Australia

How the Victorian Liberal Party's focus on 'African youth gangs' backfired

The focus on ‘African gangs’ became a 'distraction', the report said. Source: AAP

A review of the Victorian Liberal Party's 2018 electoral loss has presented scathing findings.

The Victorian Liberal Party's focus on so-called "African youth gangs" at the 2018 Victorian state election was a tactical blunder that voters saw through, according to an internal review.

Former Liberal leader Matthew Guy's strategy was blasted in a review into the doomed campaign, led by Liberal elder statesman Tony Nutt and released on Wednesday.

Then-Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy addresses the Victorian Liberal Party conference in 2018.
Then-Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy addresses the Victorian Liberal Party conference in 2018.
AAP

"The focus on 'African gangs' became a distraction for some key voters who saw it as a political tactic rather than an authentic problem to be solved by initiatives that would help make their neighbourhoods safer," the review said.

The review examined how "law and order" became a big focus of the 2018 Liberal pitch to voters, with "African youth gangs" a key area of attention.

"Regrettably the post-election market research study shortly after the campaign showed only 6 per cent of the voters claimed that it actually influenced their vote and then not necessarily to our advantage," it said.

Over recent years, Victoria has seen a spate of crimes involving Australians of African heritage. But during the state election campaign and in the fallout, Mr Guy was criticised for overly-politicising the issue.

 

The review also took aim at Mr Guy's Lobstercave dinner with alleged mafia boss Tony Madafferi in the months leading up to the election as also undermined the party's "tough on crime" policies.

And it found 30 per cent of voters in electorates that were lost to Labor said they couldn't vote Liberal due to then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's axing at a federal level.

"Party research was reflected in the on-ground experience of many MPs, candidates, volunteers and staff who received strong 'pushback' even after they patiently explained to individual voters that as state Liberals they had no role in the federal leadership," it said.

Leader of the Victorian Liberal party Matthew Guy announces defeat in the last Victorian state election.
Leader of the Victorian Liberal party Matthew Guy announces defeat in the last Victorian state election.
AAP

The review handed down 41 recommendations, including that the party identify seats it can win once electoral boundaries are redrawn.

Incumbent Labor premier Daniel Andrews swept to a surprise landslide victory in 2018 after only winning power with a slight majority in 2014.

Additional reporting: AAP

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