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The State of Stupidity as Victoria Votes

November 28, 2014

28 November 2014

Victoria votes on Saturday and it’s the Liberals’ Denis “Nap Time” Napthine challenged by Labor’s Dan “The Union Man” Andrews in a contest to decide the slogan on the state’s car registration plates. That piece of stupidity in the early stages of the campaign has just about been the only clear separation between two candidates concerned with talking the most and offering the least.

The Union Man wants Victoria re-badged “The Education State” – fair enough, given he will restore much of the funding to TAFE that the Liberals cut. Nap Time wants to stick with “Stay Alert Stay Alive” – fair enough, given the road safety message relates to the Liberals’ superior strategy for road infrastructure.

This stupidity with registration plate slogans began with Jeff Kennett in 1992, changing the long used “The Garden State” to “On The Move” to chide the just-evicted Cain/Kirner Labor government for their legacy of financial incompetence, budget woes and a huge debt. Labor changed the slogan to “The Place To Be” – as it no doubt felt like for them – when they returned to office just 8 years later after booting out the smug Kennett and his complacent Liberal Party.

When the Liberals surprisingly won a tight election in 2010, they wasted millions on consultants and research to find a new slogan, only to settle on then Premier Ted “Bailed Up” Baillieu’s personal favourite of “Staying Alert, Staying Alive, oh, oh, oh, oh, Staying Alive”. No wait, that was the Bee Gees. Ironically, “Stay Alert Stay Alive” would have been a far better fit for the Liberal Party themselves. They’ve spent much of the last four years asleep at the wheel and had they Stayed Alert, they very much would be in a situation to Stay Alive for Saturday’s election.

Labor almost certainly will be back after just one term in opposition. It’s been no surprise given the government was quickly known as the “do nothing” government, and then was wracked by a rogue MP destabilising their tiny majority in the house. Given incumbent governments typically do lose ground each election, the situation was parlous. Labor lead the polls 52/48 on two-party preferred, which is roughly the lead that they’ve had since mid-cycle when Bailed Up was bailed up by inflammatory comments he made off the record about fellow party members that were eventually leaked to the Herald Sun newspaper. Losing control and confidence within his party and among the electorate, he had little choice to hand over the reigns to Nap Time.

Since Nap Time assumed control, transport, especially the East West Link freeway, that will finally link Melbourne’s East and West with 18kms of new roads, has been the big issue. Indeed, while Nap Time has signed contracts for the $7b project that will be mostly funded by tolls and a $3b grant from the Federal government, Labor plans to tear up the contract and pay a penalty of over $1b. This act of stupidity is unlikely to occur, as the promise was mostly to appease a few loud-mouth inner city voters turning to the Greens. The EWL has popular approval, so once in power, it will be “oops, we can’t tear up the contract”. The Union Man has long dialled back his rhetoric against the East West Link, and has been even more quieter on his stupid alternative of widening a few roads like the West Gate Bridge. Any more widening there and cars will need to be boats.

Public transport is largely a miss by both parties. While both are committed to an underground north-south rail connection to ease the load off the City Loop, the Union Man’s is unnecessarily grand, he has no vision for an airport link, or any other new lines, so it’s only the removal of 50 level crossings worthy of merit. Nap Time will remove about 10 crossings, mostly on specific train lines to facilitate more train services, rather than road congestion and pedestrian safety that is behind the Union Man’s initiative. Of course, most of these projects will take years, if not decades to fully materialise. Nap Time loses out with his choice of airport rail link that will cost $3b to merely extend an existing suburban line. A consortium proposed a monorail direct from the city centre that could be done for just $1b, would be faster and would be completed in less than half the time. The money saved could be then used on the Doncaster rail line that sadly – after countless decades – still sits in limbo.

Ignoring the East West Link issue, the difference between Labor and Liberal is minimal, hence this state of stupidity over registration plates. There’s no clear vision from either party, nor even a distinct ideology. The issue will be whether Victorians can return to Labor after four years and risk more inept management, rampant cost explosions and union chaos with the major infrastructure projects. They were conned into a massive desalination plant because they listened to a climate change scare-monger saying Victoria was in a “permanent drought” and it seems Victorians will now have to live with the worst public transport ticketing system in the world forever that was more than a billion dollars over budget and interminably delayed.

Since the desalination plant was commissioned, the dams began to fill and not one drop of water has been required from the plant. Despite that, Victorians still must pay $1.8m per day for it, for the next 20 years. If you’re a visitor just wanting to make one trip by train in Melbourne, even just one stop, prepare to pay $12 thanks to the ridiculous inefficient and restrictive Myki. Then there’s the worry of the unions, especially the militant CFMEU, of which the Union Man seems to be protecting by his acquiescence.

The memories of Labor are not good. So credit to the Union Man for presenting himself as a viable and passionate alternative. In contrast, Nap Time appears a klutz and, yes, partially asleep. Victoria is the only state currently in surplus and has a AAA credit rating and leads all the other states in most measures, and even has the accolade of Melbourne being the world’s most livable city. On the basics, there should be no reason to change government. Except, in politics, you don’t get rewarded for merely doing your day job. You get rewarded for progress. Fact is, after four years, there’s been little to enthuse the populace. With Nap Time unable to provide the compelling reason himself, and with only a knife-edge majority to protect, that spells doom.

The Vote

Except for Kirner/Kennett election of 1992, in which Labor had to be punished and I voted informally, the Warrior Factor has stuck with Labor. That stance changed just prior to the 2010 election when I swore off Labor forever after I was hit with a massive fine of $156 for the “crime” of riding a bicycle without a helmet. Previously I knew it to be $50, so Labor more than tripled it, and now it’s almost $200 – the same level as a speeding motorist. I voted Liberal in protest, and was proud that Bailed Up bailed up Labor in an upset and won. I still live in fury about this ridiculous nanny state intrusion so can’t betray my oath after one election. I’ll be voting informally for myself in the lower house, or maybe vote for Rip Van Winkle.

The senate is more interesting, especially that neither major party is likely to gain control. We’ve seen at Federal level how minor parties have great influence. Whatever you do, if voting for a minor party, do so below the line and fill in all preferences. There’s too many vote-swapping agreements that your vote one way could ultimately settle on the extreme opposite. For instance, the Greens and PUP have a vote-swapping (rigging) deal. If you vote above the line, stick to a major party. If the intent is for balance, make it the opposite to your lower house vote.

I’ll go the libertarian Liberal Democrats in the upper house as first preference, as I know they’ll act on principle. While they’re unlikely to be activists on things like cycling freedom, no one else is either, and the newly formed Cyclist Party is untrustworthy at this stage. They are mostly interested only in a review of helmet laws – one that was already been done by Queensland. Recommendations were to abolish it for adults. Queensland ignored it, instead preferring to introduce an unenforceable and almost useless 1 metre rule as a trial and jack up fines against cyclists for disobeying laws intended for motor vehicles. No doubt Victoria, who actually led the way on this ultra stupid cyclist/vehicle “equalisation” policy (hence tripling the helmet fine), would follow suit.

Regardless of the result of a government review, a cycling party’s platform should be fervently against any cycling restrictions, with the current ban on helmet optional cycling being at the top of the list. You can’t be pro-cycling and be pro-criminalising the activity. If your heart is set on helmets, there are other ways to promote them than introduce draconian, neo-fascist laws. The problem is, too many helmet zealots conflate advocacy with a law – that repealing a law equates to “I don’t want anyone to wear helmets”. No. It just means your choice otherwise won’t result in a ridiculous fine. With the exception of New Zealand, note that is actually the norm everywhere else in the world.

Given the history of cycling lobby groups in this country – of which nearly all have sold out against the everyday cyclist – the Cycling Party needs a much stronger stance. They’ll get a preference, after the Sex Party, who are libertarian on personal issues, and will get my second preference. They are dangerously socialist about wider issues, like the Federation, in which they want the states abolished. Interesting that you are running for a state seat! Ironically, the push should be for greater states’ rights and reverse the over-reach by the federal government that’s made this election campaign so insipid.

Since Labor almost certainly will take control of the lower house, Liberals will get my fourth preference in the senate and therefore, ostensibly, final preference. It’s the one practical vote I will make ahead of all the conscionable votes.

“The State Of Stupidity” should be the registration plate slogan. Whichever dopey one ultimately does make it, shun this stupid propaganda by ordering a slimline plate. Not enough room for even the state of stupidity to fit a slogan there.

Resources

Ridiculous stink over the East West Link

Australia the arse end of the world for cycling

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