THE Labor Party may have won government in Victoria, but the Mornington Peninsula stayed where it has been for years: solidly behind the Liberal Party.
Saturday’s poll held no election surprises on the peninsula, with all three Liberal candidates being re-elected with safe margins.
David Morris was back for Mornington with 62.39 per cent of the vote; Martin Dixon in Nepean, with 57 per cent; and Neale Burgess, Hastings, 57.67 per cent.
While Labor made inroads in all three seats – Mornington (3.8 per cent swing), Nepean (6.67 per cent) and Hastings (1.93 per cent) – the outcome never seemed in doubt.
Mr Morris said the outgoing Coalition had been “a good government that took the right decisions but people in a few seats did not agree”.
However, results for his seat of Mornington made it the third safest seat in the state.
He said the election campaign for the Coalition “started from behind and was closing at the end, but not enough”.
“We sold our commitments for the future but not as effectively as we should have done in the timeframe.”
Mr Morris accused Labor of “telling lies for a number of years and we didn’t rebut them”.
He said the lies included claims “that TAFE was destroyed” when the government had ensured that course being offered elated to real jobs “and were not just lifestyle choices”.
Another lie was a claim that the Coalition had “lost” 68,000 jobs when figures showed an extra 80,000 jobs being available since Labor lost power in 2010.
Mr Morris said the federal government’s inability to get its budget passed “didn’t help”.
“It’s a challenge for any state campaign to get oxygen – to get a clear run – when the federal budget is still going. It eats into air time and other stories available to us.”
Mr Morris said he would have been happy to Denis Napthine stay as Liberal leader “in the interim”, adding that he would “see what the field is” before entering the debate over who should lead the party.
“He did a good job under difficult circumstances.”
Now elected to his third term as the MP for Mornington, Mr Morris said it had been “a pretty good career so far. It’s a privilege to serve.”
Nepean MP and Education Minister Martin Dixon, re-elected for the sixth time, said the main difference in voting patterns in his electorate had been “a bigger increase for the Greens”.
He had won 18 out of 20 booths and expected his lead – 13.7 per cent ahead of Labor’s Carolyn Gleixner – to increase as pre-poll and postal votes were counted.
“But it’s a small consolation when you lose government,” Mr Dixon said.
Six of his ministerial advisers would now be out of jobs.
Mr Dixon said he would like Labor to complete the restructure of the Education Department, making it a “service to schools, not their manager”.
“We were weaning schools off the department and putting resources back into them”.
He said there was “no one reason” for the Coalition’s loss: “Nothing’s black and white in politics.” Federal issues had made things difficult for the state government by not explaining its austerity programs.
He had not seen any indication of the swing to Labor while working with Liberal candidates in marginal seats.
“I was always buoyed by the reception [of voters] and their high recognition of our candidates,” Mr Dixon said.
“In Frankston the Labor candidate [Paul Edbrooke] didn’t do much but unionists were out doorknocking and frightening people.
“I had a positive sense we would win the election, it [the loss] was a bit of a surprise.
“I had no sense people were out there with baseball bats.”
Mr Dixon would not speculate on who would replace Denis Napthine as Liberal leader: “The king’s dead. I’m just coming to terms with our loss and have been calling colleagues to see if they are OK.”
Although former Labor premier Steve Bracks told ABC TV viewers on election night that the new government would have a look at the contract recently signed for a geothermal spa and accommodation-based project at Point Nepean National Park, Mr Dixon warned that ripping it up could lead to compensation being sought by the developer.