So Victoria is Labor again. I must admit it feels good. It may be true or not but to me it feels good to live in a state where most people are more concerned about the conditions of Ambulance workers and Firefighters rather than a hugely expensive and disruptive freeway that would benefit people that want to live in the outer suburbs because they don’t like the city.
A lot of conjecture has been done why a government has been tossed out just after a term. I remember commenting with a Labor person that I believed that the Liberals would repeat what Bracks did when he barely won unexpectedly. Be competent, consolidate and win at least two terms.
What we have instead is one term government, which is extremely rare in Australian politics.
There have been plenty of explanation why this has occurred. But to me they miss one major point.
Deep inside Victorians is the sense of being ‘the second state’ or ‘the second city’ and I think they hate that. We bang on at nauseaum about being ‘the world’s most liveable city’ (even when on occasions we don’t make the top of the list) and the ‘cultural/sporting/fashion capital of Australia. We don’t like being second and falling behind in anything is a major sin.
The fact is that despite everything I felt that as Liberal Governments go, the Baillieu/Naphtine government was relatively mild compared with what we got federally and in Queensland.
It is said that Victoria is the most left state in Australia. Gay Alcorn wrote about this back in 2013.
It seems that if you are a conservative in Victoria, you’re probably more a small-l liberal than a turn-back-the-boats sort. When he became premier, Ted Baillieu was under pressure to scrap the Human Rights Charter – loathed by the far right as the epitome of legislative evil – but he decided to keep it.
Jeff Kennett, for all his bluster, condemned the racial policies of Pauline Hanson in the late-1990s with more force than any other politician, and now spends some of his days campaigning against discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. Victoria may have been once dubbed the jewel in the Liberal Party crown, but the last prime minister we produced – Malcolm Fraser – quit the party in dismay over what he saw was its shift to the right.
But one thing that the Liberals failed was to at least give the perception that Victoria was ahead of the game. Kennett knew this very well. That is why he got the Grand Prix from Adelaide and built the Casino. Things that his Labor successors ensured were kept in Melbourne despite their dubious economic benefits overall. Rightly or wrongly first with Kennett and later with Bracks and Brumby there was the feeling that things were progressing. But with Baillieu it seemed this momentum stopped. While Baillieu was not doing anything wrong, he was also not doing anything. His government was dubbed the ‘do nothing government’ and the sense was that Victoria was being overtaken by other parts of Australia, and of course Sydney and NSW. Once Baillieu was ousted there was a polling boost for the Liberals, but again Naphtine fell back in the same sense of inertia and perhaps his big freeway announcement came too late.
The Abbott factor
My fellow lefties are now gloating about how this is bad for Abbott. But in my opinion the “Abbott factor’ has been overstated. Don’t get me wrong. I think Abbott is disliked in Victoria overall. Probably much more than other parts of Australia, but I believe that it wasn’t a major factor for the Liberal’s loss.
If anything it was that there could have been a belief that Abbott didn’t particularly like Victoria and seems to be more interested in appeasing parts of NSW and Queensland that listen to Alan Jones. In this case the Abbott factor is not that people voted against the GP copayment, or petrol taxes etc. but perhaps the fact that Napthine was perceived of not being strong enough to represent Victoria with the Abbott government.
So my advice to the new Labor government is not only being competent. But also that it will ensure that Victorians feel that being second in Australia doesn’t mean being second rate.