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.

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6 Replies to “Down to business: a study in contrasts”

  1. Another reason for the increased chance of one term governments is that fewer voters are as rusted on to each of the major parties than before, so it can lead to greater volatility in support.

    As a general observation, globally and domestically uncertain economic times since the Global Financial Crisis have made governing and retaining office more challenging for both major parties.

    For factors specific to the last Victorian election, without getting too bogged down about the relative merits/policies of each of the parties:
    – Baillieu had a majority of only 2 seats, so there was no room for error when facing re-election.
    – There was an impression of chaos caused by Geoff Shaw leaving the party, and forcing the government into minority and triggering Baillieu’s resignation. Steve Bracks, when governing in minority in 1999-2002 didn’t have to contend with backbench indiscipline.
    – The Liberal government had a federal government of the same party, which all else being equal drags down the state vote: http://kevinbonham.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/what-kills-state-governments-age-or.html That the federal government wasn’t particularly popular in Victoria according to the opinion polls exacerbated this.
    – Labor generally kept its discipline in opposition, for which Andrews can take some credit. So when the government was looking vulnerable he was able to take advantage.
    – Given that several seats that switched from Liberal to Labor were along the Frankston train line, quite probably public transport (and maybe East-West link) issues had a role. In a tight election it need not have been an overwhelming factor to made enough of a difference.
    – Since around 1980, Labor has become much more successful in Victoria than in period prior, with state Labor holding power about 2/3 of the time since then, and at a federal level frequently returning 2 party preferred majorities.

  2. Yeah, I think you’re right. the previous mob were a bit rusty and forgot that you need to be seen doing something.
    To be cynical, a couple of your examples of “getting on with things” involve the new Government setting up an authority (not really much of an achievement) and “fast-tracking $5 million” for the Murray Basin (gee, that will go a long way!).
    But I agree with your assessment. Hope the Andrews government can keep it up

  3. All of those “could it be” are correct, to some extent.

    Also, we’ve become somewhat accustomed to “radical” so-called conservatives who want to stir things up, there is another aspect to conservatives which basically comes down to “do as little as possible”.

  4. Yes to pretty much everything in this post.

    Sad when people get Federal and State branches of a party so confused as is often the case.

    Ted Baileu was ‘too much of a gentleman’ without any grunt, and his whole time at the top was a time of no activity whatsoever. On the other side, when he was replaced with Natphine, Natphine got up and did a hell of a lot more once he took over. Sadly for his party, Natphine did not have the time of a whole term to do what was needed. If he had been leader in the whole term, then things may have been different???

    I am greatly impressed with Dan Andrews in the speed in which he is taking the bull by the horns and having total control over such.

    Only yesterday, I had a kind of farewell ride on some Z class trams. The rust in some of them was very bad. If Andrews does not do something in respect to a massive order of E class trams, then there is one hell of rusty bit of shit to hit his political fan.

  5. I read that Labor had a committee, led by Steve Bracks (might have been Brumby), who developed strategy and action plan for taking office. The committee was made up of people in the party who were not part of the campaigning to win the election so could concentrate on WHAT to do once (if) they took power. I thought that made a lot of sense at the time I read it.

    Contrast that with Tony Abbott and the LNP and that first budget. They obviously spent so much effort getting into power that they had not bothered to workshop any of those policies.

  6. seems like the last few elections have been won by a narrow margin resulting in governments that can do little without deals win independents or their hands are tied.
    Is it better to have a larger majority so the government can govern even if I don’t agree with the decisions or have it do almost nothing because they don’t have the majority?

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