Having a plan to make a difference
I live in the safe Labor seat of Ivanhoe and, unlike the socialist foot soldiers who’ve descended on neighbouring Preston, nobody’s tried to doorknock my place, even though I am home most days and evenings. I did see the Liberal candidate, Monica Clark, in my street on a supervised walk-around, but maybe, after my side-eye glare as I pulled up to the kerb, she figured talking to me would be a waste of time.
What I have noticed though, is that many candidates, particularly from the major parties, are reluctant to put their party affiliation on the ubiquitous core flute posters. Instead, they rely on anodyne, ultimately meaningless slogans. Everybody is “Making a Difference”, or “Has a plan,” what they don’t tell us is what kind of difference will they make, or what their plan is supposed to achieve.
There was one exception I saw in the bayside suburb of St Kilda in the Albert Park electorate. There, the local Liberal candidate, Andrew Bond, has a plan to make the streets safer. He even managed to get a few lines of specific policy onto his roadside banner. He will install more street lighting and “engage with the community”. I only hope this guy gets a licensed electrician to install the new street lights at busy intersections because he doesn’t look fit enough to climb a light pole. No doubt it will make the street girls and the cruise-by punters on Carlisle street feel much safer knowing there’s enough light to record their movements and car number plates. Maybe he’ll wait and engage with local residents first; they might just tell him his plan sucks and he can save himself the bother of having to traipse around Elsternwick in a hi-viz vest carrying a ladder and a box of LED light fittings.
I’ve seen very few core flutes on my travels around the suburbs of Melbourne, but if the sheer number of posters and door-knocking volunteers is a guide to winners and losers then the Victorian Socialists’ candidate Stephen Jolly should easily win an upper house seat in the Northern Metropolitan division of the Legislative Council.
Unusually, the Victorian upper house has multimember electorates (divisions) and so there are five seats up for grabs in each electorate. The race in Metro North division – like most upper house contests – is likely to result in status quo in terms of the first four seats decided and the fifth seat is predicted to be a contest between Stephen Jolly and the incumbent, Fiona Patten of Reason (formerly the Sex Party). It is impossible to know how this will go because ten other minor party candidates are also running, and so preference swap deals could be crucial to the final outcome.
As it stands, Jolly and his team of enthusiastic young volunteers have been campaigning across a huge area of Melbourne that starts in the trendy inner northern suburb of Northcote, extends through the extensive migrant belt around Coburg and then out to the recently-settled northwest where farmland has been replaced with vast dormitory suburbs, many of which didn’t exist at the last election in 2014. The Victorian Socialists have had hundreds of volunteers out canvassing votes every weekend for at least the last six weeks and they’re confident of having about a thousand people on polling day to cover the 106 voting places across the electorate. On the other hand, Fiona Patten has a high profile, she is the incumbent and she is more palatable to the liberal media than a real socialist.
Every promise kept and a free set of steak knives
Now that the campaign is nearly over, the party promises have also become more niche, even approaching the level of ludicrous. The Liberal-National coalition has promised to give low-income households free televisions and cheap fridges if they upgrade to more energy-efficient models; but at the same time, Matthew Guy has promised to build a big new shiny (and presumably “clean”) coal or gas-fired power station to guarantee the generation of electricity to hospitals and schools. I wrote about energy policy a couple of weeks ago and most experts agree the COALition plan is backward-looking.
For its part, Labor has made the sensible promise to supply free sanitary products in the state’s schools.
Of course, there are some bigger issues in play too and some other candidates with plans that haven’t been going exactly according to plan.