Morrison dodges Victoria
There’s not much upside for the federal Coalition in the coming state poll
The political fallout from by-elections in Longman and Wentworth has been so heavy that the federal Coalition is surely dreading the Victorian election in four weeks’ time. The contrast was quite evident in the Liberal and Labor campaign launches yesterday, sketched by The Age’s Tony Wright. Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not wanted and hardly mentioned at the Liberals’ launch [$] in Ivanhoe. At the Labor do at Monash University, in a speech that got quite personal, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was very present and played up the connection between state and federal politics, describing the Liberals’ “get back in control” slogan as a message for their out-of-control colleagues in Canberra. So great has been the damage to the Liberal brand over the last few months, nationally, that it will be hard for Morrison to wash his hands of the result, although that could play to his advantage if they pull off an improbable win in what will be a tight contest.
The Liberal launch was crashed by protesters dressed as red lobsters, and Opposition Leader Matthew Guy promised to cut taxes and “make Victoria safe again”, in a nod towards Trumpism. “Jail will mean jail,” said Guy. “We will end the scourge of gangs; they will be jailed. We will stop the ice and heroin-injecting rooms headed for every major suburb and town.” SAD!
Premier Daniel Andrews, meanwhile, announced a $1.4 billion healthcare funding package, and today was spruiking [$] the policy in Wangaratta, from where his late father shuttled back and forth to Melbourne for specialist cancer treatment.
Monash obviously means much to Shorten, who got his arts and law degrees there, and whose mum worked there. “Mum was a teacher,” he recalled yesterday. “She taught in the bush – in Orbost – and in Collingwood and in Balwyn. And then she taught right here at Monash, for many years in the education faculty. In fact, she also studied law here as a mature-age student. It was the same year I started my law course at Clayton. Now, I enjoyed my first year – meanwhile, Mum won the Supreme Court prize. But before all that, my twin brother and I actually went to kindergarten here, while Mum was working.”
Shorten pointed out that Victoria was the fastest-growing economy in the nation. The state gets a mixed report card in the Grattan Institute’s State Orange Book 2018, released today, which rates state and territory economies and policies over the last five years and finds [$], inter alia, that Victoria’s public schools are among the nation’s most poorly funded, receiving just 82 per cent of targeted funding per student last year.
With growth comes growing pains, and in The Conversation today, the Grattan Institute’s John Daley and Jonathan Nolan write about the dangerous fantasy that is taking hold in Australia: that government policy can divert population growth from our bulging capital cities to our needy regions. On Friday, Daley told me that “No state gets straight A’s.” The Victorian government has a good story to tell on health, he says, which is therefore unlikely to be a material issue in the election, because “there’s kind of nothing to fight about”. On the other hand, says Daley, “if you’re the Victorian government you might look at this [report] and see, gee, we need to be doing a bit better on energy, you can understand why people are talking about regional development, and we could be doing better on transport. Then, of course, we’ve got the worst of all possible outcomes, which is both parties conducting an auction talking about transport projects with no proper analysis behind them … pretty much none of them are on the priority list for Infrastructure Victoria, and lots of things that are just aren’t being talked about … It’s the complete opposite of a disciplined process.”
UNSW law dean George Williams writes [$] in The Australian today that Australia’s federation is a dysfunctional relic that should be subject of a royal commission. But it has been easier to see the upside lately, with by-and-large functional state and territory governments providing a hedge, some sense of normalcy, to the hyper-partisan toxicity and division on display at the national level. Premiers and chief ministers occasionally bemoan a relative dearth of media coverage … it is damning to say so, but perhaps their politics is healthier for it.
Certainly state Liberal MPs in Victoria and New South Wales, about to face the people, are feeling weighed down by the federal party. In Victoria, one senior party source told The Australian there was a wide understanding of “brand damage” that federal infighting had inflicted on state branches; in NSW, state MP Peter Phelps had some frank advice on Twitter last week: “The best thing the Fed Libs could do now is deliberately engineer a vote of no confidence in the Reps; go to an early election; get smashed; and stop driving down the vote in NSW and Vic in the lead up to our state elections. PS this is the near universal view of my colleagues.”
since this morning
In a speech at Sydney’s Lowy Institute, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has vowed [$] to increase Australia’s $1.3 billion-a-year investment in the Pacific to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
In Crikey, former Greens senator Scott Ludlam asks [$] whether Australia has reached a tipping point on refugees.
in case you missed it
Today’s Newspoll shows [$] the Coalition trailing Labor 46–54 on the two-party measure, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s approval ratings have dropped into negative territory for the first time.
Independent Kerryn Phelps has accused the Morrison government of breaking commitments to voters during the Wentworth by-election campaign, by giving the impression it would accept NZ’s offer to resettle asylum seekers. “They were offering false hope,” she said of the Coalition. Also in Fairfax Media, columnist Sean Kelly writes that if Scott Morrison wants to get re-elected, he needs to learn to shut up.
Australia’s former prime ministers have claimed nearly half a million dollars in just six months to fly around the country and run their offices, a New Dailyanalysis shows.
In the AFR, Adele Ferguson writes [$] on solutions identified in two submissions – from the Financial Rights Legal Centre and the Greens – to the banking royal commission. They propose extending the Banking Executive Accountability Regime, ending all forms of conflicted remuneration, and professionalising the industry by strengthening licensing, conduct, qualifications and ethics training.
Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?
The political fallout from by-elections in Longman and Wentworth has been so heavy that the federal Coalition is surely dreading the Victorian election in four weeks’ time. The contrast was quite evident in the Liberal and Labor campaign launches yesterday, sketched by The Age’s Tony Wright. Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not wanted and hardly mentioned at the Liberals’ launch [$] in Ivanhoe. At the Labor do at Monash University, in a speech that got quite personal, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was very present and played up the...