Victorian Election – who should you* vote for?

Part of being effective as a futurist is being able to assess potential issues and their impact over time. The Victorian State Election is on this Saturday and though many say that State elections have little bearing on issues we face, our system means that the fluctuations at a Federal level are often countered by voters choosing the opposite at a State level. Call it a quirk of the system. So what do I sense lies ahead here in Victoria? Read on


The Premier Dr Denis Napthine leads the Liberal National coalition (LNP) and Daniel Andrews the main opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP). Greg Barber leads the still burgeoning Greens

First a quick look at history. The last State election was won for a reason completely missed by mainstream political pundits and journalist commentators. Four years ago the ALP held Government and were facing an opposition that was only just starting to get itself together following the shock 1999 loss by Jeff Kennett of the LNP to the relatively unknown Steve Bracks of the ALP.

And in that light, the ALP probably should have held on, and probably be gearing itself up to get thrown out this time around. But during the 2010 State election an unexpected and not widely known event occured.

In the District of Bentleigh, one of the largest polling booths was Bentleigh West Primary School. A once large but highly neglected school with mostly run down and dilapidated buildings, throughout 2009 & 2010 it had undergone a complete rebuilding transformation. The school looked fantastic – virtually brand new. The final piece of infrastructure was the school hall. It too was nearing completion until a longish delay occured. Off the back of the Federal (ALP) Government investing in schools around the country as part of its (successful) attempts to keep the building sector moving during the recession, the State ALP and Federal ALP agreed to negotiate a new contract for the completion of the BWPS school hall. This meant federal funds and not state funds would be used to finish the building.

But those funds and renegotiation of the contract with the builders meant the Hall was not going to be complete in time for the BWPS to be used as a polling booth. Instead a pokey old venue around the corner was used.

And what that meant is that rather than undecided voters walkng into a brand new school facility and thinking ‘the Government isn’t doing too badly’, they walked into a run down kindergarten and thought the opposite. The end result of which is that the District of Bentleigh was THE seat that decided who held Government. The seat has gone LNP/ALP/LNP and I suspect will go back to the ALP this time around.

That should put into context how tenuous the LNP hold on Government is. It wasn’t helped by a rather ineffectual Ted Ballieu as Premier whose apparent inability to get anything done has left too few pegs for his replacement Premier Napthine to hang his hat on.  Premier Napthine got off to a good start resolving some key disputes with teachers and nurses and all was looking good. Planning Minister Mathew Guy’s decision to call in the Fishermen’s Bend development was the right call but he’s added to that a few poor decisions as well.

The two mainstream parties have put together rather lack lustre campaigns. The LNP has aimed to position Daniel Andrews as a puppet of the aggressive CMFEU whose tactics frighten the average voter. The ALP have countered by aligning Denis Napthine to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose absence during the last week here in Victoria says much about what the LNP strategist think of the PM.

But in the end, there’s just too much missing from either party for voters to hang their hats on. The LNP’s poison pill threat regarding East-West penalties if the ALP win and pull out of the contract, is a poison pill the LNP signed into existence in a mad rush. It was poor government, and poor strategy based on ideology. The additional threat to Victorians from the PM about withdrawing funding also hasn’t helped. The PM’s polling in Victoria is perhaps the lowest in Australia. Any threat from somone so disliked is hardly a game changer for voters. The ALP’s track record of major infrastruture with the desalination plant is its own poison pill. My futurist hat says that ultimately the desal plant will be handy. But it was started four years too late or four years too early (given we’ve just entered our next long range drought cycle) and what is known of the contracts for the prices paid suggests someone got very well looked after off our pockets.

So both the LNP and ALP have issues and unfortunately when it comes to policy, neither major party has provided anything other than threadbare slogans, mostly ineffectual at that.

Here’s what I wanted to see:

Victorian Manufacturing Businesses given a leg up by shifting their Automotive supply chain stream across to renewable technologies. My own research for a client showed that over 90% of ALL automotive supply chain inputs could move across to renewable technologies with barely a rumble. A state mandated RET and proactive support for our manufacturing companies is critical. But even just a commitment (and follow through) to buying a minimal local content in Government contracts would be a simple and warmly received start

I wanted solid commitments to education – I wanted Gonski signed and delivered and fair funding for all schools, not the select few.

I want a commitment to ending violence at the point it happens – not more jails which are simply cash drains on any society.

I wanted a state based version of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner to oversee the building industry here in Victoria.

I wanted a commitment to State Parks, fresh water and protection of agriculture lands from the horrors of fracking. We can Eat OR Extract. We can’t do both and I choose ‘Eat’ as my solid preference. My family in Gippsland and in Colac want the same.

In the end neither major showed any real commitment. Both were missing on the VRET and have ignored the massive fiscal and employment potential that a focus on renewable technologies will provide. That it’s also good for the environment and my kids futures is a bonus.

So here’s what I’m anticipating – the ALP will win back office in a close match but we will also see the rise of singular and issues based parties and individuals in the Upper House. It’s where we’ve been headed across the country and I suspect this will continue it’s pattern. On this Saturday, let’s hope we get a Government that works, regardless of its shape!

*Marcus Barber is also standing as part of the Australian Cyclists Party in the Upper House

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