Election wrap-up: Counting continues, East West Link, and Pudding!

A few thoughts post-election…

Bentleigh

As I write this, the seat is still too close to call. Counting is continuing, but it would seem we are destined to remain a marginal seat for the next election — in fact some voters reckoned they were deliberately voting to stay marginal.

Elsewhere, some sandbelt (or as I prefer to call them, “Frankston line”) seats are still being counted, though it looks like some of them have swung back to Labor.

Bentleigh, Centre Road

East West Link

A few weeks ago Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared the state election a referendum on the East West Link tollroad.

“This election is about many things, but in the end, it is a referendum on the East West Link. It is a referendum on the plan that this Premier and no one else has, to build a modern 21st century with 21st century infrastructure.”

Some people still don’t grasp that the tollroad was a bad idea for numerous reasons.

  • It wouldn’t solve traffic congestion.
  • It would have entrenched car dependency — which is bad for all sorts of reasons.
  • It would have swallowed billions of dollars in funding — perhaps $18 billion just for stage one.
  • Because it was so expensive, we couldn’t have it as well as big public transport upgrades. Trying to do both would have led to the old “balance” scenario, where all the road projects get up, and public transport gets the crumbs. (Even while the $4 billion Regional Rail Link has been built, which you’d think would skew the balance back towards equal, billions have been spent on motorways, and pseudo-motorway “arterials”.)
  • Even if you could fund everything, building big new roads is still a bad idea. Even if you argue they spark economic growth by enabling mobility of people and goods, the problem is they do so in the least efficient manner possible (and in the case of people, limiting it to those who can drive).
  • As I’ve said before: do we want more traffic? Or do we want more people using public transport? The one we want is where the investment should go.

Foremost in not grasping these concepts is the PM himself. It’s hardly surprising; in transport policy as in so many other areas, he’s a dinosaur.

Having declared the election to be a referendum on East West Link, he has now put out a statement saying he wants it to happen anyway:

“He (Denis Napthine) restored the fiscal position of the state and embarked on a major infrastructure programme to get Victoria moving. I share his commitment to the East West Link and I am determined to do what I can to ensure this vital national infrastructure project proceeds to completion.”

And to cap it off, when he had his first phone conversation with Premier-elect Daniel Andrews, he suggested building it anyway, despite Andrews’ pledge not to!

I suspect Abbott simply doesn’t understand why people would not want a massive new road. He still thinks they’re the “roads of the 21st century“.

I’d like to think that in our big cities, voters are increasingly aware that cars a not a mass transit solution.

Credit to Daniel Andrews for refusing the offer to break his pledge, and indeed deciding to release all the East West Link paperwork (including cabinet-in-confidence papers). It should make for some interesting reading.

State election 2014: Transport referendum

Pudding

My son Jeremy’s Pudding video got noticed by The Age… By Monday morning it had over 14,000 views.

On Monday, The Age updated its story with an audio interview with me, describing what inspired the video. Then it got picked up by news.com.au, and then shown (including to Mr Andrews) on The Project (about 26 minutes in). As I write this, it’s at 28,000 views.

I know Daniel Andrews has a sense of humour… hopefully he sees the funny side of this.

So how did it happen?

Jeremy had been looking at an ALP campaign video on Youtube, and played it to Isaac (who is of voting age), who misheard, and wondered why there was talk of pudding. Jeremy (too young to vote) took it from there.

Initially Jeremy posted it privately, and only his friends could see it, but M thought (and I agreed) it could get a wider audience on YouTube. It spread after I tweeted it, helped along by my Twitter feed being followed by a number of journalists.

What’s interesting is that both my kids are becoming more politically engaged — a product no doubt of my interest, and the fact that we often watch the evening news together.

The political parties using social media and the internet is helping this, and in fact hopefully the spread of this video has helped more otherwise disengaged people know who our new Premier is.

Election day!

Some photos from election day…

The seat of Bentleigh is marginal, so we’ve been getting a lot of attention.

The booth I usually vote at leans towards the Liberals (or at least did in 2010), so we had Labor politicians galore: local candidate Nick Staikos, along with Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten, and Labor luminary Simon Crean.

Independent candidate Chandra was also present.

Voting in Bentleigh

A mass of How To Vote cards were thrust in my direction. I usually reject them, but this time around I was interested to take a look. Sneakily, a new local souvlaki restaurant slipped their flyer in as well (their people had “Souvlaki party” t-shirts).

Together with the ballot papers, it made for a lot of paperwork.

The decision had to be made who to put last, of course. My rule is usually: racists are worse than nutters, who are worse than those with policies I disagree with.

Voting

Voting done, I looked around the jumble sale, cake stall, and then wandered outside for that most Australian of election traditions, the sausage sizzle.

Election sausage

My kids were rather unimpressed that the Liberals preferenced the Greens after Rise Up Australia. Isaac voted.

Jeremy’s not old enough to vote yet, but will be next time. Meanwhile though, he put together this short video… apparently if elected, Labor will be all about pudding.

Update Sunday with some Tweets from last night as the count progressed…

Where’s the community’s focal point? It’s the railway station.

Two sleeps until the election.

Apart from trying to get citizens out to a public meeting, where in the neighbourhood is the best place to meet as many people you can, face-to-face?

Judging from what the politicians and lobby groups have been up to, it’s the railway station — on weekdays, at least.

I’ve lost count of the number of flyers I’ve been handed at Bentleigh station over the past few months. Undoubtedly it’s due to being in a marginal seat.

Supporter of Labor, and independent candidate Chandra Ojha, handing out flyers at Bentleigh station

Public Transport Not Traffic campaigners (including myself) at Bentleigh station. Campaigner Tony (who worked harder than me that morning) is not pictured; he snapped the photo.

The Greens candidate Sean Mulcahy at Bentleigh station

The political parties and one of the independents, as well as various unions and lobby groups (including one supporting national parks, and also Public Transport Not Traffic) have been prominent at the station in the last few weeks.

Mostly they are in the morning. It’s easier to hand out flyers as you get a steady stream of people, and if the train isn’t imminent, they can stop for a minute to ask questions. In the evening few people want to linger; they’re keen to get home. Plus it’s harder to hand out to scores of people arriving in a burst, followed by minutes of nobody going past.

Chalk one up for the trains. Cleverer people than I might ponder if this helps skew policies. As the Liberals’ fake commuter newspaper shows, it certainly helps influence campaign literature.

You’re certainly unlikely to have a face-to-face encounter with politicians and their supporters while driving your car. Sadly those people who are unable to use trains because suburban connecting buses are so poor will also miss out.

On the weekends the campaigners tend to be elsewhere in the shopping centre, though sometimes at the station. The advantage for them of street shopping centres is I doubt they’d ever get permission from a Westfield or Gandel to set up in Chadstone or Southland.

Of course this week, they’re also at early voting centres, and will be swarming around polling places on Saturday. (The first inkling I had that Bentleigh was at risk of swinging from Labor to Liberal in 2010 was when I heard that then-Premier John Brumby had been seen at a local polling place, Mckinnon Secondary College. On voting day you’re most likely to see the senior pollies in marginal seats.)

I’ve been tracking the various flyers handed to me in person via Twitter at Bentleigh station. Here are a few instances of flyers and local campaigning from the past month or two:

PS. On Monday the PTUA put out its election scorecard. If you’re interested in public transport issues, and they’ll influence your vote, check it out.

Update: After the election…

Online state election advertising

Only a few days until the state election, and the campaign is heating up.

Miller and Staikos signs for the state election 2014

Here’s something interesting I’ve noticed: apart from posting and advertising on Facebook, the Liberals have paid for Google Adwords advertising — that is, links to appear above search results on Google.

They’ve covered the names of a number of Labor candidates in marginal seats, plus their state leader’s name (linking to the more positive “Our Plan” site), and the name of their main opposition party and its leader. They don’t seem to have covered opposition candidates in some marginal seats such as Prahran and Frankston, and nor have they included the Greens.

It’s all interesting stuff. I wonder how many people searching for information on Labor candidates end up clicking through to the Liberals’ “Frankston Line Facts” or “Backwards Under Labor” web sites?

I didn’t spot any evidence that Labor have done the same thing, but they have gone in strong advertising on the mainstream media web sites: this morning the Herald Sun and The Age web sites are covered in ads for them attacking Napthine and Abbott.

An article in Crikey (Paywall) last week suggested that political advertising doesn’t actually work very well, a position also supported by research done in America. Personal interactions such as doorknocking (and I guess handing out flyers) work better.

That can be difficult to organise, but has been happening a lot in the marginal seats this year.

The somewhat antiquated “Electronic media blackout” kicks in from midnight tonight, but only applies to TV and radio. I guess we’ll continue to see online ads right up until, and during, Saturday’s vote.

  • Note that the Libs’ 44% fare increase claim (which is repeated on the Frankston Line Facts site) appears to be more scare-mongering. Apparently in one radio interview some months ago, Daniel Andrews misspoke and suggested Labor would remove zone 2 altogether. Their actual policy is to cap fares at zone 1 rates — the same policy as the Coalition, which is why PTV has felt confident enough to press ahead with it from January. (If zone 2 was completely removed, current zone 2-only trips would go up in price to the higher zone 1 fare — a 44% increase.)

Labor pledges to grade-separate Bentleigh level crossing

As I walked to the station this morning there seemed to be an unusually long tailback of cars approaching the level crossing.

I found a gaggle of reporters at the station, and shortly afterwards state opposition leader Dan(iel) Andrews showed up, with public transport spokesperson Jill Hennessy and local Bentleigh candidate Nick Staikos, to announce Labor will grade separate the Centre Road crossing if elected.

Labor pledges Bentleigh level crossing grade separation

It’s part of Labor’s scheme to remove 50 level crossings over 8 years (two terms). They had announced 40 based on the official ALCAM (Australian Level Crossing Assessment Model) risk ratings, and said they’d announce another 10 in due course… closer to the election.

Evidently the first of those ten is Bentleigh, which is slap bang in a marginal seat, though this doesn’t mean it’s not deserving — in the 2008 ALCAM list (it appears this is the most up-to-date one that has been completed), it sat at number 60. Since then, numerous others in the top 50 have been completed or funded, and there are many more still are in Labor’s first 40 — though I haven’t yet checked if they are all included.

I couldn’t stay for the full press conference (alas, I had a train to catch), but Daniel Andrews said they wouldn’t comment on costings for individual crossings, as they didn’t want to flag to contractors how much they’d be willing to pay. Costings are a hot issue — St Albans has set a record at an estimated $200 million, but some other recent, less complex, crossings have been much much cheaper — for example Middleborough Road (including a new Laburnum station) was $66 million in 2007. And the Springvale and Blackburn crossings completed earlier this year were three for $350 million, or an average of $117 million each — and you’d expect economies of scale to drive prices down if you were doing 50.

I think most locals will welcome this pledge. It’s not just traffic (including buses and cyclists) which is frequently delayed — people walking to and from the station often have to wait… though the programming of the gates sometimes sees long delays for distant approaching trains, and some people lose patience and skip around the gates.

And though it’s not as big a problem as it is at Clayton, it’s not unknown to see emergency vehicles having to wait as well.

Along with other grade separations along the line, it allows more trains to run without impacting local road traffic.

Bentleigh also has a less than stellar record for safety, with a number of fatal accidents over the years — though fewer since the pedestrian gates were upgraded. Here’s an interactive timeline created by Amy Foyster:

But the pledge raises a question: given North Road is funded to be grade separated, would Labor propose to do Mckinnon Road as well? It’s midway between them, only 800 metres from North Road, and 800 metres from Centre Road. Unless all three are done (preferably as one project, to save money and minimise disruptions) the line could resemble a roller coaster, and play havoc with the freight trains, which already have problems getting up the hill northbound into Ormond.

The local Leader newspaper is seeking comment from sitting Liberal member Elizabeth Miller on the crossing. Nothing yet.

Update 18/9/2014: