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.

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:

Election wrap-up

So, to summarise… Abbott govt in. But not the Labor bloodbath some expected, which is good — whoever’s in power, a good Opposition is needed to keep them in check.

Somewhat to my surprise, the only Greens lower-house member Adam Bandt is back in, as are some other independents, but the Coalition will have a lower house majority.

Senate still up in the air, but Coalition won’t control it. While I don’t subscribe to the view that the electorate collectively and strategically decides together what we’re all going to do, and votes accordingly, I do suspect a large number of people wanted Labor out but weren’t too keen on the Coalition’s policies.

In Victoria, the Greens senate candidate Janet Rice got in (having known her for years, I can tell you she’s a Good Egg), and it appears the Motoring Enthusiasts party may get a spot as well. It’ll be a few days until we know for sure.

I guess once the Feds throw their $1.5b at East-West, the State will push ahead and build it. Indeed, Premier Napthine is already claiming that somehow the vote is a mandate to build it (even though in Victoria, fewer seats went to the Coalition than to Labor).

And of course the rail tunnel (and other urban rail) is unlikely to progress anytime soon with the $75 million for planning work being withdrawn.

Anyhow, here are some pics from the last few days.

The two PM candidates:
Election 2013: Nerd vs Jock

Snickers gets into the spirit of it:
"Don't vote hungry" - sorry Snickers, a sausage is my preferred voting food.

Campaign. Ridicule policies. Hand out leaflets. Letterbox. But don’t smash windows and pretend it helps.
Smashed window at Andrew Robb's office in Bentleigh

The Libs in Melbourne, adding to the traffic:
The Libs: adding to the traffic in Melbourne #AusVotes

Long queues on Friday for pre-polling in the Bourke Street Mall:
Long queue to vote, Bourke St Mall. #AusVotes

Also spotted in the Mall:
In the Bourke St Mall: "Please don't vote for Tony Abbott." #AusVotes

One reason not to pre-poll: voting day snag… and I discovered I can count accurately from 1 to 97.
Vote [1] Sausage. (I discovered I can count accurately from 1 to 97.)

Was I the only one chuckling at the ABC’s half-baked virtual reality chamber?
I think I pressed the wrong button on the Wii.

The local Telstra Shop may need to revise their answers on the NBN
New answers required

I guess now the bright yellow Clive Palmer billboard at Caulfield will be coming down
Clive Palmer billboard, Caulfield

More party political propaganda disguised as “voting information” #AusVotes

Look, if you’re going to send around party political propaganda, you should at least have the guts to not disguise it as something else. This arrived in the mail yesterday:
Liberal party mail disguised as "Voting information"

…and inside was this:
Liberal party election material

I note that in their brochure, they’re still using the rail icon, despite repeatedly proclaiming that they will not fund urban rail.
Federal Libs still using rail icon, despite refusing to fund rail

This sort of thing is not quite as bad as their data gathering exercise with postal ballots, but still deceptive.

Seems the State Coalition are up to similar tricks, with The Age reporting today that they’re sending out letters in support of the East West road link, paid for by the Liberal Party but without any party markings.

Are the other parties doing it to? I’ve heard Federal Labor had been sending out the postal ballot letters, but haven’t seen any myself.