Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Victorian election

Months ago, it was obvious that not only the Victorian Coalition government was heading to defeat but also, three federal seats could easily be lost in the next federal election. After Saturday's defeat, the federal coalition could be facing the loss of even more seats and the prospect of a one-term government.

State MPs are entitled to be unhappy with Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Earlier in the year, Abbott delayed decisions until the Senate rerun. But when it came to looking after the Victorian Liberals  before a state election he didn't cut them any slack. He pushed ahead with an increase of fuel tax and cuts to the ABC, having promised pre-election there would be none, when obviously he could have held back for a few days until after Saturday's vote. Less obvious but I think it's important to note, despite the quality of Victorian federal ministers like Andrew Robb and Greg Hunt, Victorians are well aware that at the federal level their MPs do not have the clout they had in the past.

Despite the fact that some voters will link federal and state issues, forget about blaming Tony Abbott. Certainly he was no help, but the Victorians under Denis Napthine were more than capable of losing government all on their own. The Liberals should have been miles ahead of a Socialist Left Opposition Leader. Daniel Andrews' big policies were to have a public holiday for the Friday before the AFL Grand Final and building 50 level train crossings to improve traffic congestion. On top of that he is committed to abandoning the plan to fix Melbourne's traffic congestion, tearing up the contract, raising serious concerns about sovereign risk and giving free rein to his friends in the CFMEU [Construction, Forestry, Mining and Engineering Union]. If you can't beat a manifesto as bad as that in a first term, then don't expect much sympathy.

The core problem with the Victorian Liberals is that they don't know what they stand for. It was so bad at one stage that Labor announced the sale of the Melbourne port and Premier Denis Napthine opposed it. He should have pinched Labor's policy and got on with road infrastructure like the East West Link. Sadly we have seen the slow transformation of the Victorian Liberals from being the jewel in the federal Liberal's crown, to a party with little political commitment other than status quo delivery of services.

Yes, they did a reasonable job in fixing the budget and the East West is a good project but I reckon that fixing the roads is bread and butter for state governments.

Fundamental aspects of the way the Liberal Party works in Victoria needs to be re-examined. For example, the party effectively abused its own rules that require the use of plebiscites to allow local people to decide who is preselected. If the party can't attract members, it will end up as a clique of political insiders.

Basic policy differences between the federal liberals and the state party are quite obvious. If ever there were an example of what was wrong, it was how the party dealt with John Roskam who was a candidate for former Premier Ted Baillieu's seat of Hawthorn. Roskam has probably been one of the strongest advocates of Liberal values in Victoria. In his preselection he was attacked for supporting Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and freedom of speech.  He was described as an extremist because he said that the minimum wage was too high. And then he was attacked because in supporting the federal government, he did not support Napthine giving $24 million to SPC Ardmona. To me, that said it all.

Another problem was the Liberals gave too much to the National Party. Nat Leader Peter Ryan's handling of the police portfolio was one of the government's early headaches. The Liberals should never have agreed to having a business welfare fund let alone give it to the Nats to manage. Now the Nats have probably lost the seat of Shepparton and party status. Instead of supporting gas exploration and the potential of jobs and investment in eastern Victoria, the Nats abandoned the interests of local people to appease inner Melbourne greenies.

Communication was very average from Victorian Libs. The standard approach to difficult issues under Ted Baillieu and Dennis Napthine was to instruct ministers to say nothing and hope issues would fade.  So instead of pushing for a Royal Commission into the billions of dollars lost in the state's  desalination plant the government did nothing.

The bottom line is that if voters can't see much difference between the political parties then no one should be surprised when they chop and change the government. This was the big underlying cause of the Victorian government's loss. The challenge now for federal Liberals as well as the two key players in the state parliament, Matthew Guy and Michael O'Brien, is to work together to fix the glaring problems now fully exposed in the 2014 election.

No comments:

Post a Comment