Down to business: a study in contrasts

I’m not the world’s biggest drinker. So last Thursday night after a chat with a PT industry insider over 2 pints and a pot, I was feeling a bit tipsy as I headed home.

Waiting at Flinders Street for a train home, I encountered one of the Spring Street state press gallery’s Finest and Brightest, and we had a chat on the platform then on the train for a few stops. Hopefully not too many words were slurred on my part.

Daniel Andrews at Bentleigh station during the 2014 Victorian election campaign

The two conversations had some overlap, and something I thought was interesting was this:

The Andrews government has wasted no time in getting on with things. There are plenty of announcements of new initiatives coming through.

In fact in one week in February, they went ballistic in the public transport portfolio, announcing a level crossing removal authority (Sunday), start of metro rail tunnel works (Monday), the Murray Basin Rail Project (Tuesday), and upgrades to Flinders Street Station (Wednesday).

In contrast, the perception was the Baillieu government was treading water for about a year after their election. Lots of existing programmes went for review (in the public transport space, Myki and Regional Rail Link), and parts of government froze up while they sorted out what they were doing.

Trust me when I say Ted Baillieu is a very nice bloke, and eventually they did get going and did things, but it was a slow start.

Could it be that Andrews was more ready; that he’d done his time as a minister previously, and had spent time in opposition preparing more thoroughly for winning? Perhaps Baillieu didn’t quite expect to win? (It was, after all, a very close thing.)

Could it be the length of time each side had been out of office? Labor was only out for 4 years; the Coalition for 11 — perhaps they were a little rusty?

Perhaps it’s that Andrews, having seen what happened to the Baillieu/Napthine government and their removal from office after just one term, is determined to make the most of his time in office?

Nobody wants to be a One Term Wonder. I’m sure it’ll be at the forefront of Coalition thinking the next time they’re in office.

One term governments are a new reality in Australia: Victoria and Queensland have both done it. Who’ll be next? Perhaps the shorter news cycles and the quick dissemination of news via Twitter and other social media means the entire political cycle is compressed into a shorter time now? Do people have less patience?

I don’t know. But it’s an interesting contrast, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one watching progress in the next few years.

The #EWLink billion dollar booby trap

The previously secret East West Link “side letter”, offering compensation even if the contract was deemed invalid, seems to underscore just how desperate the State Coalition was to build the road — despite it being a project that:

Here’s an excerpt from the document, which perhaps surprisingly, was released by the Coalition themselves yesterday:

East West Link side letter

It’s a bit like a contractual version of Pauline Hanson’s assassination video: Fellow Victorians, if you are seeing this now, it means East West Link has been killed.

Obviously it was designed to ensure the project went ahead, even if the Coalition was voted out, and Labor tried to cancel it. A billion dollar booby trap.

East West Link: eastern section, western gateway in Royal Park

I think this is far worse than simply signing a bad contract. It goes much further, by offering a kind of insurance against its later cancellation (which, as a reminder, happens regularly).

This is veering into the territory of… how do I put this? It’s lacking respect for the electorate so much that you would force your decision onto them, even if they specifically voted against it. Remember, numerous people from Tony Abbott down declared the November 2014 election a referendum on the project.

This kind of letter says “We want this built. We don’t have a mandate for it, but we don’t care what you think. And if you vote us out, we’re going to try and force the other side to build it anyway.”

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…