On the eve of the Victorian Election, the polls are tightening. Political pundits are assuming a Labor Party win with a reduced majority or even a Labor minority government. Pre-poll is seeing the largest numbers of people vote early – a trend that is only growing.

Election commitments have focused on big spends in health and transport and a litany of announcements that are targeting cost-of-living pressures with the aim to relieve hip-pocket pressure. With inflation and interest rates rising, household budgets are, and will be increasingly, challenged.

When we line up to vote and grab a democracy sausage, many things may go through our minds.

When we think about politicians – whether through the lens of a political party or the local representative, we tend to think of large, unassailable institutions or larger than life political caricatures. But once every four years, Victorians have a chance to cast a vote and have a direct influence on who governs of our state.

One of the big changes over the past ten years has been the deep focus on the integrity, style and influence of the individual party leader. We have become more ‘presidential’ in our election campaigns. Rather than focusing on the political party and their policies as a whole – it has become about ‘Dan versus Matt.’

The influence of social media and its power to connect with millions of people is no small part of the profile raising and prominence of the leaders.

Historically, election campaigns have focused on the value or benefit of policies promised by specific parties.

Due to the power of the person, the big shift in more recent elections has been to highlight the concerns voters have regarding their trust in and integrity of the individual. This has made it challenging to shift the conversation to focus purely on policy.

Whether we trust someone or not, creates the context or framework for a conversation. Building trust requires a set of behaviours to be consistently portrayed: respect, honesty, transparency, and reliability. It’s about doing what we say we will do. It’s about keeping promises.

What election campaigns have shown, is if trust is broken, it makes the context of the conversation far more challenging and it’s a long way back to redemption. We saw this play out in the 2022 Federal Election with a swing to a raft of independents and The Greens away from the major parties.

In Geelong, the community is concerned about cost-of-living pressures but also have come together to advocate for: significant investments in public transport within the region; certainty in planning and infrastructure investment for growth areas; and revitalising the CBD.

With the Commonwealth Games only three years away, many of these issues must be addressed, but as yet we don’t have a clear path ahead.

If you haven’t voted, tomorrow is your final chance. The growth of Geelong in terms of our local and global opportunities during the next four years will be pivotal. Who leads our state will play a big part, so make sure your voice is heard.