Tag Archives: Victoria

Victoria is Labor again

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.  

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The Victorian Elections

So after more than a decade the Labor government has lost and a Liberal/National coalition will run the state.

I was sort of expecting it.  I don’t know why it was a shock.  There have been plenty of rumblings here in Victoria and all governments tend to get tired after ten years or so, and Baillieu did offer a viable alternative so many voters I think decided to give him a go.

I still have nightmares about the Kennett government.  Arrogant, and ruthless.  I had more emotionally at stake when it got into power.  I was a member of the ALP, but also I was a public servant.  And Kennett seemed to hate us and in fact I was one of the many that got retrenched by his government.  So when he lost in 1999 against all expectations I was ecstatic.

I think this government should be different from the Kennett one.  Kennett that was seen as an idiot in opposition was able to win and implement his radical agenda because the ALP government was in complete disarray (not dissimilar to what the NSW ALP Government is now).  The state lost its AAA credit rating and worse of all it was seen as a ‘basket case’ in the rest of Australia.  And if there is no biggest sin in Victoria, that as the ‘second state’ has a permanent sense of inferiority is to be laughed at by others, especially Sydney.

Things are different now.  The Victorian Labor government has its problems but it did run the state in a fairly competent manner.  As Robert Merkel wrote in Larvatus Prodeo:

Ted Baillieu convinced enough outer-suburbanites that he and the Coalition were a plausible alternative – mainly by promising to be Labor but with with extra infrastructure to be funded by “cutting government waste”. And ten years of accumulated grizzles about service delivery caught up with Labor.

Other observations about the result:

The result will be good for Julia Gillard. The talk of  ‘damage to the ALP brand’ is nonsense’

Listening to Radio National there was the inevitable comment of ‘damage to the ALP brand’ that will hurt Julia Gillard.   Interesting that no one seemed to talk about damage to the Coalition brand when all states turned to Labor during his prime ministership.  I for one  agrees with Peter Brent that the victory of a Labor Government may be actually good for Julia Gillard:

But overall this is actually a good result for Julia Gillard and a bad one for Tony Abbott. At the next federal election the two biggest states will have no unpopular ALP governments.

The real Reasons are mainly 11 years in power and an acceptable opposition. And those generic ones anticipated back in September here. Some things are meant to be and are beyond trying to explain. Electoral gravity.

Baillieu victory may stem tide of the Liberals to the right.

This factor was discussed by Leslie Cannold in an article titled: Vote 1 Baillieu to save small-l liberalism where she put forward the opinion that a rejection of the last of the Liberal progressives would mean that the conservatives will take over in the Party.

Victorians voters must now confront their own tactical conundrum. In particular, the quandary facing those who take a progressive line on issues such as abortion, physician-assisted dying, stem cell research, artistic censorship and multiculturalism.Such voters face a hard choice. They can vote for Ted Baillieu, who is progressive on all these issues, or, by not doing so, risk confining him and his small-l brand of liberalism to history’s dustbin…….

Who cares?  To quote a tweet from feminist cartoonist Judy Horacek, many of the progressive voters who share Baillieu’s stance on matters of individual freedom, equality, diversity and the secular state would “no more vote Liberal than fly”. Why should they care who leads the party, now or in the future, or whether liberal or conservative brands of Liberals are elected to Parliament?

Well, they should care for the simple reason that the stance of the Liberals determines the tone, tenor and parameters of debate on progressive issues. Where numbers are tight or a conscience vote will determine the outcome, the number of small-l Liberal votes in the chamber will determine whether progressive policy falters or thrives.

And I guess this is why non-Victorian commentators may think that this result may mean that an Abbott victory is around the corner.  If Victoria, one of the few states that actually had the Labor party increase its vote at the last Federal elections now has voted in a Liberal government it means that the tide has turned in the state?  But Baillieu is a moderate Liberal, very Victorian (the Baillieu Family is one of the most famous in Melbourne) .  That’s probably why Victorians voted for him and turned away from USA-Republican style federal libs headed by a right wing Abbott.

The Greens

I think the Greens thought that they could replicate their success that they got at a federal level.  But there are two factors here.  One was that the Liberals didn’t preference them.  I heard Brandt this morning on the radio saying that there are now Labor members in inner seats that are there because of Liberal preferences, but hang on?  Didn’t he win the seat of Melbourne because of Liberal preferences himself? The other factor that I think that the Greens didn’t take into account is that a number of voters (myself included) were very disappointed with Federal Labor because of issues such as refugees, something that is not an issue when it comes to state governments.

The outcome is that I think Baillieu will be premier for at least eight years.   For the first four years they will be able to blame ‘the Labor legacy’ for things going wrong and will probably increase their majority next election.  I guess it will be good for the Liberals to be blamed for a change.

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Inner suburban Melbourne – Ripe for Greens pickings? Not so fast Batman!

I live in the suburb of Northcote in inner Melbourne.  It is located in the Federal seat of Batman, which was until recently the safest seat for Labor in Australia.  There was a swing of about 6% to the Greens.  The local Member, Martin Ferguson won the seat still with a comfortable margin, however it is not the safest seat in Australia for Labor anymore.  In fact we have the very desirable situation in Batman whether the two major parties are Labor and The Greens with the Liberals third.

I must confess (sorry to all my ALP member friends) that I was part of the 6% this time.  I have voted Green in the Senate before,  but this was the first time that I didn’t vote ALP for the House of Representatives.

Why?  Well, there were a number of reasons.  But my shift started when just after Gillard became Prime Minister we saw her on a navy ship with the Member for Lindsay to show those xenophobes in the mythical western suburbs of Sydney that Labor was as ‘tough’ on boats as the opposition.  ‘That’s not the Labor Party I usually vote for’ I thought.  There seemed that throughout the campaign the ALP was very keen to appease and give lots of attention to what these voters in Western Sydney.  So all this talk about asylum seekers and town hall meetings there….what about a meeting with Julia Gillard at Northcote Town Hall? I wanted inner Melbourne to be the anthesis of what ‘Western Sydney’ was supposed to be.  An area where pandering had to be done for the opposite reason.  Not because of mortgages and asylum seekers, but because of progressive politics.

Also I had issues with Martin Ferguson.  He was parachuted by the ALP into Batman from Sydney because the Party head to find him a safe seat after being head of the ACTU, and his views are probably the most divergent from those of Labor voters in the area.  He’s right wing Labor, and from what I read quite pro mining, pro uranium etc.

My decision was despite the fact that I don’t see the Greens with rose coloured glasses.  I sometime found their hectoring ‘holier than though’ hectoring towards Labor irritating.  I would read  letters in the “Melbourne Times’ with passionate anger of Green members/voters who were ALP.  Like lovers spurned they saw Labor as something that was a betrayal and had to be despised.  Well that’s easy for you to say.  Try to get enough votes to form a government.

So it was interesting to read the main article in the comments page of the Sunday Age about the Victorian ALP worrying that Seats that shown big swings towards The Greens in the Federal election, seats that were safe Labor like Northcote, Melbourne, Richmond and Brunswick could be lost at the forthcoming election. But I do wonder whether that’s on the cards.  At this stage I am certainly going to vote Labor.  Despite the fact that my local member, Fiona Richardson is saying silly things such as that the Greens are a new ‘Left DLP’ she seems to have worked for the electorate and not taking it for granted.  Personally, as a commuter cyclist, she has the runs on the board successfully advocating for a major roundabout and a bridge over Merri Creek which makes cycling much safer and quicker.  Unlike Martin Ferguson she sounds progressive on many issues.  And generally the ALP government has been remarkably stable and affective, despite being in power for quite some time (of course there are negative areas, which is inevitable for a government which has been in power for some time).  So it will be interesting to see if other voters in Northcote and the other seats in inner Melbourne sees it like me, or whether the Green surge will be unstoppable.

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