Briefing | opinion

A teenage trainspotter sums up everything that went wrong for the Coalition in the Victorian election

TwitterLabor candidate for Brighton Declan Martin

  • Despite earlier polls suggesting a close contest, the Andrews Labor government had a stunning victory in the Victorian elections with a swing of nearly 5%.
  • Symbolic of the thrashing of the Coalition, a 19-year-old uni student who spent less than $2000 on a six week campaign is close to winning a seat the Liberals have held since it was formed in 1856.
  • Several Opposition frontbenchers lost their seats in the rout.


Every election throws up dreamers – the candidates who stand knowing they are the political equivalent of cannon fodder.

The parties they stand for are in on the joke, offering little by way of campaign resources. Sometimes the majors don’t even bother to field a candidate to save money, yet if they do, it’s essentially a branding exercise.

Which explains Declan Martin, a 19-year-old rail enthusiast and university student who was planning to make 2019 a travel gap-year and was such a last-minute candidate for Labor in the bayside seat of Brighton that even ABC election analyst Anthony Green had scant details on who the urban planning student is.

Following yesterday’s Victorian election, his dream is unbelievably close to being reality. He’s within 1600 votes of becoming Victoria’s youngest ever MP, taking the blue-ribbon seat of Brighton, which the Liberals have held since it was created in 1856.

One betting agency had Labor at $15 to win the seat to $1.03 for the Liberals. The conservatives had a 9.8% margin – the two-party-preferred vote rarely dips below 60% – and this shouldn’t be a contest, but in the trouncing of the Coalition by Labor and Daniel Andrews, the fight for Brighton, which also includes suburbs such as Elwood and Hampton, is symbolic of everything that’s gone wrong for the Opposition.

The repudiation of the Liberal’s choice of candidate following the retirement of Louise Asher after nearly 20 years is itself one of the stories of the Labor’s astonishing election victory and calls into question the campaign run by the Liberals under state president Michael Kroger.

Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett is now calling for Kroger’s head before the sun rises again.

Despite being an advocate for female representation, Asher backed James Newbury, a former staffer to federal Liberals Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop as well as former Victorian party leader Denis Napthine, at the 2016 preselection bout against two women.

Newbury, 40, a lawyer who hails from the party’s right and was seen as a Kroger loyalist, trounced two high-profile female candidates in the preselection ballot amid accusations of branch stacking by the conservative faction.

Martin, on the other hand, wasn’t even a Labor party member two months ago. He was helping out a nearby ALP candidate when he decided to put his hand up for Brighton. The son of a bricklayer and accounts payable officer, he doesn’t even have a driver’s licence.

A member of the Public Transport Users Association, he’s undoubtedly a fan of the Labor leader’s obsession with removing level crossings.

Explaining why he stood, Martin told the ABC: “There was no-one willing to fill the gap as the candidate for Brighton, so I was more than happy to put my hand up to do everyone a favour and just basically give it a shot.”

He spent $1,750 on his six-week campaign. Labor will consider the damage he’s done to Newbury priceless.

As the carnage across the state rolled in on Saturday night – shadow attorney-general John Pesutto was a commentator on the election coverage panel on ABC News 24 when he discovered he was out of a job on live TV, with the Liberals losing the previously blue-chip seat of Hawthorn for the first time in more than six decades – it looked like Martin was poised to win Brighton from Newbury.

Even the teenager had trouble processing it.

Asked if he thought he’d win by 9News, he said: “Deary me, no.”

He didn’t plan an election night party and thus crashed another candidate’s celebrations.

As voting continued, Newbury moved ahead in the vote and is now just under 1600 votes in front, at 52.83% of the two-party-preferred vote, with 64% of the vote counted. The swing against the Liberals in Brighton is 6.9%, well above the state average of a 6.1% loss of votes.

The ABC’s Anthony Green predicts Newbury will survive, but the man some believe has the potential to be a future leader will now be in a marginal seat.

With a little over 71% of the vote counted by Sunday lunchtime, Green is predicting a Labor win with 55 seats, ahead of the Coalition with 28, the Greens with two and three independents.

Ten seats are currently in doubt, including Brighton.

NOW READ: With Labor’s landslide in Victoria, it’s looking more like Australians are simply turning on the Liberal Party

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