Another Victorian election, another win for Premier Daniel Andrews and the Labor Party. This is a result that takes Andrews’ personal tally to three straight successes and six victories from seven elections for the ALP. Given the uninspiring state of the Liberal opposition, it almost guarantees the ALP another term in power come 2026. Victorians will have 16 straight years of Labor governance, with only one term of Coalition government this century. Those of us south of the Murray are effectively living in a one-party state. 

As predicted, there were swings against the ALP, especially in its heartland in the north and west of Melbourne. These were the places hit hardest by the Covid lockdowns. Yet this wasn’t enough to erode the buffer built up in the party’s 2018 Danslide.

As of writing – with around two thirds of the vote counted – the state of electoral play is as follows. The ALP hold 52 seats in the 88-seat Legislative Assembly (Victoria’s Lower House) while the Liberals hold just 25. The Greens hold a further four and seven are still to be decided. There was a six percent state-wide swing against the ALP, but the Liberals were not the beneficiary of anti-Labor angst. Instead, an assortment of independents won the votes of disaffected ALP supporters.

The same trends exist across the Western world. With dissatisfaction with the system increasingly evident, lower-income and working-class constituencies favour the parties of the Right, while affluent inner-city seats lean heavily towards the Greens and other parties of the Left.

The results echo the discontent seen in May’s federal poll. The ALP and Liberals were reduced to just over a third of the vote each (37% and 35% respectively). Almost one in three Victorians is now opting for a non-major party, suggesting a deep disenchantment with our politics. Indeed, there’s a palpable sense that things of the utmost importance are either absent or ignored, rendered verboten and outside the bounds of discussion in the current immigration-led end-of-history settings.

Nevertheless, the Victorian ALP won fair and square. For Andrews, the victory was a vindication of his brand of enlightened paternalism. As he remarked in his victory speech, it was a highly symbolic win: one representing the notion that “hope always defeats hate”. He quoted ex-PM Paul Keating’s advice that “Leadership isn’t about doing what’s popular, leadership is about doing what’s right”.

A nice touch. And one ennobled by another Andrews’ allusion to an illusory unity in his remarks that Victorians were “united in our faith in science” and in “our faith and care for each other”. These are comments that are belied by the events of the last few years and that six percent swing against the ALP.  

Andrews’ mysterious popularity

Outsiders have a right to wonder how such a figure – who imposed one of the harshest lockdowns in the world and who is under an assortment of IBAC enquiries – remains popular.

There are four reasons. The first is Andrews’ prioritization of key sectors. Chief among them is Victoria’s public service, the highest paid of any state and a key reason for Victoria’s gigantic debt —  equal to that of NSW, Queensland and Tasmania combined.

Second is buildings, lots of them. Melbourne is full of hi-vis vests and the hum of construction. Aside from Andrews’ signature Level-Crossing Removal project, there are the Westgate Tunnel, the Melbourne Metro Tunnel and the Suburban Rail Loop. This is Victoria’s Big Build. Many of these projects are white elephants, but they provide employment to favoured industries.  

Third is demographics. Andrews has positioned the ALP as the natural home of minorities and “new Australians”. Its dominance in Melbourne’s highly diverse western suburbs was confirmed in the weekend’s election results. Even the highly Asian-Australia electorate of Glen Waverly bucked the anti-Labor trend with a four percent swing and gain to the ALP.

This is a trend that was also seen in the federal election. The Liberals are baffled that “natural business people” would abandon the “party of business”. But it makes sense. For as Helen Andrews has observed in the American context, increases in immigration inevitably push a polity leftward — something that is being played out here as well, and that has helped enable the ALP’s dominance.

Fourth is rhetorical dominance. Andrews is a master of the right words. And as the times are left-liberal, so too has been the commentary. This is something that was on show during the campaign with Andrews harkening back to the gay marriage vote. It was deployed again on Sunday, with Andrews claiming that Victoria is “the most progressive state”, the “centre of critical thinking” and “all the big ideas in our nation”. 

This sheds light on Andrews’ political strategy. Projects like the Pride Centre in St Kilda or the Big Rainbow in Daylesford are emblematic of ALP governance. They appease the crucial public sector and construction industry (which gets to oversee and build them), whilst enhancing the ALP’s leftist bona fides with key constituencies like the LGBT community. Andrews’ ability to keep red-blooded builders and uber-liberal LGBT advocates in the same party helps to explain how the Premer and the ALP have managed to hold power for three terms straight.

With these political strengths Andrews’ missteps then tend not to matter. The hotel quarantine fiasco or efforts to erase biological reality in the state’s birth certificates are forgotten in a flurry of feel-good rhetoric and busy-work projects. Under Andrews, Victoria has been far from fiscally prudent, or morally edifying, yet it’s a strategy which works.

The bad news is that Daniel Andrews has won again in Victoria. The worse news is that his Victoria will become a template for the rest of Australia. 

Ryan Anderson is an essayist based in Melbourne, Australia. His work has appeared in Quillette, Quadrant, the UK Mallard and assorted other publications in the UK and Australia. He can be contacted at...