Newspoll: 57-43 to Labor in Victoria

As if to refute any notion that polling disasters for the New South Wales and Queensland government can be put down to the electoral cycle, the latest Victorian state Newspoll finds the decade-old Labor government going from strength to strength. Labor’s two-party lead is at 57-43, compared with 56-44 two months ago and 54.4-45.6 at the November 2006 election. Its primary vote is 43 per cent, exactly where it was both two months and three years ago; the Liberals are down three points to 32 per cent, with the Nationals picking up one point of the slack by lifting to 3 per cent. The Greens are up three to 15 per cent, the same as in Queensland. Such results should surely spell mortal peril for Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu, but respondents have thrown him a bone with a seven point lift in his approval rating to 42 per cent, and a five point cut in disapproval to 38 per cent. Premier John Brumby’s approval is up three points to 49 per cent, but his disapproval is also up one to 39 per cent; his lead as preferred premier has gone from 51-24 to 52-27.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

83 comments on “Newspoll: 57-43 to Labor in Victoria”

  1. Labor’s doing well in Victoria is no surprise. Even the efforts of the Institute of Public Affairs to destroy all the state and territory Labor governments are not going well despite their oft-repeated ideo-illogical mantras of squandered GST rivers of gold windfall bonanzas on doing nothing looking after their union mates, etc. etc. Such efforts are reported in The Australian, but they are no more than poemes, designed to sink into the subconscious as the figures do not support them. I have made a detailed study of one such paper.

    The IPA paper, State finances at the crossroads: The states’ budget problem, and what to do about it, fails to make its case. It starts by ascribing some significance to the fact that the states’ actual revenue and expenditure were more than the states had forecast at some unstated earlier time. “So what!” would be the immediate answer, but that might need some explanation for those not so quick on the uptake. It chooses 2000-01 as its starting year, thus ensuring it begins its comparisons after the unjustified cuts of the Victorian Liberals and who knows what cuts by Liberals in other states and just as the Labor Government was setting out to rebuild Victoria and other Labor Governments were building services in other states. It chooses unusual mathematical comparisons such as the percentage state debt is of Commonwealth debt rather than something useful such as state debt as a percentage of GDP. It uses nominal figures rather than making adjustments for CPI or AWE increases and usually ignores population growth, thus exaggerating growth in revenue and expenditure.

    In the period before the 1992 election, the IPA set up Project Victoria to pave the way for the undermining of public services in the state. This set the agenda for the Liberal Government elected in 1992 and led to the most destructive period in my lifetime as that government tore up once legally enforceable contracts, slashed government services and ran a campaign of intimidation and demonisation of employees such as teachers. That report used a similar stance to the current one, so it is clear why we are seeing a rerun of the 1990s.

  2. (2) Figure 1and Table 1 omit all the financial years from 2001-02 to 2006-07 (page 5). The figures are apparently nominal, not adjusted by the CPI to indicate their real value. The effect of using nominal figures with a seven-year gap between them is to ignore seven years of inflation and thus make the change in borrowing much bigger than it actually was.

    State debt is stated to rise from 22 per cent to 40 per cent of Commonwealth borrowing but no reasoning is given to explain why this estimate is even relevant. The real value of state borrowing and state borrowing as a percentage of GDP would be more relevant and meaningful. Nor is any argument presented to show that the starting point of state borrowing is the right amount. It may be that low state borrowing has been a drag on the economy because it has stopped necessary infrastructure improvements.

    There are no figures given to substantiate the claim that “state and territory governments rapidly reduced their surpluses during the height of the recent economic boom” (page 6).

    The paper gives examples of specific tax increases, not the overall increase in the tax burden on a meaningful basis, such as a percentage of GSP in each state (page 7).

    The case that the states are “big-spending” (page 8) has not been made at all.

    The paper claims a major “revenue growth”, then switches to figures for actual “taxation” revenue increase, ignoring other sources of state revenue (page 8). It then chooses the states with the highest increases, which unsurprisingly happen to be the mining boom states of WA and Queensland. It makes no allowance for economic growth, the CPI or AWE.

    The paper reveals that its calculation of its “windfall” revenues is based on the earliest estimates of future revenue, the estimate furthest away from the year being estimated and thus the one least likely to be accurate.

    The paper claims the sates have had “excess taxation revenues” (page 10) as if this has been proved, but all that has been established thus far is that revenue exceeded estimates. In the next paragraph, the merely asserted “excessive” has transmuted into “windfall”, the repetition of which throughout the paper ads to the impression that it is somehow unjustified.

    The paper states that Australia’s property taxes are 9 percent of total taxation compared with the OECD’s 6 per cent of total taxation (page 11). This may do no more than indicate that other taxes are on average higher in the OECD in real terms than in Australia and thus say nothing important about property taxes.

    The paper says that property taxes have risen as a percentage of “state own taxation revenue”, which is not surprising as the states had abolished some of their own state taxes in return for the GST and property prices have boomed, indicating that the growth in property taxes has not been an obstacle to the growth in the value of property.

    The paper says that the GST has provided a “windfall” of $10 billion over the compensation threshold (page 12), which is not surprising given the growth in the economy.

    The paper claims that some states have not abolished some of the taxes they agreed to abolish in return for the GST but does not list any of these taxes. Some taxes were to be reviewed, but only four were to be abolished. Here is the relevant part of the GST agreement (Reform_of_comm-state_financial_relations.rtf):
    ‘The States and Territories will cease to apply the taxes referred to in Appendix A from the dates outlined below and will not reintroduce them or similar taxes in the future.
    · Bed taxes, from 1 July 2000;
    · Financial Institutions Duty, from 1 July 2001;
    · Stamp duties on quoted marketable securities from 1 July 2001;
    · Debits tax by 1 July 2005, subject to review by the Ministerial Council…’

  3. (3) The paper states that the smaller states tended to have the smallest increase in Commonwealth payments (page 14), which is hardly surprising given that they are the smaller states.

    The paper claims that Victoria’s and NSW’s revenue windfalls, not the mining boom elsewhere, explain those states’ relatively lower rate of economic growth (page 16). This seems an oversimplification of the drivers of economic growth.

    The paper claims there has been a “substantial growth in the number of public sector employees, and increases in their salaries…drove inflationary pressures…” (page 17). It ignores the previous cuts to public sector employee numbers by governments such as the one Victoria suffered from 1992 to 1999 and population growth.

    It quotes rates of growth in state expenditure, but it makes no adjustment for the CPI, economic growth, the increase in AWE over the same period or previous cuts to salaries and conditions of public sector employees. Again, it uses the actual versus forecast method of concluding that an increase in dollars is somehow untoward when economic growth is the obvious explanation.

    The paper claims that the growth in the Victorian public sector is “significant” (page 18), but it is not as the base year is just after the cuts to staffing by the previous Liberal Government, the government that the IPA provided the agenda for, something it is attempting again with its current paper.

    The paper provides a graph (Figure 7, page 19) showing the number of public sector employees in 2001 and 2008, but does not explain whether it is using FTE figures or absolute numbers that would take no account of full-time employees going part-time.

    The paper claims an average employee entitlement expenses growth of 8.3 per cent (page 20), but ignores the following factors: AWE growth, CPI growth, population growth, the extent to which any real improvements were no more than the restoration or partial restoration of previous declines in pay and conditions.

    The paper claims that the growth in state government public sector employee expenses was “almost twice the windfall the sates received from their own taxes”, which is hardly surprising given the abolition of state taxes in return for the GST, while the claim that this illustrates “the states’ failure to contain their own public sector wage costs” does not follow logically at all.

  4. (4) The paper claims that “teacher unions have also looked upon state governments as booty to be expropriated” (page 21) ignores the long-term decline in teacher pay and illustrates the way in which the IPA chooses a period that suit sits argument and does not look at longer time frames which show how false its position is.

    The long-term cuts to teacher pay over the last third of a century have been huge. Below is a calculation done at the start of 2008:

    ‘Australian male average weekly ordinary time earnings were $1180.00 ($61,570 pa) in November last year (ABS 6302.0, November 2007).

    ‘In 1975, a Victorian beginning teacher was paid 118.8 percent of MAOTE (The Secondary Teacher, No. 4, May, 1981). That equates to $73,145. A beginning teacher started this year on $46,127 – a relative cut of $27,018 or 36.9 per cent. To put it another way, a first-year-out teacher needs a salary increase of 58.6 per cent to restore the relative value of that salary to what it was 33 years ago.

    ‘In 1975, after seven years a teacher reached the top of the scale and was paid 166.6 per cent. That would be $102,575 at the start of this year, compared with an actual $57,775 – a relative cut of $44,800 or 43.7 per cent. To put it another way, an eighth-year-out teacher needs a 77.5 per cent salary increase to restore the relative value of that salary to what it was 33 years ago.

    ‘The new top level for most teachers, which now takes eleven years to reach, paid $65,414 – a relative cut of $37,161 or 36.22 per cent. To put it another way, a twelfth-year-out teacher needs a 68.5 per cent salary increase to restore the relative value to that of an eighth-year-out teacher 33 years ago.

    ‘In 1975, a senior teacher was paid 189.8 per cent. That would be $116,859 for the highest paid leading teacher today, who was actually paid $78,675 at the start of this year – a relative cut of $38,184 or 32.7 per cent. To put it another way, a leading teacher needs a salary increase of 48.5 per cent to restore the relative value of the senior teacher’s salary to what it was 33 years ago.

    ‘There was only one level of senior teacher pay in 1975. There are six levels for leading teachers and the lowest of these is $68,362 – a relative pay cut of $48,497.

    ‘The decline in principal salaries is similar but much more complicated because they are on salary packages with ranges and bands.

    ‘In 1975, a principal in the largest schools was paid 252.1 per cent. That would be $155,217 at the start of this year. The actuarially determined nominal employer contribution to superannuation was about 21 per cent of salary, giving a total salary package of $187,812 at the start of this year, compared with an actual salary package of $140,876 – a relative salary package cut of $46,936 or 25.1 per cent. To put it another way, the highest paid principal needs a salary increase of 33.3 per cent to restore the relative value of the principal salary to what it was 33 years ago.

    ‘A WA teacher in 1975 was paid 176.8 per cent of Australian average ordinary time earnings (calculated from Andrew Leigh’s MP comparison table, using May salary and preceding December MAOTE). That would be $108,855 today.’

    In addition, the Victorian superannuation scheme used to provide an actuarily
    calculated nominal 21 per cent in employer superannuation, compared with 9 per cent today. The cuts to teacher pay have been substantial, so the $10,000 increase to teachers on the top of the scale last year represents only one third of the previous third of a century cut, while teachers on most subdivisions got only 4.9 per cent after an 18-month pay freeze.

  5. (5) The use of terms like “booty” and “expropriated” in regard to teachers is a rerun of the IPA’s and others’ nasty anti-teacher campaign last time round:

    ‘…teacher unions have “captured” the operation of education services in regard to staffing and working conditions so that the education system has become unduly teacher-driven.’ (Institute of Public Affairs, Schooling Victorians, 1992)
    ‘There is extensive over-staffing of teachers, inefficient work practices and “union” capture of education expenditure.” (IPA, Schooling Victorians, 1992)
    ‘The schools are simply a racket and a rort for teachers who use it as a fully salaried system of outdoor relief.’ (Peter Ryan, “Teachers fail to get the point”, The Age, 1/8/1992)
    ‘Socialist Left ideology…is nicely entrenched throughout the state education administrative system, thanks to a continuing infiltration of the faithful throughout the Cain/Kirner years.’ (Michael Barnard, ‘Labor could not learn”, The Age, 28/8/1992)
    ‘The perks and privileges of this cosseted profession were absolutely sacrosanct.” (“A lesson in anarchy”, Herald Sun (editorial), 19/11/1992)
    ‘Schools…appear to be run more for the benefit and convenience of their employees than for their users.’ (Claude Forell, “A reckoning unions had to have”, The Age, 25/11/1992)
    ‘The Kennett Government is pledged to a course that promises to break the debilitating union stranglehold…” (Michael Barnard, “Teachers in a state of intellectual undress”, The Age, 27/11/1992)
    ‘A strong moral case for the present Government unilaterally renouncing all agreements entered into by the previous Government with its employees can be made on the grounds that they were not arms-length agreements.’ (Professor Ross Parish, “Let the Public Service pay towards cutting the ranks”, The Age, 11/12/1992)
    ‘Mr Kennett…set out to break the power of the education unions which had been running then system…’ (“A hundred high speed days” (editorial), Herald Sun, 11/1/1993)
    ‘The present system has allowed education to become captive of its bureaucracies and powerful lobbies.’ (“A testing year in education” (editorial), The Age, 25/1/1993)
    ‘Money for schools was channelled into creating more jobs and better conditions for teachers.’ (“School lessons in economic necessity” (editorial), The Age, 27/1/1993)
    ‘The emergency teacher system…had not existed before 1980…’ (Don Hayward, quoted in Denis Muller, “Schools already feel bite of education cuts”, The Age, 1/3/1993) [As a school daily organiser, I knew this was untrue because I had employed emergency teachers without restriction in 1978.]
    ‘Money which could have been saved by reduced teacher numbers has been used to improve teachers’ working conditions…the education budget has been allowed to become unnecessarily bloated…Throwing more money at a problem, by itself, can never be guaranteed to achieve the desired result.’ (Kevin Donnelly, “Why we’re inefficient”, Herald Sun, 3/5/1993
    ‘That structure is prone to “capture” at the centre and the extremities by organised interest groups such as teacher unions…(page 9, Vo. 2, Report of the Victorian Commission of Audit, 1993)
    ‘The powerful public sector unions were permitted by default to run…education…’ (“Jim Kennan scratches”, Herald Sun (editorial), 29/6/1993)
    ‘…during the 1980s, the union movement “captured” the operation of the public sector. This led to considerable over-staffing and restrictive work practices…’ (Des Moore, “Why government needs to be rolled back”, The Age, 5/7/1993)
    ‘…cosy deals with teacher unions…wasteful school work practices.…It is understandable that some union officials who rode the Labor gravy train are resistant to reform.’ (Alan Stockdale, “Education’s future depends on savings”, The Age, 22/9/1993)
    ‘Unions have focused on industrial relations to build up a cosy bracket of work practices rather than concentrate on professional standards.’ (Don Hayward, quoted in Felicity Dargan, “100 schools to go”, Herald Sun, 30/9/1993)

    The fact that teacher pay has fallen so dramatically for so long shows the paper’s revival of the “provider capture” nonsense in claim that “in the government sector employers and employees have a common interest – viz. to seek more and more resources form taxpayers” is false.

    The paper claims that there is a “free-flowing transfer of funds to middle- and upper-class bureaucrats”, but the example it gave was not of bureaucrats, but of teachers, who are far from “upper class”.

    The paper states that employee expenses have increased as a percentage of gross operating expenses, which may indicate no more than the restoration of some of the cuts of previous Liberal Governments.

    The paper claims that it is “clear that the states and territories received a flow of revenues that was much more than they needed” (page 22), but nowhere has the paper argued on the basis of need. It has used strangely chosen mathematical comparisons.

    The paper claims that the states are moving from surpluses to deficits (Figure 10, page 23), which is hardly surprising as the country is moving from solid growth to a contraction.

    The paper states that “spending growth” began to outstrip “revenue” (page 24), but the graph (Figure 11) actually shows a year-by-year change in revenue and expenditure by percentage, when actual figures in a table would have been more informative of the true position.

    The paper then claims that the states “continued to pump money out of their treasuries to favoured interest groups”, a rerun of the public sector bashing which the IPA loves.

    The paper quotes an economist who says that taxpayers are not organised to beat the efforts of beneficiaries of government funding (page 25), yet those same taxpayers want the services that the government funds.

    The paper states large growth in health and education expenditure (page 26) without noting the following factors – the CPI, AWE, economic growth, the ageing of the population, the use of more high-tech medicine.

    The paper states that a “dramatic increase’ in education spending has not caused “dramatic performance improvements”, which ignores the fact that children usually spend 13 years at school and are thus not going to change dramatically in a short period. It also ignores the chaos and damage done in Victoria between 1992 and 199, which could not be undone in a short time.

    The paper claims that there has been a huge increase in spending in education and a marked reduction in pupil-teacher ratios (page 28), but it chooses a short time frame again. The Victorian secondary pupil-teacher ratio was 10.9:1 in 1981, 10.8:1 in 1992, 12.6:1 in 1999 and 11.8:1 in 2007. In other words, Labor Government improvements, while making some inroads after the dreadful Liberal cuts of 1992-99, have still not reached the level of staffing under the Thompson Liberal Government of 28 years ago. Long-term salary figures have already been quoted.

    The choice of Finland, South Korea and Taiwan as the countries below which we fall (page 29) ignores the cultural differences between them and Australia. It also fails to report that Australia remains in the top countries in the world in PISA tests.

  6. (6) The paper wants tax cuts financed by reduction in “wasteful, inefficient areas of government spending” (page 30), but has so far failed to identify any.

    The paper wants more “private sector” involvement (page 29) and legislative or constitutional limits on state taxation and expenditure (page 33). Of course, this is the IPA after all.

    The IPA has not made its case at all. If politicians or the public were to take this paper seriously, we would all be in for a rerun of the short-sighted 1990s and yet again have to await a government that understood the importance of the public sector in providing opportunity for all.

  7. Well, that’s one IPA paper dealt with. There is another, but I won’t go into the same detail. Suffice to say, it chooses the time period that suits its case and ignores economic growth, population growth and inflation to make the same unconvincing argument it has been making for decades.

    The Victorian government is far from perfect, but it is competent, and it has made life in this state better over the last decade. I’ll leave the detail till later. Liberals in Opposition tend to seek a messiah, but there ain’t one.

  8. I hope Chris feels better having got that out of his system.

    I must say I find 57-43 a bit hard to credit. Brumby’s doing pretty well, but I’m not sure he’s in bigger-than-2002-landslide territory. There are a number of hotspots (particularly public transport) that have been plaguing him, and it will be interesting to see what happens if there are more heat-related problems this summer.

    Or maybe Ted really is just a dud. Laying some serious blows on a ten year old government shouldn’t be that difficult.

  9. [There are a number of hotspots (particularly public transport) that have been plaguing him, and it will be interesting to see what happens if there are more heat-related problems this summer.]

    But remember how Brumby pulled the state together after the Bushfires, people remember that, but if there is a repeat of last year with worse effects, then that may will make a difference.

  10. It’s interesting that Labor isn’t in a significantly different position compared to the last election.

    Labor 43.1 vs 43 now.

    Whereas the Coalition is down from 39.6 to 35.

    Now we get to get argue about whether all those voters jumped straight to The Greens (Frank) or most of it was through Labor (most rational people).

  11. [Now we get to get argue about whether all those voters jumped straight to The Greens (Frank) or most of it was through Labor (most rational people).]

    It depends, the doctors wives etc to the Greens, everyone else ALP 🙂

  12. [Labor and Coalition voters were more likely than Green voters to think the Federal Government is doing the right thing in discouraging peoplesmuggling
    and turning back the boats (72% Labor, 69% Liberal v 51% Green).]

    That’s very interesting. Labor voters are to the right of Liberal voters. I wonder if those figures would be the same if Howard was the PM rather than Rudd. 😉

  13. MDMConnell (9 at 4.09 pm),

    I do feel better for having got that out of my system. I have been waiting for ages to get it published somewhere.

    I think that what we have seen in Victoria over the last 10 years is now being played out in the Commonwealth level. I won’t expand on that here, but I think it is worth reflecting on a bit of Victorian history that is behind Labor’s current high level of support here.

    It has long been my thesis that there has been a profound misreading of Australia’s post-war political culture. The argument is not in fact about the last few years but the last 57, 1952 being Labor’s then best performance in Victoria since its formation. The key to the profound misreading is the Split, whose effects gave the Coalition parties a dominance in government that was not truly reflective of Australia’s social values. To put it another way, had there been no Split, Labor would have been in government a lot more often than it was. The correct reading of the 1955-77 period is that two parties of the left, the Australian Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party, split the socially progressive vote, allowing the Coalition to win on preferences, preferences it would never have got had the left-wing controllers of the ALP not expelled a number of their anti-communist members in 1955. The existence of the DLP in its home state of Victoria actually preserved a Labor vote outside the clutches of the Liberal Party, a vote which in many cases returned to the ALP after the DLP disbanded in 1978.

    I won’t go into any more detail here, as I have developed this further at “Australia leans centre left—for now” on Meganomics
    http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/meganomics/index.php/theaustralian/comments/australia_leans_centre_left_for_now/

    The 1980s Labor government was a successful reformist government, but things went badly wrong in the 1990s, leading to the Liberal victory of 1999. Prior to that victory, the IPA had through Project Victoria set out the economic rationalist agenda that the Liberal government was to follow. In following this agenda, the Liberals and the Nationals set themselves up for defeat later on.

    I will focus on education because that was my field. I saw and experienced the IPA agenda from the inside and was so appalled by it that I joined that I resolved to work to have that government removed from office, which I did.

    That whole period was so depressing for those of us who cared about education. I remember one morning driving to school listening to Don Hayward, the education minister, stating on the wireless that the government would not be closing any schools. Minutes later, in the morning briefing, the principal of my school read out the list off schools that the government was closing in the Northern Metropolitan region. The Liberals ran rings around the press.

    The Liberals were responsible for:
    Under-funding of school maintenance,
    Running a campaign of denigration against the teaching profession,
    Using retrospective legislation to get out of legally enforceable contracts with the teaching profession,
    Dumping almost 9,000 needed teachers,
    Reducing the number of full-time teaching positions by 6,78,
    Worsening the primary PTR from 15.8:1 in 1992 to 17.2:1 in 1999,
    Worsening the secondary PTR from 10.8:1 in 1992 to 12.6:1 in 1999,
    Increasing class sizes,
    Increasing teaching loads,
    Abolishing the time allowance pool,
    Reducing elective choice,
    Officially introducing outcomes-based education – not bad in itself in my view but very bad in the view of some who now blame Labor for it,
    Abolishing history and geography in favour of the mess of SOSE,
    Reducing the number of marks required to get an A in VCE English tasks between 1994 and 1996,
    Putting large numbers of teachers on short-term contracts,
    Putting principals on contracts to facilitate their supporting the Liberal attack on their colleagues in the classroom,
    Removing teacher input from principal selection,
    Changing principal section panels so that it was no longer required that the majority of members be local or that the majority have educational qualifications,
    Increasing the power of principals to bully and victimise their staffs,
    Introducing limited tenure promotion positions and bonuses for sycophants as command and control devices,
    Introducing performance plans, annual reviews and all the mad jargon of the business world,
    Bogging schools down in charters, triennial reviews, data-fests and the like,
    Discriminating against teachers and other department employees on School Councils,
    Destroying the advantages of economies of scale inherent in a system by making schools spend thousands of person-hours creating their own versions of key selection criteria, etc.,
    Producing a ministerial order purporting to ban teachers from speaking out about education.
    There was no cleaning up – none. Even on academic standards, which you might believe the Liberals were serious about, they did nothing. The only point I can give them is that they made VCE marking more precise. I literally cannot think of another thing they did in education that deserved any praise.

    Eventually, all this slashing and burning got too much and Victorians very narrowly gave Labor a knife-edge victory in 1999. For the next 10 years, the Liberals kept fighting, not even the 1999 election, but the 1992 one – a bit like Paul Keating who still thinks he might beat John Howard in 1996. Labor’s continued success in Victoria is partly explained by its achievements in government and partly by the failure of the Liberals and their supporters to understand what happened and what is still happening.

  14. “Prior to that victory, the IPA had through Project Victoria set out the economic rationalist agenda that the Liberal government was to follow”

    You can’t take these things in a vacuum. The Liberals were basically forced into the “economic rationalist” policies becase Labor effectively bankrupted the state. Undoubtedly Kennett went in much harder than he could have, but to portray his policies as solely an ideological exercise is misleading. The state finances were in chaos, something pretty drastic needed to be done. The public largely acknowledged this, as Kennett was re-elected easily in 1996, after the worst of the cuts and changes.

    I do agree that Kennett should have taken a much softer line after 1996, when it was clear the state/national/world economy was turning around. His refusal to do so plus his own arrogant style got him booted out, and the Liberals have never really gotten over it. Had he won in 1999, benign economic times could well have seen the Liberal government survive until now.

  15. Prior to the bushfires of February 7, the ALP were just starting to go ‘on the nose’ – especially on public transport, water and to some extent on health. After February 7, the bushfires dominated the whole news cycle, and then Tim Holding got lost, and came out of it looking prettey good as well. The Libs gave bipartisan support but there was nowhere to go. There is still a year to go but the Libs have got to get more traction – there are various planning issues and whiffs of planning wrongdoing but nothing yet that can go anywhere. The Nats seem to do a better job going after the government than the Libs do – there have been reports that the sadow cabinet has gone on strike – and the Greens are very quiet considering there a lot of transport, planning and quality of life issues they can pursue – but why do they have this silly ‘non leader’ model? The Brumby government are also very good managers of the news cycle – all good, nothing bad….

    Unlike NSW and QLD, there are no systemic problems with Health, and Education you just don’t hear about. There may be some criticisms out of the Fires Royal Commission but it is unlikely to bring anybody down.

    Maybe there is just not enough scrutiny by the media – take the ABC for one – only Jon Faine (8:30 – midday) takes the pollies to task – and he does. Drive time is just froth and bubble – the times are gone when Virginia Trioli would get stuck into a politican at 5:30pm. As for The Age – if ever there was a newspaper that was dying on its feet it is it – editorial getting thinner by the day and the tone getting shriller by the day – I don’t think anyone outside Zone 1 reads it anymore – and the votes are to be won in Zone 2 and the outer commuter belt.

    If I recall the Libs have still got a lot of swing to go – so it may be 2014 – they still have a year to go but they don’t look good ….

  16. It has to be remembered that the Libs got slaughtered in 1999 in the regions – two seats in Ballarat, Ripon in Central Victoria, Geelong, Seymour, Narracan as well as those areas cheesed off by being tolled on the Tullamarine Freeway – Tullamarine and Gisborne. As well, they had lost two seats in byelections – Mitcham and West Gippsland – where Liberal MPs had spat the dummy – and which they probably would not have lost if those members had retired at the 1999 election.

    I don’t think the Libs would still be there if they had won – but they may have been there for another term or two.

    I think also, that the press (the ABC and The Age in particular) were much harder on Jeff Kennett than they have been on the ALP when it has come to similar issues such as planning or gambling.

  17. True, Mitcham would have been retained, as presumably Davies would have re-stood as Labor candidate and not Independent in G.W.

    I don’t think the Tulla Freeway had anything to do with it. Gisborne just followed the pattern of other central Victorian seats, and Tullamarine was a natural Labor seat anyway.

  18. bob1234 (10 at 4.14pm),

    I am not kidding, though I will not post as much detail on Labor’s achievements as I did on the IPA’s report.

    Of course, the recitation of facts and figures is only part of the debate. People’s perceptions come from their own experiences. One example will suffice. I was the timetabler and acting vice principal of Whittlesea College in 1992, the year the Kennett Government was elected. We had 71.4 teachers for 881 students. By 1995, that government had cut the number of teachers to 61.9, while the number of students had increased to 888. A gain of seven students meant the loss of 9.5 teachers. This situation was repeated throughout the state. The task Labor had in 1999 was not just to rebuild public services but also to do so across the state so that the individual could experience what the figures said.

    Labor’s greatest reform as the introduction and constitutional entrenchment of proportional representation to the Legislative Council making it more democratic than at any previous time in our history. Then there is the constitutional entrenchment of the auditor-general, making all governments more accountable. We have fantastic new resources such as the new Austin Mercy Hospital and the new Royal Women’s Hospital. We have had a tripling of expenditure on fire-fighting. There are fast trains and new roads.

    Below are the steps taken by the Labor Government of Victoria – to improve the situation in education after the truly dreadful years of 1992-99:
    Employing an additional 5,193 teachers between 1999 and 2006,
    Improving the primary PTR from 17.2:1 in 1999 to 15.7:1 in 2007,
    Staffing primary schools to allow a maximum class size of 21 pupils in prep to grade 2,
    Cutting the average primary school class from 25.4 to 22.4 (2007),
    Cutting the average prep class from 23.2 to 19.4,
    Cutting the number of primary classes with more than 30 students by 96 percentage points, from 4.6 per cent of all classes to 0.2 per cent,
    Improving the secondary PTR from 12.6:1 in 1999 to 11.8:1 in 2007,
    Generally limiting high school classes to 25 students,
    Cutting the average secondary English class from 22.7 to 21.6,
    Cutting the average year 12 class from 21.0 to 19.7,
    Reducing secondary teaching loads (marginally),
    Setting up the Victorian Institute of Teaching,
    Restoring teacher representation to principal selection panels,
    Ensuring that principal selection panels once again have a majority of members with educational qualifications on them,
    Providing VCAL as an alternative to VCE,
    Dumping SOSE and restoring history and geography as traditional disciplines within the humanities,
    Lifting the ban on teachers speaking out on education,
    Instituting a high-standard reporting system across the state that provides parents with specific information on much their children have progressed each year,
    Investing $3 billion in capital spending on schools,
    Committing to rebuild every school in the state,
    Making Victorian graduate teachers at those at the top of the scale the best paid in the country in order to attract and retain talent,
    Moving away from the previous government’s failed marketisation of education to an understanding that education is better run as a system in which the government takes responsibility for all schools and does not leave some to fade and die, an attitude which shows a disgraceful disregard for the children in them.

    It is this record of achievement when seen at the local level that resonates with the voters. Thus, when I take the dogs for a walk, we can go past the new CFA station, the new primary school and the new police station. People throughout the state see the same things. This is why the particular poemes the Liberals and their supporters have chosen to attack Labor with simply do not work.

  19. Yes, and Labor could do this because Kennett left the economy in a much better state in which he found it.

    You’re taking things in a vacuum again. I’ve no doubt Labor has done some good stuff, but only because the money has been available to fund it. If Labor had inherited a 1992-like mess, I seriously doubt many things on your list above would have happened.

  20. With the Greens, I saw a change in attitude since 2006 where some wanted all campaigns to be run or at least authorised by the state MP’s. This slows everything down, and keeps them snowed under.

    They were not structurally ready. They are ready now though.

  21. Chris Curtis:

    No amount of bloated commentary is going to conceal the fact that your beloved ALP nearly bankrupted the state due to their incompetence in the 1980s / 1990s. The Liberals ran a tight fiscal ship not becaus they enjoyed it, but because they had to.

    Brushing aside the 2-3 decades of Liberal rule in Victoria as merely something to do with Labor’s split is not entirely accurate and suggests your tendency (like many others here) to see our country’s history from the Labor prism (ironic because other than over-hyped Sainted Hawke / Keating years they really haven’t got much to boast about). You overlook the fact that given our optional perferential system, voters had the choice of directing their preferences right back to the ALP – much like today’s Greens voters. You also overlook the fact that given Labor’s tendancy to collapse on itself (ie NSW and QLD) the Libs would have had plenty of opportunities to govern.

    On another note, this poll is an absolute disaster for the Victorian Liberal wing. If they had a skerric of intelligence and talent they’d dump their utterly useless leader. Seriously, Ballieu has to be one of the worst opposition leaders in this country’s history. What a terrible indictment on that lot for insisting that he remain.

  22. poll does not shock me for the mood out there in voterland is rather benign.

    I would be surprised if the Government increased it majority. It seems like ages since there was a protest rally up Bourke Street!

  23. Patrick

    [ The Liberals ran a tight fiscal ship not becaus they enjoyed it, but because they had to.]

    Tosh. Kennett et al relished slashing the public service, going after teachers and nurses and (eventually) the police. That’s why he didn’t start winding it all back after Victoria had achieved a triple A rating again and the excuse wore too thin.

    The very fact that it only took a few years of slashing, burning and selling the silverware before Victoria was ‘out of the crisis’ said to the Average Joe that we could have got out of the crisis with less pain if we’d done it a little slower.

  24. #30

    I think in principle the decision to take drastic but short-term action was preferable to having the belt-tightening dragged out over many years. Victoria was in terrible shape financially, and would have stagnated badly if the recovery had taken a decade due to a softly-softly approach. In that respect Kennett was right, and given his landslide win in 1996, the Average Joe seemed to support that.

    As I said above, I do agree though that his unwillingness to start winding back, and his enormous arrogance, tarnished his second term and left him vulnerable to the sorts of accusations you raised.

  25. 25

    I would add Brunswick as a genuine possibility. It has a demographic shift that has benefited the Greens and swung to the Greens significantly in 2006 when there was not a general swing to the Greens on.

  26. The last ten years of Labor government in Victoria have been driven by an extraordinary level of financial prudence because they knew (and still know) what a hash was made by Cain and Kirner. They left a state in economic and demogarphic decline – do you keep schools open and teachers employed when there are few kids coming in? Kennett laid the foundations for the current economic well being. Victoria in 1991 was one mighty sad place.

  27. blackburnseph,

    I’m sure you Libs will still be pining for Kennett in another ten years. Like Howard Federally, Kennett is gone and won’t be coming back. All this retrospective caterwauling doesn’t address the fundamental problem the Libs have at the minute. And, that is they are an unelectable rabble.

  28. MDMConnell (18 at 6.21pm and 23 at 7.02pm, on 2/11),

    I agree that “something” needed to be done in 1992, but I do not agree with the “something” that was done. It is also the case that ideology motivated the government’s actions, as can be seen by the quotations I supplied attacking teachers. The argument was not that the state had to temporarily tighten its belt but that teachers were a pampered privileged elite who through “provider capture” were making the education system work for their own benefit, total garbage, still repeated in the pages of The Australian and by the IPA today. The figures also show that the state easily afforded higher teacher pay and good PTRs in the 1970s when it was in fact much poorer than it was even in the dire 1990s.

    The Labor government did inherit sound state finances, but that does not take away the credit for what it did with them, and it illustrates the reason that Liberals are not making much headway against the government. If things are going well, why change the party in power?

    Unfortunately, the Liberal reaction to Labor’s 1999 victory was based on its being a mistake which would lead to disaster: the foolish voters had wanted to fire a warning shot across the bows of the Liberal government, not actually remove it from office, but now the sky would fall in, civilisation would end as a shambles took over, the voters would realise their error and restore the rightful rulers. Thus we saw comments such as the following in the press straight after the election:

    “For once in my life I am embarrassed to be a Victorian. The results of the election are a slap in the face for Victorian progress.
    “As a collective, we have shown that we are fools…”
    (Justin Davoren, “Did we think before we voted?, The Age, 22/9/1999)

    “Any claim that Labor’s new policies were the main influence can be minimised because the community was provided with little meaningful debate or in-depth analysis…”
    (Murray Gillin, “…or was it just empty ‘bites’?”, The Age, 22/9/1999)

    “Steve Bracks,…I’m worried because like most Victoirans, I know nothing about you, your policies, your agenda, or your team…”
    (Tim Allen, “But is Bracks’ team up to it?, The Age, 22/9/1999)

    “Having cast my protest vote, there is one thought that I can hardly bear – the real possibility of Victorians facing another period of stagnation, red tape and incompetence that Labor served us with in the past. We seem to have forgotten that last Saturday.”
    (Rui Guimaraes, “Election 2000”, The Age, 22/9/1999)

    “Congratulations Victoria, you wanted to register a Jeff protest, but I am afraid it has backfire. We have no clear majority and the likelihood of an inept, stagnant and ill-prepared Labor Government…”
    (Frank McLinden, “Election 2000”, The Age, 22/9/1999)

    “It will be interesting to know how many people who voted for Labor as a protest against Jeff Kennett took time to study its election manifesto and policies, and the implications that would follow the election of a Labor government….
    “Big government spending, an increase in an unproductive public service and unfunded promises are just some aspects that have the elements for a decline in the economic and financial sectors – the very elements that led the state to bankruptcy…”
    (K. P. McIntyre, “But did they think before voting?”, The Age, 23/9/1999)

    “Labor may still be drunk with joy at having snotted Jeff Kennett, but it must now sober up to its frightening problems.
    “ It may not have the team it needs to run government.
    “Instead, Labor’s Shadow Cabinet is thin and overwhelmed by former teachers, union officials and advisers to the disastrous Kirner Labor government….
    (“Labor’s team thin on the ground”, Herald Sun, 23/9/1999)

    “However, those who did not like all that, and wished to return to trams banked up in the city for days, unions running the state, high unemployment and incredible debt, can cheer up.
    “If Labor gets back you will not have long to wait, and I read that Steve Bracks was an adviser to the Cain/Kirner governments”
    ((Mrs) B. J. Harris, “Envied by other states”, Herald Sun, 24/9/1999)

    “Jeff Kennett, remember the sterling job that Churchill did during World War II? How did the electorate show their appreciation? They elected a Labor government in 1946, but one term of Atley’s (sic) Government and Churchill was returned with a sound majority. Abide your time, Mr Kennett, just remember you’re a lot younger than Churchill.”
    (Pam Sswirski, “Election 2000”, The Age, 25/9/1999)

    “Yes, there is a lesson to be learnt from the liberals’ failure last weekend…
    “They need to stop assuming voters understand that government is actually a multi-billion dollar organisation run by many people…
    “The Liberals need to stop assuming that the voters care that the Labor Party is short of vision, direction or indeed has anything other than a few low-order objectives based on being anti-Jeff rather than positive or visionary…
    “..the Liberals focused on positives – vision backed up with real actions and real results – and lost ground! “…This is a sad time for people who really thought Victoria was the best place in the world.”
    (Jon Langevad, “How to win – whinge and whine”, The Age, 25/9/1999)

    “OH, how quick we are to forget! A premier who devoted himself totally to turning arpund a bankrupt, deprived, depressing rust bucket of a state, into a vibrant, dynamic, fourishing Victoria, so quickly turned on by those who benefited so much….
    “No, Jeff and his team most certainly didn’t get what they deserved. We did. Gridlock, government paralysis, the end of “Victoria – on the move”. How ungrateful….
    “Maybe we should change the car number plate slogan to “Victoria – in hibernation”!
    (A. Koppel, “How quickly we forget”, Herald Sun, 27/9/1999)

    “It seems that Victorians can’t bear to have both a premier and state that are the envy of the rest of Australia…
    “Victorians have had hardship before, and we have copped with it. We will doubtless have hardship again (under a Labor Government)…”
    ((Mrs) Jennifer Crighton, “Give Jeff full credit”, Herald Sun, 28/9/1999)

    “Victoria on the move, no more. I think all Victorians should bow their heads in shame at the weekend’s events.
    “There was once a man named Jesus…
    “Now Victorians have turned their backs on their own saviour…
    “…Forgive them Jeff, for they know not what they do.”
    (Mark Varamo, “Lessons of past ignored”, Herald Sun, 28/9/1999)

    “Walk the streets of Melbourne and Victoria over the past few years and you could feel the buzz, the pride and the confidence of a beautiful and exciting city and state on the move.
    “Walking the streets and talking to people in the past week, you are overwhelmed by the sombreness gripping a community that must come to terms with a potentially crippling period of limbo, or the realisation that we could quite possibly have a Labor-led government.
    “It’s very much like the aftermath of a big party. The state has partied for the past seven years, but I guess while under the influence, a lot of people did a very stupid thing and we’re just sobering up to the reality of what the mistake could mean…
    (Joe Sultana, “Hangover from poll”, Herald Sun, 29/9/1999)

    “It was obvious that the Age wanted the election to be close. It is obvious that Victorias now suffers from a watery mandate dilemma, where a foul brackish tint has polluted a previously prosperous and decisive glass of government.”
    (Paul Thomas Derham, “Election 2000”, The Age, 2/10/1999)

    “Strikes, recession, turmoils and pain. Here we go again.”
    (Ben Clissold, “Here we go again”, Herald Sun, 20/10/1999)

    “The selection of a minority Labor Government with the support of the so-called independents is a black day for Victoria.
    “The Liberal Government made mistakes, but Monday’s announcement signals a return to the dark ages of economic and industrial vandalism.
    “Labor forever thinks that money grows on trees. We will now have a government led by a gaggle of unionists and teachers who could not run a chook raffle.
    “We have been saddled unintentionally with this situation and hopefully will not have to wait long for a return to responsible government by a more chastened liberal Party.”
    (R. Gardner, “independents, don’t forget your electorates:, Herald Sun, 20/10/1999)

    “The fact that Labor was thrown out in fury in 1992 due to massive economic mismanagement has been forgotten by the amnesiac Victorian electorate…
    “When you force fools to vote, they “know not what they are doing”….
    P. Young, “State of amnesia”, Herald Sun, 20/10/1999)

    “Victoria has gone from having the best government in Australia to the worst, and it took only 30 says (and three misguided “independents”) to achieve.”
    (Jod Allat, “Slide to oblivion”, The Age, 20/10/1999)

    “Dear Victorians, what short memories you have. You’ll be sorry you ever voted for Labor when they (yet again) plunge this state into financial ruin a la Cain/Kirner.”
    (Loretta Hocking, “Election 2000”, The Age, 22/10/1999)

    There are more, but I think I have made the point. These shrieks of despair proved to be nonsense, and we had Labor landslides in 2002 and 2006. Strangely, the same despairing sorts of letters greeted those two victories also (as they did the national Labor victory in 2007).

  29. Chris! supporters of both sides always carry on when there side loses an election! for exsample many ALP voters called Australians salfesh, greedy, uncaring for voting for Howard in 2001/2004.

    But when the same voters voted for the ALP in 2007 and overwhelmely supported the stimulas package i don’t recall the ALP supporters name calling the Australian voters.

  30. * I have no doubt that Kennett was pleased that necessity coincided with his personal ideology, in the same way many Big Government types are happy the GFC has given them an excuse to call for more government spending, control and regulation. That he made dramatic cuts for (in your opinion) the wrong reasons doesn’t necessarily mean the dramatic cuts themselves were ‘wrong’ economically.

    * If I’ve read you correctly, you seem to be particularly concerned about education. If you’re suggesting that education should have been ‘spared’ from the worst of the cuts, that’s fine….but every sector (health, transport, etc) would argue that.

    * I agree that Labor has done a pretty good job (with some exceptions like transport) in good economic times, and believe that this is the primary reason for their continued electoral success (i.e. not Liberals ‘seeking the Messiah’ or anything). The government’s not stuffing up too much, so people don’t kick them out.

    * I think the 1999 result was a ‘mistake’ in the sense that people wanted to give Jeff an almighty kick up the arse, but didn’t expect him to be thrown out of office. Labor didn’t present very well in Opposition, so I can understand the feelings of the letters above. However, people quickly realised that Labor wasn’t that bad after all, and changed their minds appropriately.

  31. Huge result for the Greens, almost guaranteed two lower house members and control of the upper house. These numbers also make interesting reading when we get to the preference debacle which is always the Vic Greens. They may be able to get away with it on these numbers as they will have members elected on straight primaries.
    Should guarantee De Natale in the Senate.
    Interesting that there has been no movement in the Green vote that could be linked to the Asylum thingo whilst the Vic growth could well reflect growing digust over the State ALP’s handlling of the ‘Coal for Cash’ contraversy,(among many issues) the absence of any credible opposition and the debacle which is the COAlition in VIC.
    These results show why the ALP should start accepting that the best thing taht ever happened to them was the Greens, they are going to prop up ALP governments all over Aust, (Just like the DLP) for many years.

  32. Barking! I suspect the rise in the Green vote in Victoria is people unhappy with the ALP but because the Liberals are so poor at the moment the only real option is the Greens.

    Even i see them as a better choice than the Liberals!

  33. 39

    Most of the people who swing between the ALP and the Greens would never vote Liberal and think that the ALP currently is too right-wing.

  34. Barking,

    Getting a little het up are you not.

    On these figures, Labor increases its majority.

    An increase in Greens vote does not necessarily mean that the Greens vote is increasing in the alleged enclaves that you and your skanky brethren inhabit. It may indicate that you are picking up Liberal votes in non Greens traditional areas.

    This poll result is a terrific vote for Labor.

  35. Tom! are we to really believe that people who once voted Liberal but had swung to the ALP would not if they become unhappy with the ALP and found the Liberals unelectable they might go to the Greens.

  36. 42

    There would be a few people like that but people who consider voting Liberal tend to dislike actions the ALP for the opposite reasons to the ones that those who consider voting Green.

  37. Tom! I disagree with you for some 23% of voters are swinging voters now if some of this 23% had previously strung towards the ALP helping to create its large TPP result of the past two terms. if some of that group now no longer like the ALP but are not happy with the Liberal Party then of course they could go to the Greens.

    for all the differences between the two major parties the some of what they agree on massivly outways that they disagree on.

    I think the Greens just hate to admit that some former Liberal people actually vote for them afterall they like to paint all Liberals as rednecks and Hicks which of course is far from the reality.

  38. I can’t remember having said that I don’t like the fact that there are a range of people, including conservatives who are now tending to the Greens. They are, of course the minority. Clearly the majority are the swingers who would have tended to vote ALP. The growth of the conservative ‘Green’ vote does, however, have a profound effect on the Greens thinking. The next two elections present a real issue re preferrences. Giving prefs to the ALP like lap dogs only enhances the opinion that the Greens are hopelessly stuck on the left rather than more of a progressive party. Add to this the issues around dodgy donations for decisions issue, and the Peter Bachelor Coal deal raises real issues. How can it be solved. Clearly a split ticket allows the type of attack seen last time. However, the open ticket, aggressively sold as a recognition that voters are now much more aware of their second preference goes a long way to establish the greater sense of independance. I would further argue that the 20-30% of Green voters who put the conservatives second would welcome such a move and if this proportion increased it could reflect one of two things. Either they were confused and stuffed up thier preference, or, more likely, the overall Green vote has increased with a braoder vote base.
    However, the important thing for the Greens is their ‘floor’ seem to be consolidating at these higher levels. The rest, pure speculation.

  39. Patrick Fogarty (26 at 7,25 pm on 22/11),

    The Liberals did enjoy running “a tight fiscal ship”, as can be seen from the disgracefully untrue comments they made about teachers as they did it. It is also the case that they did many things that had no financial implications but that furthered an ideological agenda; e.g., the discrimination against parents who were also teachers in school council elections.

    Labor actually has a lot to boast about, but it is not up to it to do the boasting of course. Even the much-criticised Cain government was a positive for Victoria. Had there not be a recession in the early 1990s, it would not have found itself in the difficulties it did.

    Victoria does not have an optional preferential system. It has a compulsory preferential system. Most DLP voters did not take the option of directing preferences back to the ALP because they accepted the advice of the party not to do so, that being the strategy to get the ALP to reform itself. The voters who preferenced the Liberals were not Liberal supporters and in many case returned to the ALP once the DLP disbanded.

    blackburnpseph (33 at 11.26 pm on 2/11)),

    If you read my figures you will se that the Liberals did not simply remove teachers because enrolments fall. They dramatically cut the PTRs for both primary and secondary schools.

    Te argument for closing schools was basically that they were 12 kilometres closer together in Victoria than in NSW. This closeness here had something to do with the sizes of the two states.

  40. MDMConnell (37 at 8.42pm on 22/11),

    I dispute how drastic things were in 1992:

    http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/jacktheinsider/index.php/theaustralian/comments/hijacking_history_in_the_blogosphere/P375/

    But whether the Liberals were right or wrong in 1992-99 is not central to my argument, which is that the Labor governments of Steve Bracks and John Brumby have been attacked from day one on a basis that is at odds with the facts as experienced by the majority of voters. They are still being attacked on this basis. They read on the Andrew Bolt Forum that the Labor government has done nothing but raise taxes and squander the GST and then they, with their pockets full, see their children’s brand new school. The attacks don’t match the facts.

  41. mexicanbeemer (36 at 12.48pm on 23/11),

    You are right. I cringed just as much when I read the legions of Howard haters spewing their bile year-in, year-out, shrieking every day “We have been SILENCED”. Any party that attacks the voters for voting the other way obviously doesn’t want them to come back. The parties themselves don’t do it. It’s the extreme supporters who do so, and by doing so they help keep their own side out.

  42. MDMConnell (37 at 12.34 pm, 23/11),

    * Your first point is perfectly logical, though I do not concede the economic necessity for the harshness of the cuts or the ideological basis for them and the rest that was done.

    * I say more about education because I know more about it. I do know that other areas suffered badly too. My argument is not that education should have been exempted. In brief, I think taxes should have been increased to the NSW level to maintain services.

    * I agree. I also think that the mess in public transport has little electoral impact because almost nobody uses it.

    * I disgree here. I think Labor presented well in Opposition. It had very specific policies (the poeme that it did not is being used – with the same lack of success – against the Rudd government) and the voters endorsed them. I think what happened after the 1999 election is that those uncertain of Labor realised that it was in fact pretty good and felt relieved. The sad thing for the Liberals is that 10 years later, their supporters are still acting as though the state is basket case that has to rescued by a neo-Kennett government.

  43. [The voters who preferenced the Liberals were not Liberal supporters and in many case returned to the ALP once the DLP disbanded.]

    I tend to disagree on that one. I’d go 60/40 or 70/30 to the Liberals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *