GREG BAILEY. State Labor Triumphs and Fear Campaigns Wilt

On Monday morning two days after the Victorian state election the ALP had 51 seats, the LNC 24, the Greens 1, other independents 1, with 11 still in doubt, but the outcome of which will not affect the Labor Party’s massive majority.  No doubt there will be considerable speculation as to the causes of this landslide. Even at this early stage we can ask whether it represents a general skepticism about the impression the Murdoch press has been trying to create about the lawless state of Victoria and the corruption of its Labor politicians.

Whilst the three polls conducted just before the election day were unanimous about a slight Labor victory in the lower house, they did not foreshadow such a massive victory as has seemed to have occurred. The Herald-Sun, in particular, was covering the campaign with zest. Both it and The Age had pontificated much over the preceding months about the so-called red-shirts scandal. Here the ALP had used some hundreds of thousands of dollars allocated to office and staff expenses for election campaigning in the 2014 election, which was referred to police for investigation. For the media and the Liberals this was a sign of endemic corruption in the Labor party, even though it is likely other parties had been engaging in the same practice. But this apparently had no effect on the voters at all. It was only of concern to the apparatchiks and some journalists.

Equally, in February and March the Murdoch press and the commercial television stations were making as much noise as they could about so-called African gangs wreaking havoc in the northwestern and southeastern suburbs of Melbourne. There was a racist element in the reporting of the crimes and home invasions, and even such luminaries as Peter Dutton offered the observation that Melbournians were too frightened to venture out at night.

In contrast, the police spokesmen took a very responsible line and played down the likelihood of marauding African gangs. To some extent this must have put a large hole in the campaign by the Liberal party, aided by the Murdoch press and the commercial electronic media, to create the conditions for a long Law and Order campaign that would be one of the fundamental themes in their onward march into government. This fed into the Liberal Party’s slogan of “Get Back in Control.” Yet the general public did not buy it, despite the extravagance of the imagery employed by the media.

Leading up to the campaign Daniel Andrews created a vision of massive infrastructure spending over the next few decades. This would include a ninety kilometer underground ring rail around the outer suburbs of Melbourne, the completion of the North East Link connecting two freeways and a rail link to the airport, plus lesser projects involving building new schools and improving hospitals. This was a vision that would only be completed over time and with the help of commonwealth money, which may not have been forthcoming if the federal government was hostile.

However, and this seems to have been and continues to be a crucial point. When it was elected in November 2014 the Labor government had promised to progressively remove fifty railway level crossings, with the intention of dramatically improving vehicular traffic flow.  To date twenty-eight such crossings have been removed with the train tracks often being raised above ground, allowing cars to travel underneath them. The resulting activity has been highly visible because 1) it has been advertised continuously on television, 2) many people have directly witnessed the construction process, 3) many others have been inconvenienced by having to travel by buses or alternative forms of transport whilst the train line has been altered in order to remove the level crossing. In short, this activity has been directly witnessed and has provided incontrovertible proof that the Andrew’s Labor government will carry through its infrastructure projects and not just spruik them. There is a strong acceptance that what the government says they will do, they will do.

But there is still more. The government has promised to subsidize putting solar panels on 600, 000 homes and has a target to move to fifty percent renewable energy target by 2030. Whilst the Greens have pushed for a much higher percentage, this is nonetheless significant, and has been seen by the average voter as being realistic and desirable. Despite the presence of a strong rump of climate change deniers in the federal LNP government and the Murdoch press, the general public is increasingly accepting the validity of climate science. In addition, the acquisition of solar panels on houses is seen as not only making electricity for the individual householder much cheaper, but also contributing to less carbon in the atmosphere.

It is another question whether this considerable ALP victory–based in part on an acceptance of substantially increased government expenditure funded by debt, with a definite increase in government activity–should be seen as a repudiation of neoliberalism. Most voters would barely recognize what the term neoliberalism means, yet they seem to have become fully aware of the exaggeration of the Murdoch press in its tabloid newspapers and the fear-mongering of the commercial electronic media in relation to specific issues. If this awareness continues it will soon morph into a widespread acceptance of an increased government role in the economy and society generally, and a skepticism of the corporate welfare which is one of the main elements of neoliberalism.

(Thanks to me daughter for alerting me to the positive effects of visible infrastructure)

Dr. Greg Bailey is an Honorary Researcher,College of the Arts,Social Sciences and Commerce, Latrobe University.

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One Response to GREG BAILEY. State Labor Triumphs and Fear Campaigns Wilt

  1. Greg, Mungo and Allan – your views resonate with me. However, as a genuine centrist, you appear wilfully blind to your own extreme spruiking that is the opposite of that demonic Murdoch press. You need some mental bandwidth to recognise ideological zealotry.

    In reality, the Australian population is reacting negatively to neoliberal and Phalangist politics in the extreme way that it reacted to ideological left wing policies that created the debt trap that Australia is currently experiencing. This appears in personal, investor driven, corporate and Government debt. The calvinist ideology of living within your means is long forgotten. I submit that you cannot fail economically provided you save a little in every productive year of your life. This allows you to spend more in good times, yet still maintain some savings. The more prudent are likely to save a higher proportion in better times, while recognizing that leaner times are the norm in the repetitive economic cycle. I prefer never to spend more than was earned in any year, yet recognize that is the luxury of the better off.

    The current Australian population is merely recoiling with contempt to the latest political shenanigans that incorporate the confirmation bias of ideological silos that are currently in power. Murdoch is very pragmatic that the electorate will turn against Bill Shorten. I suspect his suggestion of one term of Labour is wishful thinking. I am very concerned with how much debt my wasteful generation is leaving for my children and maybe longer. The likely Shorten Government will demonstrate how prudent an economic manager it will govern as. Only then will the electorate deliver its judgement. I truly believe it cannot be worse than that of a failed marketing spruiker. However, my ideal of a centrist in the Macron mould is unlikely to eventuate unless Malcolm was to head just sucha party. I would donate 2-5% of my total assets to sucha venture. The issue is how many others would also deny their beneficiaries of their life’s labours?

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