Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews at the party's 2018 campaign launch. (Photo: Victorian Labor, Facebook)

Victoria votes: Labor holds big lead

As Victorians prepare to vote on Saturday, election-eve polls show Labor set to be comfortably returned to power.

According to an opinion poll published in The Age on Friday, Premier Daniel Andrews and Labor have extended their lead over Opposition Leader Matthew Guy’s Coalition – leading 54 per cent to 46 per cent on a two-party preferred basis. The previous Age survey in October showed Labor leading 52-48.

The Herald Sun also published an election-eve poll, which shows Labor leading the Coalition 53-47. On primary votes, Labor and the Coalition were tied 40-40, with the Greens on 11 per cent and other parties on 9 per cent.

The polls were released as Mr Andrews and Mr Guy battled it out in the race to the finish line, with marginal seats in Melbourne’s south-east seen as the key to the outcome.

Reporters Fatima Halloum and Helena Abdou ask voters: Do you recognise these two men?

The two leaders have squared off face-to-face twice in the final days of the campaign, first in a people’s forum televised on Sky News on Wednesday night and again in a radio debate hosted by  Jon Faine on  ABC Radio on Thursday morning.

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Faine questioned the leaders on their policy differences, with Mr Guy continuing to hammer his key campaign message on crime and reform of the criminal justice system.

“ Violent crime in Victoria is at a record high … I’ve been pretty solid on this now for three to four years, but I make no apology for saying I want a criminal justice system that protects Victorians,” Mr Guy said.

Mr Guy’s claims on crime statistics have faced sustained criticism, with the most recent figures showing crime rates have actually fallen.

The debate got heated when the pair clashed over the correlation between criminal behaviour and the previous Liberal government’s cuts to TAFE funding.

“Are you seriously suggesting that youth crime has nothing to do with the cuts you made to TAFE?” Mr Andrews said.

“I don’t think too many people would agree with that. I will continue to invest in TAFEs and you’ll cut it, that’s what you always do.”

Nearing the end of the half-hour debate, Faine asked whether either party would negotiate with the Greens if they held the balance of power.

Mr Andrews repeated his claim that he would not do a deal with the Greens: “I have had a very consistent position on this, it’s not a new position.”

Mr Guy said: “No deal will be offered, no deal will be done. I think even if I wanted to negotiate with them, I don’t think they’d come to me. Frankly, I don’t think I’d be taking the phone calls so, no, we won’t be talking to the Greens.”

So who exactly are these political leaders and what have they promised the people?

Mr Andrews was elected in 2014 as the 48th premier of Victoria.

Among his claimed major achievements, Mr Andrews stresses the removal of 29 level crossings, the delivery of 70 new schools, free TAFE and announcements on major transport projects including the Metro Tunnel, which is under construction, and the flagging of a suburban rail link.

The Premier has also promised a royal commission into mental health, free dental care for school children and solar panels on Victorian homes.

Mr Guy has focused heavily on crime.

He plans to introduce mandatory minimum sentences for repeat violent offenders in serious crimes including murder, rape, aggravated home invasions, car-jackings, one-punch assaults and aggravated burglaries.

He has also promised to overhaul the bail system after revelations the man responsible for the recent Bourke Street attack was on bail for traffic offences at the time of the incident, which claimed the life of Pelligrini’s cafe owner Sisto Malaspina.

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Beyond crime, Mr Guy has promised a multi-billion dollar infrastructure project to remove traffic lights and roundabouts at 55 of Victoria’s most dangerous intersections.

Both parties have also targeted cost-of-living concerns. Mr Guy says he will scrap the Victorian Renewable Energy Target to stop electricity bills from increasing. Labor is rolling out a half-price solar panels campaign, which it says will lower the cost of power bills.

The wild card in the election is the Victorian Greens, led by Samantha Ratnam, which could end up holding the balance of power in a tight election.