Tomorrow, Victorians are very likely to vote out a one-term government for the first time in 60 years – against the advice of the editorial writers in the Australian, the Herald Sun and the Age. The Coalition government has weathered its fair share of crises – the elected premier, Ted Baillieu, resigned last year for reasons that remain unclear – but as far as state governments go, this one has been less offensive than many that have stayed far longer.
The respective campaigns have been uninspiring, and each major party has curiously distanced itself from its own name. Daniel Andrews' Labor Party has played a small-target strategy, except on one major policy: the East West Link, which would connect Melbourne's freeway system to the city's north. The government insists it be built, though against evidence as to its lack of cost-effectiveness Napthine has refused to release any cost-benefit analysis. The Abbott government has not insisted on one either, breaking a pre-election promise to not fund infrastructure projects of this size unless a business case is first made. So Andrews will tear up the already-signed contracts, even though voters now think the road should be built, and in response a petulant Prime Minister will withdraw his promised infrastructure funding should the state vote Labor.
Tony Abbott is political poison for the Victorian Liberals, as Barrie Cassidy and Robert Gottliebsen make clear. But more than that, the Napthine government appears set to become a casualty of a developing trend in Australian (and western) politics, forecast a few years ago by George Megalogenis: voting publics are increasingly fickle with governments that don't articulate a vision beyond managerialism at a time when growing numbers feel disenfranchised by and alienated from parliamentary democracy. Simply returning a budget surplus – which usually involves cutting services – seems insufficient to ensure re-election.
The first day of yesterday's Freedom Summit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders from around the country called for a reassertion of self-determination against top-down interventions by governments (Australian). Particular criticism was levelled at the Abbott government's unilateral funding cuts to Indigenous organisations, including the legal services (Australian), which take place against an unprecedented crisis in rates of imprisonment (ABC).
Tammy Solonec looks at the 2011 closure of Oombulgurri and predicts similar tragedy on a much larger scale if the Western Australian government proceeds with its closure of 150 communities in response to federal funding cuts (Guardian).
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' Indonesia representative, Thomas Vargas, says that Australia is in breach of its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child by detaining children seeking asylum (ABC AM). And more horror stories from Manus Island, with one asylum seeker fearing jail for homosexuality if he reports a rape to authorities, and another forced to pull out his own infected tooth (both Guardian).
And Scott Morrison is under pressure from crossbench Senators to compromise if he wants them to pass legislation allowing for Temporary Protection Visas next week (Fairfax).
Outgoing Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson has slammed selfish "vested interests", including corporate leaders and state governments, for urging lower taxes at the expense of ordinary citizens (AFR).
Speaker Bronwyn Bishop ejected a record 18 MPs – all of them members of the Labor Party – from the House of Representatives yesterday, taking her overall tally to 285 (News). Only five of those have been Coalition MPs.