Monday, February 7, 2011


'The Age' editorial yesterday made the point that Victoria's new-ish Premier, 'Big' Ted Baillieu, was a bit of a slack arse.

Well, not in so many words, of course. Even as it sacks people and moves as much of it's content online as possible, the Melbourne broadsheet is still pretty conservative.

But it did make the point, more delicately, thet Big Ted has been Premier for a few months now and that there aren't many signs of life emanating from the Premier's office. In fact, the only tangible thing that Baillieu seems to have acheived since being elected is that he managed to make the Premier's Christmas Party an alcohol free event, so ruining the day for everyone attending (Baillieu is a tee-totaller and so marks himself out as unique in Australian political history).

In terms of what he's managed to do in relation to the big issues facing the state; public transport, health, education, crime, the economy and so on to infinity, you'd struggle to find any Governmental movement on any front. Which may surprise people. Especially the people that voted for him.

I may be wrong, but I seem to remember Big Ted going on at some length about all the problems facing Victoria during last years election campaign. I mean, he had a pretty extensive list - which, well, I've already written out in the previous paragragph, so I won't redo it here - which he talked about at mind boggling length and which his party put all over every availabe media outlet in negative campaign ads:

And this worked well for him.

People took notice, or were just sick of being told that waiting 4 hours for a train was 'Part of the Plan,' and turfed Labor out on the back of a 6% statewide swing to the conservatives. The era of Big Ted had arrived!

Aaargh! What is that thing with him? Kill it!

Anyway, at least we thought his era had begun.

Some of his supporters are now starting to look like people waiting for an overdue plane; it was meant to be here two hours ago and they've moved from mild disinterest, to annoyance, to concern, to a growing certainty in their hearts that terrorists have blown it up over the Pacific.

Did Big Ted's supporters take the wrong message from the election campaign? Was all that talk about late trains and hospital waiting lists and crazed gangs of homeowner hating youth criminals meant to be... I dunno, reportage? Just to let us know that things were bad? In case we hadn't noticed that the train we were waiting for never showed up or that our aunty was hobbling around while waiting for corrective surgery?

If it was, well, nice of them to point it out. But maybe a little disappointing.

Although anyone that did actually pay attention to the last election campaign would not have been surprised that solutions to Victoria's problems are not materialising. For none were proposed. From either side.

John Brumby stuck doggedly to the same unpopular, universally derided policies that he'd been pushing for several years, and so committed political suicide. And Baillieu and the Liberal Party mainly just nodded and smiled and made sure everyone knew that Jeff Kennett was no longer a candidate.

In terms of specifics, Baillieu offered us two new train lines, a handful of new trains, about a gazillion more police and that was about it. And even this minimal 'agenda' has been pretty much glossed over, forgotten about and obfuscated since Big Ted was elected and Liquorland had their state parliament contract terminated.

The counter agrument to all this, of course, is that the Liberals were only elected a few months ago and that time will be required for them to enact their policies. Or, for starters, for them to figure out what their policies are. And additionally, Labor ran the state for a long time and the public service is intrinsically slow in responding to change, so even when the Liberals are ready to move in key policy areas, we will need to be patient in order to see results.

But this is no reason for inertia.

Baillieu was given a clear mandate by the electorate and he enjoys a majority in both houses of Parliament. He has far fewer obstacles in his path than, say, Steve Bracks had when he took over a Premier. So there is no excuse not to get on with it. Especially since the same people that were unhappy with transport and health and so ended Brumby's career, will quickly turn on the new bunch if they sense that they're sitting on their hands.

'Well after 12 years of Labor neglect...'

Will only work for so long. Baillieu and co need only look at the Rudd/Gillard government to see how popular a timid, do nothing style of governance is with the punters. Baillieu needs to outline his agenda, properly, and nominate his policy priorities as soon as he can. And then actually move forward with some boldness to legislate for them.

The fact that the same issue of 'The Age' that featured the critical editorial contained not one story of what the Baillieu government was doing is not a good sign.

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