Now that the election post-mortems are in, it might be a good idea to look at who’s Hot and who’s Not in the State of Victoria:
Steve Bracks: His personal brand
Typhoon Ted Baillieu in his budgie smugglers. Less flesh, more policy please, Ted
Vic Nationals: Tough buggers revelling
Vic Liberals: Only managed to win a few extra seats; the big swings came in their already safe seats
DLP/Family First: The ugly love-children of Pauline Hanson and BA Santamaria have found fertile ground stealing votes off the Liberals
The Australian Democrats: Their remaining claim to fame is the longest death rattle in political history
Blogger Andrew Landeryou His Blog of Freedom is vicious, nasty even Evil but it broke news throughout the campaign. Is this the future of attack-dog Net journalism?
Wannabe Upper House Member Stephen Mayne: It’s time he decided what he wants to be when he grows up activist journalist? politician? businessman? radio shock jock? town clown?
The Greens: A growing organism critics need to take the long-term perspective. Likely to gain two seats in the Upper House for the first time in Victoria and came within a few hundred votes of claiming the Lower House seat of Melbourne
The Greens: Made the mistake of talking up their chances, and now must deal with the perception they failed
Politics just got interesting in Victoria. While the media wrote off last week’s State election as a predictable bore, the people of Victoria made a series of decisions which reflected a greater political maturity than the jaded pundits gave them credit for.
They returned a solid if unspectacular Government. And they elected an eclectic and potentially dynamic Upper House. We’re still waiting for the final numbers but most likely Bracks has been rewarded for his bold democratic reforms with what everyone said was impossible; a fresh majority in an Upper House he reshaped to represent the electorate more accurately.
After Saturday’s historic victory, Labor now has a chance to implement some real policy reform. The new Upper House promises to be a brighter forum for active policy debate and fresh ideas, without the Sword of Damocles threatening supply.
The climate of debate and accountability will be enhanced by the sense of energy Ted Baillieu has infused the Liberals with, and combined with the extra seats they’ve picked up, this will make for a stronger Opposition as long as their post-election navel-gazing doesn’t lead to excessive bloodletting. Surely, the Libs have learned a few lessons from this campaign 3.5 years of bludging, followed by six months of panicking, and then releasing alternative policies at the last moment is political suicide.
Bracks and Labor now have the chance to entrench a Labor culture in Victoria enshrining social democratic principles while cementing Labor as the natural Party to run the economy competently and manage essential services.
Labor’s win reminds us that incumbency is bliss in a stable economy, but something very interesting was also happening under the media’s radar, as an increasing number of voters continued to turn away from the big Parties in its search for alternative.
The fledgling People Power (PP) Party was talked up by the media before the election: ‘If everything goes right for them, the tiny, little-known start-up Party, People Power, could actually win a seat or two in the State’s Upper House.’, reported The Age. Even the ABC uncritically reported de facto Party leader Stephen Mayne’s own spin about securing preference deals that could have won People Power ‘at least’ three Upper House seats.
But de facto PP leader Stephen Mayne is now wringing his hands over what he claims is People Power’s delivery of three Upper House seats to Labor.
We played with the clever election site Upperhouse.info’s Legislative Council calculator for Mayne’s target seat of Southern Metro, and found that if half of Mayne’s votes had gone to the Liberals and half to the Greens, the current likely outcome (two Labor, two Liberal, one Green) would remain unchanged.
Even if all Stephen’s vote had gone to the Liberals, it still ends up with Labor’s star candidate Evan Thornley, second on the ticket, elected (although the Green misses out and a third Liberal gets up).
In Western Victoria, where Mayne claims that PP may have delivered a third spot to Labor at the expense of the Greens, they actually appear to have delivered a third spot to Labor at the expense of (bizarrely) the DLP.
And in Western Metro, the entire primary vote of PP would have to have gone to the Greens in order for them to get a candidate up. If it had gone 50/50 to Labor and the Greens, which is much more likely, Labor would still have got the fifth spot.
So Mayne can rest easy about delivering the balance of power to Labor and save the angst for reflecting on why his big election hopes ended in a sanctimonious whimper, with PP polling a measly 0.98 per cent overall in the Upper House, and a puny 0.49 per cent in the Lower House.
Truth is, Mayne is making it up as he goes along. Victoria’s real political insiders are sniggering at him and his bandwagon of well-meaning activists and asking who will pay the bills after none of PP’s 43 candidates reached the funding threshold of 4 per cent of votes.
If People Power wants to learn how to represent a niche constituency, they could do worse than sit at the feet of the Nationals. Not only did they manage to hold on to all the seats the commentariat assured us they would lose, but they also took Independent Russell Savage’s seat of Mildura although it took a $300,000 Nationals campaign and a plan by Labor to build a Mallee toxic waste dump in the electorate to knock him off.
But local issues aside, the pacemaker keeping the heart of the Nats beating against media expectations is what country voters Rob and Christine Eastwick told The Age before the election: ‘I don’t know a farmer who votes Labor,’ said Rob. ‘Here, you’re born with it in your blood.’ with his wife adding ‘We’ve just always been National
Party. I don’t go looking at Labor’s ideas because I probably wouldn’t understand it very well, and I’m happy to vote how farmers like to vote.’
It’s an Us versus Them mentality the idea that Labor and the Liberals don’t understand farmers; they only represent the views of the city folk. And city folk includes inhabitants of rural centres Geelong, Ballarat East, Ballarat West, Bendigo East and Bendigo West are all held by the ALP.
And, of course, no one pushes pork like the Nationals. While Labor and the Liberals must develop policies that make sense for the State as a whole, the Agrarian Socialists shamelessly shovel as much pork as they can barrel into their own electorates.
While ‘tree-changers’ gradually shift the demographics in country areas, the Nationals aren’t going to lose their rusted-on heartland in the near future. Every election, the media sounds the death knell for the Nats. But the chattering classes should know by now that the Nationals have more lives than a feral cat.
The Democrats, on the other hand, appear not just dead but possibly skinned in several different ways. They polled a disappointing 0.77 per cent in the Upper House less than People Power and well under the 1.86 per cent achieved by the DLP, who may not have been dead after all, just resting.
And Family First (FF) looks to be the Pepsi Generation of minor Party politics picking up around 4.3 per cent of the primary vote, State-wide. A result they’re delighted with, and one that should be sending progressives everywhere into a cold sweat. When you combine it with the Christian Democratic Party’s (CDP) 0.19 per cent (unlike Family First, they weren’t running in all electorates, so their overall result is deceptively low), and the DLP the overall Right-wing ‘Christian’ vote looks scarily high.
Family First are people who define ‘family’ in a pretty exclusionary way ‘Families grow from heterosexual relationships between men and women’ and it’s not just heterosexual, you really need to be married, according to their policy on Families and Parenting.
They’d like to restrict freedom of speech, too, which should be a concern for small-l liberals they want mandatory censoring of the internet:
FAMILY FIRST calls for mandatory filtering at the Internet Service Provider (ISP) Tier 1 level. Mandatory filtering of illegal and X and R-rated content will create a much safer Internet environment.
It’s possible that a lot of people voting for Family First on Saturday didn’t understand they were supporting an anti-abortion, anti-homosexual, ‘Christian values’ Party. The standard spiel FF’s flying squads of supporters were giving voters at polling booths didn’t include any of their more extreme views.
The ugly love-children of Pauline Hansen and Bob Santamaria revelled in the Liberals’ failure to present an upbeat story that resonated in the community, and particularly Swinging Voter Land. The DLP may even land an Upper House seat.
No doubt, the major Party strategists will be working to counter this knowledge vacuum in next year’s Federal election Labor more feverishly than the Liberals, since the Libs benefit from the happy-clappy preferences.
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