VICTORIAN STATE ELECTION
Like most long standing Governments, Victoria's state Labor government has got some baggage. As in, they've done quite a few things over their time in office that have pissed quite a few of us off. 12 Years is a long time.
A brief list of some of the major pieces of baggage, then:
- Consistantly late, unreliable trains that seem incapable of running when it's either too hot, too cold or too temperate.
- Over budget, unreliable electronic ticketing system for our public transport network.
- Lack of anything that could be straightfacedly called a 'public transport network,' with overlapping, non integrated organisations running different parts of the system (and usually throwing pies at each other).
- Actually, this was meant to be a short list of issues so why don't we just take the public transport system as a whole as a negative and move on.
- Water management projects (desaliantion plant, north-south pipeline) with questionable water management benefits, massive price tags and major environmental concerns attached to them.
- A city development planning process that seems to be run out of a back room at Fat Tony's.
- The motherfucking Grand Prix! Can we just let Sydney or Dubai take the fucking thing and spend all that money on something else?
- The hospital waiting list scandal.
Although that last one has become such a common feature of State Governance in this country that a lot of the juice seems to have gone out of it as an issue. I mean, some of the state governments seem to think that they're expected to deliver a hospital waiting list scandal as part of their party platform:
'And so my friends, if elected, we promise to deliver bigger, more scandalous, more nefarious and more deceptive hospital waiting list scandals than this state has ever seen before!'
Even leaving that one aside though, it's still quite a list. There's a lot of issues there that people living in this state can - and do - feel angry about. And so, therefore, a lot for the Opposition to get stuck into the Government about as well. Fertile ground for the Liberal Party to make a pitch to the voters in (or on... or, erm, under? Actually that 'fertile ground' metaphor has thrown me off a bit).
Or so you'd think.
So it strikes me a curious that since the campaign was officially launched - on Melbourne Cup Day, damn you 'Descarado'! - we've had very little in the way of rigorous back and forth between the two major parties. What we've had, for the most part, is the Labor Party getting stuck into the Greens.
This started more or less staright away, with state education Minister Brownyn Pike calling Brian Walters, her Green opponent for the marginal inner city seat of Melbourne, a 'hypocrite.' Other, less nameable, sections of the ALP added the tag 'anti-semite' to this. And what had Mr Walters done to earn the ire of the ALP? Well, it seems that Mr Walters, a barrister in the private sector, had defended both a suspected Nazi war criminal and a mining company that has some dealings in brown coal mining (in extradition and wrongful death cases, respectively). The Victorian Bar Council was quick to Mr Walters defence, stating that as a lwayer he had an ethical obligation to 'do his best' for his clients, 'regardless of his personal views.' Senior figures from both the Labor Party and the legal profession were quick to put their views on the matter out in public as well, ensuring both sides of the argument got an airing and the story kicked on for a few days.
Even so, this still scans as a fairly innocuous bit of political argy bargy, of the sort that occurs so regularly in national politics that, much like any debate over hospital waiting lists, the details are quickly lost on a voting public that goes glassyeyed when election season starts.
But what is important in this instance is what this occurrence tells us about the mindset of state Labor. And that is that the Government views the Liberal Party as pretty unlikely to win the election and that they are more worried about losing marginal inner city seats to the Greens, than they are losing outter suburban or rural seats to the conservatives. The ALP has got a fight on it's hand to hold at least four innner city seats against the Greens - Melbourne, Richmond, Brunwsick and Northcote - and they know it and now the Greens know that their nominally left of centre allies will play hard ball to keep all of those seats in tact.
The other thing that the above incident tells us is that the spirit of Lyndon Baines Johnson is alive and well in modern politics, even here.
The story goes like this: A young LBJ, in his first run for elected office, is struggling to get ahead of his opponent. In frustration he told his campaign manager to leak a story to the press that said opponent liked fucking pigs.
'Hell,' the campaign manager is alleged to have said, 'we can't honestly expect people to believe he's a pig fucker.'
'Naw,' Johnson is meant to have drawled, 'but let's make the sonnoffabitch deny it.'
The point being, lets get a little word association going in peoples minds, the key words being 'My Opponent' and 'pig fucker.'
Sooooo..... at the height of debate about Mr Walters' character, our education minister went back to the media to say that while she still thought her opponent was a hypocrite, whoever had called him antisemtic (and gee whiz, it really is a mystery who might have done that) was taking it too far:
'I know Brian walters and I think that it is very unfair to say that he is antisemitic.'
Politics doesn't really change that much.