Despite the shock defeat of the Kennett in 1999, the Liberals held onto the Victorian State seats of Bellarine and South Barwon located in the Geelong area. People who live in these areas were familiar with the Otway forests and depend of water supply from Otway forested catchments.
South Barwon had been regarded a safe Liberal seat in the lead up to the 2002 State election. Labor needed a 4.7% swing to win in 2002 and had never won the seat before.
Bellarine was regarded as margin the Liberals only needed a swing against them of 1.2% to lose.
During the 2002 election campaign, there was a lot of media interest in these Liberal held seats with the Geelong Advertiser conducted several telephone election polls regarding the Otways policy and voting intentions.
These phone surveys demonstrate the policy announcement made in the Otways on the 6th November 2002 by the former Premier Steve Bracks, to tear up the Regional Forest Agreement and end all native forest logging in the Otway by 2008, turbocharged the ALP vote in these seats. This was despite the strong pro-logging campaign by the Liberals and native forest logging industry to support continued logging in the Otways under the rules determined by the Regional Forest Agreement signed on March 2000 by Steve Bracks and John Howard.
Labor ahead in vital seat.
LABOR has surged ahead in the marginal seat of Bellarine, according to the latest Addy Poll.
A Geelong Advertiser news paper poll before the election on the 15th October found the sitting Liberal MP for South Barwon (Alister Paterson) had a slight 2% lead over the ALP candidate in first preference votes.( The ALP candidate, Michael Crutchfield, had tried unsuccessfully to win this seat for the ALP in 1999.)
This voter sentiment changed after the ALP Otway announcement according to a Geelong Advertiser poll of 302 people in South Barwon published on the 11 November. Now ALP first preference votes put them in front by 3%.
The poll also found 57% of people survey in the seat supported the ALP policy to ban logging in the Otways. The actual final election result gave the ALP's Mr Crutchfield a 7.89% first preference vote lead and a 10% two part preferred swing overall in South Barwon.
Greens Party refused to preference Crutchfield
After the election, Geelong Liberal candidates cynically accused the ALP policy to ban logging in the Otways as a means to secure Greens Party preferences. However the Greens Party refused to preference Michael Crutchfield during the 2002 State election despite the huge personally advocacy Crutchfield had contributed to the campaign to stop logging in the Otways. Crutchfield still won comfortably. After the election the South Barwon Green candidate admitted that their preference strategy had backfired.
Geelong Advertiser. 2nd December 2002.
He (Iain Lygo) said the Greens vote suffered because of the Otway Ranges Environment Network's overt support for Labor's policy to end logging Otways native forests.
"I think that cost us two per cent," Mr Lygo said.
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