mulgrave, and before that under the seat’s former name Dandenong North, have been consistently five to ten percentage points stronger than Labor’s state-wide two-party preferred vote. The size of the gap has depended on the seat’s electoral boundaries.
Mulgrave crosses a political and social divide in south-eastern Melbourne. It may not be as stark a divide as crossing the Yarra from Richmond to Kew, but the Liberal voting pattern of eastern Melbourne clearly fades out as it passes through Mulgrave to be replaced by strong Labor voting areas around Dandenong, Noble Park and Springvale.
It’s too early to speculate on the by-election result. I presume the new Premier will want a by-election as soon as possible to starve any possible opponent of time to organise. The Liberal Party haven’t launched a serious campaign in the seat since the 1990s. The Liberal Party could give the seat a shake if it selects a good candidate, but the party is still trying to regain its equilibrium after losing last year’s state election.
Mulgrave was the centre of disgruntled anti-Dan campaigning at last November’s election. Freedom Party of Victoria Leader Aidan McLindon contested Mulgrave but polled only 2.2%.
More successful was Ian Cook who finished second ahead of the Liberal Party on both the primary vote and after preferences. Cook ran a local catering business, ‘I Cook Foods’, that was shut down by the Health Department in 2019. He made a number of corruption allegations about why the business was shut in an alleged scandal dubbed ‘SlugGate’ by the media. The name came from the slug found in food products at the business, Cook claiming in the election it had been planted by inspectors.
The Speaker must issue writs for a by-election within 30 days of receiving Andrews’ resignation tomorrow. Polling day must be between 25 and 58 days of the writ issue. I suspect Labor will go for a short campaign.
I’ll keep my ABC Mulgrave by-election page updated with unfolding events leading up to the by-election.