Tensions between the state and federal governments have intensified, with senior Coalition MPs warning their election hopes are in danger of being dashed by the unpopularity of the Abbott government in Victoria.
Deputy Premier and Nationals Leader Peter Ryan on Thursday said he had “no doubt” there had been a voter backlash linked to the Abbott government’s first budget, which included cuts to services, a welfare crackdown and a new Medicare co-payment.
“That’s just a fact of life,” Mr Ryan said. "[The] feds have a difficult task ... and a lot of it washes off on us, that is the fact.”
Privately, government MPs are questioning whether a lack of senior Victorians on Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s frontbench has made the federal government unsympathetic to Victoria’s interests. There are only two in the cabinet, Kevin Andrews and Andrew Robb.
It follows a disastrous Age/Nielsen poll taken over the weekend showing the Coalition trailing Labor 41 per cent to 59 per cent in two-party preferred terms, based on voters’ intended preference allocations.
Using a more conservative two-party-preferred measure based on preference flows at the 2010 election, the Coalition is still in trouble, lagging 44 per cent to 56 per cent.
Almost 40 per cent of voters said they were less likely to vote for the state government because of the federal budget.
A Newspoll, also released on Thursday, found the Coalition trailing Labor 46 per cent to 54 per cent.
Mr Ryan suggested the result represented a wake-up call for the government, saying it would turn the focus towards Labor and Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews.
“I think in their own way they [the polls] are a good thing – they will focus attention upon who is this man, the alternative premier of Victoria.”
The sentiment was mirrored by other MPs. Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the party was “under no illusion” that it needed to get on with the job of selling the budget and drawing attention to a lack of policy from Labor.
“I think Peter [Ryan] is probably right,” Mr Guy said. “I think there has been no doubt an impact from the federal budget.”
Police Minister Kim Wells warned the party needed to move on from years of damaging distractions, including a 2011 internal plot to undermine the police commissioner, the resignation of Ted Baillieu as premier and periodic upsets linked to Frankston MP Geoff Shaw.
Premier Denis Napthine dismissed the results, saying he was focused on winning the November 29 state election.
“I am very confident we can win the election because we have a real plan to build a better Victoria,” Dr Napthine said.
Mr Andrews said it was his job to ensure Victorians had a choice at the state election.
“We are about giving Victorians a clear choice on the 29th of November – that’s why we released a jobs plan two years ago,’’ Mr Andrews said.
He also cited the Project 10,000 policy to remove the 50 most dangerous level crossings.
“We intend to make further policy announcements that are based in common sense, that are about putting people first because we are about the Victorian people, not squabbling among ourselves,’’ he said.