James Allan

Ted Baillieu’s general uselessness

So we learn that Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu and his government are tanking in the polls. A year ago 52% of those asked were satisfied with Ted’s performance, but now it is only 31%.  And this precipitous decline is happening at a time when Coalition state governments enjoy commanding leads in the polls in other states. Ted’s, meanwhile, is now behind, 45 to 55 on the two-party-preferred count.

Is anyone surprised? And I ask that as someone who is a small government, right-of-centre person himself. You see, were I living in Victoria I would spoil my ballot before I voted for this Baillieu government. I cannot think of a single thing it has done that wouldn’t have been done by a Labor government. Not one. On the other hand we right-of-centre crowd can think of all sorts of things it hasn’t done.

One of the missing pieces of information in this latest Newspoll about Victoria is that there was no breakdown of Baillieu’s performance from voters who "usually vote Coalition" and "usually vote Labor" categories. You see, I think a lot of the former can’t stand the sort of government Ted has run in Victoria. It’s a bit like what I think happened when Malcolm Turnbull led the Coalition nationally. His views and policies and outlook were so non-Coalition-like that it was his side of politics which really disliked him. (The ABC and Labor people are the ones who love Malcolm; it’s just that they will never vote for him.) Ted is worse. He manages to make Turnbull almost look like a conservative, which is no mean feat.

To call this Victorian Baillieu regime a “do nothing government” is too kind to lay-about koalas. Simply put, every once in a while Ted does do something. He does something that a Labor Premier would do.

Remember when the awful Victorian Charter of Rights was being reviewed by the Parliamentary Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee (SARC) a year ago. And the majority of that committee, meaning every single Coalition member on SARC, opted to take the judges out of rights-related disputes, in effect to gut their awful statutory bill of rights.

The reading down provision (s. 32) should go, said the Coalition SARC members. And the same for all the other democracy-enervating provisions. Meantime, all SARC’s Labor members wanted to keep the awful status quo with its puffed-up judges.

And what was Ted Baillieu’s response to this SARC report in March of this year? He sided with the Labor members, against his own MPs, on every single important Charter of Rights issue. At the time I said it was a disgrace. In retrospect it was worse than a disgrace. He even seemed to strong-arm the Attorney-General Robert Clark into performing an embarrassing U-turn of Damascene proportions.

Of course I suppose Ted might have calculated that catering to the views of chardonnay-sipping inner city lawyers, who predominantly vote Labor, might see them switch their vote to him. You know, maybe Julian Burnside’s vote really is in play if only the Victorian government can find enough ways to make him happy, or some such thinking.

Well, if so, this recent Newspoll has put paid to that sort of thinking, which let’s face it was never remotely persuasive anyway.

I’m a bit old-fashioned about politics. I can rub along just fine with people who have very different views to me on just about every issue going. But I think that you go into politics to try to do something, to implement what you see as laws that will make things better. Not everyone will agree with you, and those that don’t vote against you. But you try and sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don’t.

But to go into politics to be a mere placeholder until your opponents can next get back into office seems a wholly worthless thing to me.   What’s the point, other than a nice pension and a maybe a few board positions afterwards?

Yes, politics is partly about appealing to centrist voters. But it’s also about implementing a few things that your side of politics cares about, not taking their votes for granted. Ted Baillieu strikes me as a Premier who has spent his time in office doing little more than taking Coalition voters for granted. Good luck with that long-term.

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