Catch and Kill: The Politics of Power
University of Queensland Press, $32.95 pb, 368 pp, 9780702249808
Since 1980, Victoria has become a natural Labor state. It has seen twenty-three federal and state elections in that time, and Labor has won seventeen of them. The Coalition has won just three state elections in thirty-five years, and a majority of Victoria's seats at just three of the last thirteen federal elections.
It is a stunning reversal of roles. For its first ninety years, Labor was camped almost permanently on the outer of Victorian politics, while the Liberals or Country Party occupied the government benches. Menzies, Bolte, Hamer, Fraser: the Liberal party was a broad church, but a successful one, which took care of the political middle ground while Labor focused more on internal and union warfare than on winning government. It is very different now. Since the long Liberal rule in Victoria ended in 1982, Labor in every state has been in government most of the time, and the Coalition in opposition. In Victoria, the last Coalition government survived just one term. Its Labor predecessor lasted for three terms and then suddenly lost power when everyone, including the Liberals, assumed it would win a fourth.