(by Ray Dixon ~ a proud Vic)
“See ya later Denis”
I have to admit that in the last week leading up to Saturday’s Victorian State election I had this nagging and worrying feeling that Labor would fall at the last hurdle and fail in its bid at history to out a Coalition Government after just one term in office.
After all, despite the opinion polls showing Labor still in winning territory at 52-48 two-party preferred, the fact is the gap had narrowed from 56-44 just a few weeks ago and any further narrowing would see an anything result.
There’s also the fact that Governments, be they State or Federal, be they dysfunctional, incompetent, disunited, changing leaders, do-nothing, semi-corrupt and obnoxious (i.e. be they just like the Victorian Coalition Govt of Ted ‘Bailed Out’ Baillieu & Denis ‘The loud mouth Vet’ Napthine), are usually given a second term just to see if they can finally get their act together. It’s almost – or was – an Australian tradition to give a ‘Fair Go’ to the incumbent and not throw the baby out with the bath water so to speak.
Making matters worse (for Labor supporters like me) it was Denis Napthine who stole all the thunder and limelight in the last week of campaigning, aggressively ramming home his message that if Labor tears up the contract for the East-West tunnel project, as they had promised to, Victorians would not only lose the $3 billion in infrastructure spending promised by Federal PM Tony Abbott, they would also have to pay a compensation bill of $1.1 billion to the appointed contractor (due to a ‘side deal’ Napthine had secretly signed).
Meanwhile, Labor leader Daniel Andrews remained at the one-pace, not ramping up his campaign or attack on the Government one little bit (it’s noticeable that throughout the campaign, Andrews actually steered away from any such negative tactics and, instead, focused on what he would do rather than what Napthine was doing or not doing).
Instead, Andrews simply stuck to his guns: the East-West tunnel would not be built; the so-called contract was “invalid” and “not worth the paper it was written on”; no compensation would be paid and what Victorians needed more was improvements to outer areas, removal of level crossings and a much improved public transport system. Andrews gambled on the wider electorate not really seeing yet another freeway link as an important election issue. And won.
He focused his efforts on those outer areas particularly the so-called ‘Sandbelt’ areas from Bentleigh in the south east all the way down the Frankston railway line to, well, to Frankston itself. Those were the seats that cost John Brumby office in 2010 when he was surprisingly voted out having focused his efforts primarily on protecting 4 inner-city seats from the Greens. He held those seats but lost the ‘burbs … because he ignored them … which saw Ted Baillieu become the accidental Premier, a job he never seemed to expect or want, and one that he eventually walked away from at the first hint of dissatisfaction from his party, thereby handing Denis (the forgotten man) Napthine the premiership by default.
No, Andrews totally ignored the Greens and let the inner-city latte set have ‘em if they wanted them. The Greens actually took the seat of Melbourne from Labor and may end up with one or two more, but that didn’t matter because Labor won enough seats back from the Liberals in those outer suburbs to form Government in their own right. Sure, the Greens can claim ‘history’ in getting their first MP(s) elected to the lower house but it’s a totally hollow victory as Labor can (and will) govern without them.
Andrews’ script was copybook. He gambled (correctly) that Napthine’s aggressiveness and threats over the $3 billion Federal funding and $1.1 billion compensation package would not wash with an electorate that clearly did not like Napthine’s stance and tone that amounted to an effective attempt at blackmailing them into voting for a return of the Coalition, in order to save $4 billion. He let Napthine rattle on and, as it turned out, gave him enough rope to hang himself.
Make no mistake, in the last week the election was still there for the taking by the Coalition. It was still up for grabs. If only Napthine had not chosen to emphasise how he was using the East-West tunnel funding as a sort of booby trap to ward off people from voting Labor. If only he hadn’t underestimated the voters’ intelligence. And if only if he’d had the balls to tell Tony Abbott NOT to announce in that last week that the threat of withdrawing that funding if Labor won was very real.
Much to my delight, Victorian voters reacted quite angrily to being treated like second class idiots and the polls did not shift one little bit. Well, actually they did shift marginally … to Labor. The final result on a two-party preferred being Labor 52.5, Coalition 47.5, a remarkable result to actually not only halt the trend back to the Coalition but to even turn the tide back in their favour.
All thanks to 3 people being (in order):
Daniel Andrews for sticking to his guns in the face of a full on Coalition onslaught throughout the final week.
Denis Napthine for going over-the-top in aggressively threatening voters would be ‘punished’ (by both him and Abbott) if they dared to vote Labor.
Tony Abbott for publicly endorsing Napthine’s gun-at-the-head approach.
Victorians (well, Aussies in general) don’t take kindly to that sort of political bullying. Denis Napthine certainly shot himself in the foot with his semi-blackmail tactics, aided and abetted by Tony Abbott.
BUT, does this result mean anything Federally? According to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten it does:
“They said this couldn’t happen. They said that a first term government couldn’t lose… (this is) history in the making … Victorians have made a clear choice that will be heard all across the nation.”
I think Bill might be getting a bit carried away. I mean, it’s not like Abbott is on a knife-edge majority like Napthine was. It’s not like the ALP only has to pick up 4 or 5 seats in 2016 to defeat Tony Abbott. No, they actually need to win at least 20 seats to do that.
This result makes it clear that Abbott is on the nose in Victoria at least and will suffer some kind of reduced numbers next time around. But I hardly think Tony Abbott is losing much sleep over it. Let’s face it, Victoria doesn’t really figure on his radar. Does he even know where it is? Does he even care? I doubt it.
Anyway, it’s well done to Daniel Andrews. At 42 years of age he should easily be Premier for at least 8 years – i.e. two terms – because I seriously doubt Victorians will turn back to the Coalition again anytime soon, having seen how unready they were to resume Govt in 2010 after 11 years in Opposition. And having seen how little they’d learnt.
On the other hand, Labor is back in its right place in the great southern State of Victoria while the Coalition of Crap is in disarray with both Napthine and Ryan (the Nats leader) stepping down.
It just shows you that doing favours for your big construction company mates and property developers – as the Coalition in Victoria is renowned for – is a real voter turn off. I doubt they’ll ever change. Not down here.
You people up north in NSW & Queensland probably don’t understand that, in Victoria, the Liberals are not so much about governing the State as they are about carving up public property for developers and doing big favours for their big mates. It’s been that way since Kennett won office in 1992. They won’t (and can’t) change. And that’s why Vics can’t stomach them.
Victorian Labor, on the other hand, is actually about responsible and conservative Government, exemplified in such conservative stalwarts as Steve Bracks, John Brumby and (now) Daniel Andrews. They hold all the important and relevant political ground from moderate left to centre to moderate right, whereas the Libs down here actually seem to operate outside the political sphere in some kind of corporate and secret deals la-la land.
Good riddance to them. And well done to my fellow Victorians for having the good sense (and guts) to call the Coalition on their phony projects, side deals, hollow threats, bluffs and outright bullying. It’s certainly a better State today. Sanity has been restored.