Australia’s Labor party retained power in the second-largest state of Victoria, bolstering its majority in parliament after a successful election campaign that focused on building more hospitals, schools and transport infrastructure.
Voters “have endorsed the biggest infrastructure agenda” in the state’s history,” Premier Daniel Andrews, 46, said in his victory speech in Melbourne late Saturday. “They have in record numbers at the same time rejected the low road of fear and division,” he said.
His party is on track to claim 60 seats in the 88-member lower house, from its current 45, according to The Age newspaper.
The victory gives Andrews’ government a second four-year term to implement election promises including bolstering spending on health, education and public transport, as well as increasing energy generation from renewable sources.
While state ballots are predominantly fought on local issues, the win may also give a boost in confidence to the Labor party nationally, with polls showing it is on track to win power under federal leader Bill Shorten in an nationwide election expected by May.
The win means Labor retains office in five of the nation’s eight states and territories.
Matthew Guy, whose Liberal-National coalition focused on combating crime and terrorism in its campaign and vowed to build a new power station to reduce electricity prices, conceded defeat about three hours after polls closed.
Victoria is ranked top of the eight states and territories in terms of economic performance, Commonwealth Bank of Australia said in an October report, leading the way in growth, employment and construction.
The two major parties have very different policies to boost energy security. Labor wants to gradually increase the rate of electricity generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar to 50 percent by 2030, as well as enshrining its ban on onshore gas fracking in the state’s constitution.
In contrast, the coalition promised to pave the way for a new power station that could be run on coal, while freezing royalty taxes on the fossil fuel in a bid to keep existing plants open.
Andrews’ government signed a memorandum of understanding with China last month to cooperate on President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative. While the document doesn’t legally bind Victoria to facilitate Chinese-funded projects, it was criticized by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose federal government is against being part of the BRI.