19 October 2022
Victorians are likely to focus on leader popularity in the context of the COVID pandemic at the upcoming state elections, experts say.
The cost of living, the health system and infrastructure were significant issues, but leadership popularity was slated to be more pronounced than usual.
Speaking at an Archbishop’s Conversation about the issues facing Victorians in the lead up to the November election The Age columnist Shaun Carney said the battleground could well be about who Victorians thought could be trusted more to lead the state out of the upheaval of the pandemic.
Mr Carney said the Victorian and broader Australian community’s continuing attempts to grapple with the pandemic’s attendant economic, social, personal, familial and psychological trauma could well colour how they voted.
“There’s this push and pull about whether we want to have a reckoning about what went on, and whether we want to just get away from it, to get back to normalcy. So, I think, in many ways the election will be a referendum on leadership,” he said.
Grattan Institute chief executive officer Danielle Wood and Brotherhood of St Laurence executive director Travers McLeod were the other panel participants.
Ms Wood said that there was still a lot of strong feeling about COVID, and that the Andrews government was taking a presidential style approach to campaigning.
Some of that gave rise to a sense that trust would be an issue.
“Neither side has totally clean hands when it comes to trust, and integrity. So the fact that that is actually the front that this has been fought on, is very interesting,” Ms Wood said.
“I would like to see if we’re going to be more focused on how do we actually deliver government that is cleaner, that deals with some of these integrity problems.”
But Mr McLeod said the kind of society people wanted would also be important in people’s decision-making.
He said there seemed to be a collective exhaustion in communities after the last three years of dealing with bushfires, pandemic, cost of living pressures and now floods.
Mr McLeod said that as people recovered from the systemic shocks they might perhaps give consideration to the social and economic infrastructure that might enable citizens to live their best lives.
“Part of the election will be about who is best placed and trusted and regarded as the most competent to lead us to that brighter future,” he said.
However, Mr McLeod said there would be various challenges including fiscal ones that would limit the choices of whomever was elected.
A willingness to level with communities about the choices that would be faced by a returning or new government might yet help engender trust so that people could make serious decisions, he said.