Last call for John Brumby.
So there’s a poll that says most Victorians would rather have a beer with John Brumby than Ted Baillieu – fair enough. John does come across a bit more as the ‘bloke next door’ than Ted, and Melbourne’s heavily trade union influenced history is generally reflected in a pro-blue collar sentiment amongst the punters.
A beer buddy does not a Premier make, and the public, especially in the urban expanse that is greater Melbourne, appears to have had quite enough suds for one night, and is prepared to go home, sleep it off, and then deal with the boss the next morning — their boss, in this context, being the Liberal party.
You can’t blame them for being somewhat fatigued. A north-south pipeline that leads to a dam that is full-to-bursting. A desalinisation plant that has to be maintained for millions even when there’s no need for it. A card-based transport ticketing system that is difficult to use, and fails to work properly a large percentage of the time. A train network that has failed to meet its targets when managed by both of two successive third-party companies.
That said, is there any public confidence that the Liberals would have done any better? Probably not. They might have spent a bit more on infrastructure — particularly roads and rail, and a bit less on social programs, because this is the sort of thing fiscally conservative parties do — but Victoria wouldn’t likely be in any better or worse shape than it is now. The finance-driven corporate hub that is the Melbourne CBD would still be paying its latte-sipping white-collar workforce close on, or more than six figures a year, and those employees would have still sunk vast amounts of money into their houses, or their cars, or their gadgets, flowing that money on to the trades, labourers and retailers, so they can have their quarter-acre house and garden too.
Thanks to a very robust economy, and the very limited scope the state government has on making decisions that affect the populace as a whole, those being the domain of Canberra, there aren’t many issues on which the average citizen can debate which party would do better. Crime seems to be the focus of this election, but the sad truth is that although both parties are promising more police, they both know that recruiting them is the major stumbling block, as is finding train drivers to run the rail network, nurses for hospitals, and so on. It’s a rather weak message on the face of it — we will employ more people to do the jobs nobody really wants to do — when everyone is off starting their own companies, or making a King’s ransom pushing keys for a bank, or being involved in the arts, in television (look at the army of film and TV students at RMIT, for example), and so forth.
If there were the fit, competent, enthusiastic people the Victoria Police need, I’m quite confident they would employ them, regardless of how many hypothetical places the state tells the public are available to be staffed. But that’s the rub of having such a nice hot economy, and an over-consuming, complacent society. That said, the ‘violence’ in Melbourne is somewhat overstated — all you need to do is watch the Vancouver news a few nights to see that Melbourne is pretty tame in comparison to the vast majority of even small North American cities. As someone who has lived in both Melbourne and Vancouver, I tend to think that Melbourne is to Vancouver what Singapore is to Melbourne.
That might have been due to being inadvertently caught in a crossfire between rival Indian and Chinese gangs near Main and Broadway back in the mid-1990’s. But I digress.
Essentially all of the ‘troubles’ faced by your average Victorian — long waits for ambulances, cancelled train services, scarcity of police officers — are due to labour shortages. The other major issue — water — is at least temporarily not an issue at all. So, since it’s known that neither party is liable to fix — or control — any of this, there becomes two main drivers behind the decision of your undecided voter at the ballot box.
First is a combination of simple fatigue of several years of Labor rule, and a desire to, in the great Aussie tradition, “give the other side a go”, because one can be fairly competent that they won’t cock things up any worse than they are already. This alone could be enough to hand the election to the Liberals, and Labour knows it.
The second driver is social agenda. The Greens are set to pick up perhaps a few — or perhaps many — metropolitan seats, perhaps even with the assistance of the Liberal party. Your average voter would prefer Victoria’s coal-fired power stations be replaced with more environmentally-friendly methods — not that your average voter is an environmentalist by any means, but we’re now ‘it would be nice if’ territory when it comes to the Victorian swing-vote since there are no driving issues of substance. The average metropolitan voter sees marriage equality as being harmonious with the Australian “no worries” attitude of live and let live. And although Greens policies are expensive, in such a strong economy more are willing to pay for them.
Hence why it’s last call. Labor ironically cannot provide the labour the state needs to fulfil it’s promises, and so the populace will turn elsewhere, either due to the social policies of the Greens, or to change for change’s sake with the Coalition. So, enjoy that last beer shouted by John Brumby, Victoria, for even if he returns as Premier, it’l likely be Bob Brown who will be calling the rounds.