It may be the race that stops the nation, but Victoria’s political leaders have not stopped their campaigning, skipping the city to make election pledges outside Melbourne on Cup day.
Premier Daniel Andrews travelled to Maroona in western Victoria to make a suite of promises aimed at farmers, including $1.2 million to develop and promote a TAFE shearing course.
Mr Andrews also pledged $6 million to upgrade student accommodation and facilities at agricultural colleges at Longerenong and Glenormiston in the state’s west, and Dookie, near Shepparton.
Labor is also pledging $3 million to improve farm health and safety.
Victorian wool exports were worth $1.8 billion in 2016-17 and Mr Andrews said he wanted the sector to continue to thrive.
“Our wool industry is booming and sheep shearing is an iconic part of our Victorian story. We want it to stay that way,” Mr Andrews said.
Maroona is in the safe Nationals seat of Lowan, which Emma Kealy holds with a margin of more than 20 per cent.
Guy heads to Latrobe Valley
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy travelled east to Gippsland to pledge $2 million for a new ambulance station at Drouin, in the safe Liberal seat of Narracan, before travelling further east into the politically sensitive Latrobe Valley.
Mr Guy said Drouin’s existing ambulance station was in a leased premises in an industrial state outside the town centre.
“We’ve got to give them better resources and better services,” he said.
“It’s a small but very important announcement when it comes to decentralisation and growing all of our state, rather than just Melbourne.”
Mr Guy also announced a $2 million commitment for planning and early works to revitalise Moe’s city centre.
At Newborough in the marginal seat of Morwell, Mr Guy promised to create a $2 million fund to support RSL clubs and war memorials.
Mr Guy said the fund would offer grants of up to $30,000 to ex-service organisations without gaming facilities to pay for maintenance and improvements to buildings and memorials.
The opposition leader made the pledge at the Yallourn/Newborough RSL, which will receive $20,000 to upgrade its memorial garden for World War I commander Sir John Monash.
“We think that this fund is vitally important to upgrade community facilities, RSLs across the state, particularly those RSLs that don’t rely on poker machines,” Mr Guy said.
The Liberal Party has endorsed Latrobe City councillor and former mayor Dale Harriman as its candidate for the seat of Morwell – but he faces a crowded field of candidates vying to win the seat.
Morwell is held by Russell Northe, who won the seat for the Nationals in 2014 by a margin of 1.8 per cent, but has sat as an Independent since quitting the Nationals in August 2017.
Mr Northe this week announced he would recontest the seat, which will also be contested by Nationals candidate and former Latrobe City councillor Sheridan Bond, Labor candidate and former Hazelwood power plant worker Mark Richards and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate and former senator Ricky Muir.
Liberal Party weighs its options in inner-city seats
Nominations for the major parties close on Thursday, and the Liberal Party is yet to decide whether it will run in inner-city seats where Labor is vulnerable to the Greens.
It’s understood those decisions will be made by Mr Guy, state president Michael Kroger and state director Nick Demiris by lunchtime on Wednesday.
“To be completely frank I think every option is on the table. Running, not running, open tickets,” Mr Guy said.
If the party does run in some inner-city seats, the campaigns are likely to be very modest, as the contests are between Labor and the Greens.
The Coalition has also faced questions about Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s absence from the campaign trail.
While the Liberals in Victoria take their election campaign bus around the state, Scott Morrison has his own bus touring marginal electorates in Queensland.
But Mr Guy said the prime minister would join him on the campaign.
“He is coming down here to campaign with me, and I’m pleased to say that. But not today. We’re in Gippsland, he’s in Queensland, but he is coming down to campaign with me very soon,” Mr Guy said.