We've been back in Victoria for 18 months or so after 10 years up North. Until recently it seemed that it had become a one party State. The Liberal Opposition leader and his team were mostly absent or absent-minded. Our local Liberal member, and failed shadow minister, Murray Thompson typified their lethargy and incompetence.
They couldn't lay a glove on a government with an unelected leader and more than a decade in office. Well the summer has seen a wee change. Ted Baillieu's public relations managers have filled the January political vacuum with a series of populist policies and pronouncements.
The latest is the abolition of suspended gaol sentences:
Victorian Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu – frequently derided for his genteel and small ‘l’ liberal approach to politics – has boldly started a law and order auction that could see him elected Premier come November 26th.It's a wimpy version of the kind of mandatory sentencing proposals that pollies find irresistible around election time.
TED GETS TOUGH: Vic Libs show true grit pledging to scrap suspended sentences
An Onymous Lefty is less kind:
Sending more people to prison for less serious crimes makes me a big tough leader. Please take me seriously? Please?Law and Order is the old standby for conservatives bereft of original ideas. The latest dabble in populism followed close on the heels of Baillieu's plans to relocate the Victoria Police force to the train stations at night.
The Opposition would love to emulate the Brumby/Bracks courting of disaffected voters in the regions. It certainly helped in the 1999 victory against Jeff Kennett. It was also a major factor in the 2008 defeat of the Carpenter government in Western Australia. The only noise on that front concerns the North-South pipeline:
Opposition leader Ted Baillieu said the pipeline should not have been built and was a "white elephant".He has other problems as he cannot afford to alienate the thirsty Melbourne suburbs:
North-south pipeline a reality
THE Coalition appears to be walking away from its election promise of a new dam to boost Melbourne's water supply.
...With the election just 11 months away, pressure is mounting for Mr Baillieu to clarify his policy for resolving what will be one of the most pressing issues of the campaign.
Baillieu backpedals on the Coalition's dam commitment
At the beginning of an election year, you'd think the the National Party would be trying their hardest to copy their WA cousins. I'd be hard pressed to remember the name of their State leader.
Talking of names, a million dollars couldn't squeeze the names of the Opposition Shadow Attorney General or their frontbench spokespeople on water or transport. Ted Baillieu has done all the running lately. Perhaps the earlier reference to his team should be deleted.
Anyway it has stirred the government from its complacency. Just back from vacation, Brumby hopped into his opposite number:
VICTORIA would need a new jail if suspended sentences and home detention were scrapped, experts say.
And the cost of implementing the changes would be several hundred million dollars, because each new prison bed would effectively cost $600,000 to create.
The Herald Sun revealed yesterday that the Coalition would dump suspended sentences and home detention if it got into power - a plan condemned by the Government.
Premier John Brumby and acting Attorney-General Bob Cameron attacked the Opposition's plan by saying "mums and dads" convicted of more than two driving-while-disqualified offences would go straight to jail.
Premier John Brumby says Opposition plan to scrap suspended sentences has fallen apart
The complacency was not about Brumby's attitude to government where the polls indicate he is viewed as both active and effective. The cracks in that picture are public transport, traffic congestion and nighttime violence. Plus fire and water, of course.
Conventional wisdom has an easy victory for Labor at the upcoming November election. Despite the Opposition's inability to get much political mileage from the bushfires tragedy, another Black Saturday could change all that. As the WA and Northern Territory elections showed, Brumby cannot afford to take either his opponents or the voters for granted.
Baillieu gave an exclusive to the Herald Sun. That's only fitting as the editors of that paper have filled the role of Opposition leader for many years. Though it would be impossible to exceed the anti-government campaign by the West Australian newspaper in 2008, I'm sure the Hun will have a real go. Nevertheless, they may be a bit ambivalent about the other issue that have gained some traction:
A NEW independent watchdog will crack down on politically motivated, taxpayer-funded government advertisements if the Coalition wins next year's state election.The mass media are the beneficiaries of this kind of government spending. Hackneyed as it is, the Opposition took a long time to catch on and hatch this one. The Working Victoria ads have been running since August.
Baillieu pledge to end political ads
Update: Thanks to Terry Wright for his comment alerting us to the ban the bong policy that heralded Ted's New Year offensive.