State election a 'wake up call' for Australia's ruling coalition

SYDNEY, Nov 30, 2014 (AFP) - Australia's conservative federal government was Sunday assessing the opposition Labor party's comfortable victory in the Victoria state election, with some citing the national government's unpopular policies as a key factor.

Victoria Premier Denis Napthine conceded defeat after the Labor Party looked on track to secure at least 47 seats in the 88-seat parliament, with 50 per cent of the vote counted.

The defeat for the incumbent Liberal-National coalition was made more stark as it was the first time since 1955 that a Victoria government had lost power after just one four-year term.

The state's outgoing Communities Minister, Liberal MP Mary Wooldridge, told the Australian Associated Press the impact on the election of the federal government's policies such as its tough May budget "has been significant".

"In May we had a very positive response (to the state budget) but that was very quickly turned around after the federal budget," Wooldridge said.

Since being elected in September 2013, the conservative federal government has announced savings across the board to rein in a growing budget deficit.

But critics of Prime Minister Tony Abbott have slammed some of the budget's measures, which include axing health and education spending while tightening welfare benefits, as too harsh.

Opinion polls have also shown a sharp drop in support for the Abbott government.

Abbott congratulated Victoria premier-elect Daniel Andrews on Labor's victory but did not comment on what effect the win may have on federal politics.

His ministers said they were taking stock, although some blamed the defeat on local problems.

"Certainly, in Victoria, this result is a wake-up call and there is work to do," Abbott's parliamentary secretary Josh Frydenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Sunday.

But federal Trade Minister Andrew Robb, a former Liberal Party campaign director, said "this was a state election overwhelmingly fought on state issues".

"I don't accept that we (federal government) had a big influence. Of course, we will be realistic, we will have a look at the implications," he told the ABC.