VICTORIA is set to have a new government before Christmas if opinion polling is to be believed, with the popularity gap widening between Labor and the Coalition.
Newspoll shows Labor leading the Coalition 54 to 46 per cent on a two-party preferred basis despite South West Coast MP Denis Napthine still markedly ahead in the preferred premier stakes.
Meanwhile, Fairfax-Nielsen poll paints an even gloomier picture of public sentiment ahead of the November state election with Labor ahead 59 to 41 on a two party-preferred basis.
Dr Napthine and Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews are almost deadlocked in the preferred premier segment of the Fairfax-Nielsen survey.
Liberal MP Simon Ramsay praised Dr Napthine’s leadership and said he had been “an excellent salesman with a good product to sell”.
“There’s been a heightened level of attention on federal politics, especially the federal budget but Victorians will start to look at the opposition more closely ahead of the election,” the upper house MP said.
“Denis Napthine is a super salesman.
“I’ve known him for a long time and he’s really working hard to put the message out there, not only in the south-west, but right across Victoria.
“Victoria has one of the largest infrastructure budgets ever and the south-west is seeing the results, whether it’s through the Princes Highway duplication, hospitals or schools.”
Labor upper house candidate Jacinta Ermacora said there were many glaring social problems in Dr Napthine’s own backyard yet his government was failing to address them.
The Warrnambool City councillor, who is running on the ALP’s Western Victorian ticket, said the state government had neglected the south west’s most vulnerable residents.
“Locally, the savage cuts to South West TAFE has really damaged the ability of young people to gain the skills they need,” Cr Ermacora said.
“This is at a time when south-west Victoria has a youth unemployment rate of 17.4 per cent — right in Denis Napthine’s own backyard.”
Ten candidates have declared their intention to stand for the Western Victorian region’s five upper house seats including Mr Ramsay and Cr Ermacora.
Other parties to secure candidates include Country Alliance, the Greens and the newly-formed Vote1 Local Jobs led by Moyne Shire mayor James Purcell.