VICTORIANS cast their votes tomorrow on who is best to govern the state.
Herald Sun Editorial November 26 2010
They must decide whether to stay with a Labor Government, or vote for change by electing the Coalition.
Labor has been in power for the past 11 years and faces its first real challenge to its majority from a resurgent Coalition under Liberal leader Ted Baillieu and Nationals leader Peter Ryan.
Will people punish Labor for the mistakes that inevitably accompany long-term governments?
Will they opt instead for an Opposition that has successfully pointed to Labor's failures, but fallen short in presenting a compelling case for change?
The answer is that voters will decide with difficulty when election booths open tomorrow.
The choice between the major parties is that there is little choice.
The decades of difference between Labor and Coalition parties in Victoria has seen them morph into what is often a mirror image of each other.
The same might be said of their leaders. Premier John Brumby and Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu are personable and effective leaders without the charisma or captivating vision that might allow voters to swing decisively in their favour.
Neither is a Henry Bolte or a John Cain, who led Liberal and Labor under the proud banners of party ideology.
Mr Brumby and Mr Baillieu can sometimes be seen as interchangeable, as leaders of either party, which might also be said of their policies.
Each is a centrist. They were in the same class at Melbourne Grammar. But class differences have disappeared from politics. These men are essentially managers and who better to deliver the services on which state elections are decided. The services that people depend on: health, education, public transport,
law and order, are foremost in people's minds. What about me and my family?
Mr Brumby runs government as he might run a business. He is capable. The Government is effective.
The Premier has been quick to react when services have broken down. He has improved rail services. But as with the trains there is still a long way to go to persuade passengers they will get them to and from work on time.
An ageing population needs and demands greater healthcare, and Labor and the Coalition promise more beds and reduced waiting lists.
In education, Mr Brumby's plan for year 9 school camps teaching self-reliance and life skills has been well received.
But big projects have hurt Labor. The myki transport ticketing system is still experiencing glitches, three years late and more than $1 billion over budget. The Brumby Government will suffer at the ballot box as a result.
The desalination plant at Wonthaggi will eventually cost Victorians a staggering $5.7 billion for water we may not need.
Mr Baillieu would have built more dams.
Governments are more likely to be judged on what they have done while oppositions can only make promises about what they will deliver.
But what neither Government nor Opposition has been able to share with voters is their vision for Victoria.
Where do we go from here is a bigger question than the issues that have been raised in this campaign.
Mr Brumby and Mr Baillieu acknowledge the need to accommodate at least another million people.
They are already arriving in Australia's fastest-growing state. We have seen the empty paddocks outside Melbourne where they will supposedly live. But will the necessary services be there when they are needed?
Labor is standing on its record of managing what is unquestionably Australia's best-governed state. After 11 years it requires Victorians to look at Labor's record in other states.
Labor in NSW is not Labor in Victoria, but it does show the policy drift, and the bureaucratic breakdown and even the corruption that besets long-term governments.
Labor in Victoria is demonstrably free of such scandals.
But can a party in government for 11 years continue to rejuvenate and -- when necessary -- reinvent itself?
Where are its great ideas but, more to the point, where are Mr Baillieu's?
And what of the people behind him who would fill his government's front benches?
Mr Baillieu would appear to stand very much alone. Jeff Kennett as the Liberals' last premier had Alan Stockdale,
now federal party president, as his treasurer.
Mr Baillieu's treasurer in waiting, Kim Wells, is indeed his shadow treasurer. His only statement in the last week of this campaign appears to be a refusal to have the Coalition's costings audited by Treasury.
Where, too, are the ministers Victorians would see on the front bench of a Coalition government?
Mr Ryan is running hard and effectively in the regions where Labor is afraid of a bush backlash.
But the Coalition needs another 13 seats to win government, which many believe is a bridge too far.
THE Greens have proved a distraction. Had Mr Baillieu and the Coalition parties decided to give their preferences to the Greens, what is a knife-edge election could have produced a hung Parliament.
Behind the politics are still the major issues. Victorians fear rising household costs. Electricity prices are soaring, and will rise further if Mr Brumby cuts back generation at Hazelwood and other coal-fired power stations in the Latrobe Valley in an attempt to show his Green credentials.
This must only add to people's power bills, and without explaining how the energy shortfall will be met. At least Mr Baillieu says he will keep the plant open until there is a better plan.
But back and forth, policy and counter-policy, is there a difference and what of your vote tomorrow?
We find the case for change is not compelling. The Brumby Government can be trusted to continue to govern well. But it needs the shake-up of at least a scare at the polls.
The Coalition, too, can be trusted to govern with the welfare of Victorians as its priority.
But has the Coalition done enough? No.
Has the Coalition pinned too much on voter anger with Labor to get it over the line? Yes.
It is a close run thing and, without any great conviction,
The Herald Sun endorses the re-election of John Brumby and the Labor Government for a record fourth term.