Campaign launches are used to formally kick-off campaigns, gain media coverage, and are usually supported by subsequent election campaign advertising.
The campaign is split in to two main phases; the phoney campaign when parties are positioning themselves in the lead up to the election and the formal campaign which commences after writs are lodged for the election on 31 October 2006
The phoney campaign – December 2005 to 30 October 2006
Pre-election Government advertising
In April 2006, before the ALP had formally launched its campaign to retain office, the Bracks government was criticised for spending about $9 million on a taxpayer-funded pre-election television advertising blitz promoting its record in the politically sensitive areas of hospitals, police, schools, major projects, the rural economy and programs such as “Our Water Our Future”. Then Opposition leader Robert Doyle stated that “this is using our money to promote Steve Bracks and the Labor Party. Premier Steve Bracks defended the advertisements, stating “the Government has regularly run ads to highlight the work of and recruit new teachers, police and nurses as well as encourage business investment in Victoria”.
Similar allegations have been made against previous State and Federal Liberal governments.
The Nationals then the Liberals launch their campaigns separately
The state leader of the Nationals, Peter Ryan, used his opening address to the Nationals’ annual conference held on 7 April 2006 to “officially” launch his party’s campaign. Prior to the launch, Ryan stated that the National party will support the introduction of minimum prison sentences for serious crimes to ensure that sentences more accurately reflect community expectations .
At the launch, Ryan stressed the importance of the family unit and traditional values, and criticised Melbourne Labor for its lack of vision and the decision to pre-select city-based candidates to contest Upper House seats in country areas.
Opposition Leader Robert Doyle launched the Liberals’ campaign on Sunday 9 April at the Hawthorn campus of Melbourne University Private. Doyle unveiled a policy to reintroduce a 10 per cent speed zone tolerance, replacing the 3 km/h tolerance enforced by Labor, to make speed cameras more visible and to abolish bonus payments to speed camera operators who book large numbers of drivers. Acting premier John Thwaites said the policy was dangerous, stating that “We all know that speeding causes deaths, and yet the Opposition is now giving a green light for people to speed”.
Anti poker machine campaigning
Peter Allan, a sitting local Councillor and former Mayor for Whitehorse City Council started in the campaign as a “no pokies” Independent candidate for the Eastern Metropolitan Region upper house on 18 April 2006 with an anti-poker machine platform.
He resigned his candidacy then joined the Australian Greens as a campaign manager in the eastern suburbs. In October 2006 he unexpectedly resigned from the Greens to stand for the Lower House seat of Mitcham as an independent.
Several candidates are hoping to emulate the success of No Pokies candidates Nick Xenophon and Anne Bressington at the recent 2006 South Australian election. It should however be noted that since his election at the 1997 election on 2.9% of the vote, he has branched out much further than just a “no pokies” platform, with Xenophon’s 2006 success mainly based around his high media exposure, being unpolitician-like and various pre-election stunts, being known for “driving pollies crazy” as per his posters.
Ted Baillieu announced that the Liberal party would remove 20 percent of Victoria’s gaming machines, and spend $129 million over the next four years to address problem gambling, stating that “We believe the harm caused by problem gambling to individuals, families and local communities must be addressed as a matter of urgency”. The Liberal plan includes cutting the number of available licences in hotels and clubs by 20 percent when they expire in 2012, reducing poker machine numbers by 5500. Greg Barber from the Greens responded stating that the Liberal Party’s planned cuts to poker machine numbers would do nothing to tackle the harm done by them.
During Gambling Awareness Week, the Bracks Labor government was criticised for hypocrisy in depicting itself as being concerned about the side effects of gambling while continuing to take huge amounts of gambling revenue (estimated at $1.5 billion for the next financial year), with only $15 million to $20 million estimated to be spent on measures to deal with problem gambling.
The Government announces water saving strategies
Victorian Environment Minister John Thwaites unveiled the Government’s draft water strategy on 20 April 2006. The strategy aims to take some pressure off over-stressed rivers through tougher water-saving targets and fines for individuals. With demand in Melbourne and elsewhere expected to outstrip supply within 15 years, water is emerging prominent environmental issue of the campaign. Opposition spokesman David Davis said the Government’s promise to flush an extra 20 billion litres into the Yarra was “a very small drop in the river”, and called for more action to clean up the polluted river.
The Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation have also criticised the Bracks Government’s continued support for logging of water catchments as a contributing factor to the looming water shortage . Clearfell logging and woodchipping of Victorian forests has also been linked to the destruction of critical habitat for threatened species such as Leadbeater’s possum, Victoria’s endangered faunal emblem .
The Bracks Government raised the ire of environment groups in September 2005 with its decision to expand Hazelwood power station’s operations to at least 2031. This decision was labelled “as an environmental tragedy that will be fought through legal action” due to Hazelwood being Australia’s worst climate change polluting power station. Marcus Godhino from Environment Victoria stated “this is a gutless, tragic decision by Steve Bracks. Hazelwood was the Premier’s number one environmental test. He has now failed.” Greenpeace and the Australian Conservation Foundation also strongly criticised the decision.
The Clean Ocean Foundation environment group and the State Opposition have called for greater transparency about the water quality near the sewage outfall at Boag’s Rocks, near Gunnamatta surf beach on the Mornington Peninsula, and have stated that effluent from the outfall has caused a health and environment crisis. The State Government has refused early release of the results of water tests at the beach, even though a growing number of people have fallen ill after surfing there. Environment and Water Minister John Thwaites said the results of tests by Melbourne Water would not be released until the end of the year .
Environment groups have also raised Alcoa’s proposed $1 billion Portland aluminium smelter expansion as a key climate change related issue they would campaign on in the lead-up to the November election. Marcus Godinho said the Alcoa decision was the “No. 1 environmental test for the Government”. Alcoa’s two smelters at Victoria (at Portland and Point Henry), use 18 to 25 per cent of Victoria’s electricity production, most of which is sourced from brown coal fired power plants. If the Portland smelter expansion is approved significant extra power would be required. Erwin Jackson from the ACF said: “We … have said very clearly to the Government that if Alcoa expands, they need to make sure the state’s greenhouse emissions don’t increase” .
Some directions for Labor’s campaign are revealed
The Victorian ALP’s draft policy platform “Rising to the Challenges” partly revealed the direction a third-term re-elected Bracks Labor Government would take. The platform includes as priorities encouraging the greater use of public transport, replacing hundreds of old school buildings and legalising abortion. Labor would also promise public interest statements on all future public-private partnerships and include a value-for-money comparison with full public funding.
The door is left open to public-private partnerships to rebuild old schools. It would consider payroll tax exemptions as an incentive to employers to offer 14 weeks paid maternity leave and push for two weeks paternity leave. Nuclear energy would be banned, and Labor would accelerate the development of renewable energy technologies. The platform also allows room for more new toll roads but rules out tolls on existing roads. The platform commits Labor to maintaining a minimum budget surplus of $100 million and to closely manage “recurrent expenditure”.
In an apparent shift of focus from building new freeways and tollways, the Government’s long-awaited transport and liveability statement concentrating on outer suburbs is referenced and “the [pressing] need for a quantum leap in funding for public transport” is mentioned. Under health, the platform commits the Labor Party to reducing waiting times for emergency treatment, elective surgery and dental care. The draft platform will be debated by the party’s state conference in May, after which the Government would then “develop the specific election commitments it will put to Victorian voters at the historic first fixed-term election” on November 25, 2006, Mr Bracks wrote .
An independent champions gay marriage
Gay marriage may become a state election issue as independent MP Andrew Olexander pushes for his private member’s bill on the issue to be debated before the November poll. Olexander, who is gay, was expelled from the Liberal Party last year after crashing his taxpayer-funded car while drunk. He subsequently publicly accused his party of being homophobic .
Melbourne 2030 strategy
Ted Baillieu, the opposition planning spokesman stated that the Bracks Government’s metropolitan planning blueprint Melbourne 2030 would be scrapped and the power of the planning appeals tribunal wound back under a state Liberal Government, although the urban growth boundary would be retained.
Residents groups such us Save Our Suburbs have been campaigning against development proposals linked to the 2030 Blueprint, such as the proposed high-rise Mitcham towers and the redevelopment of Camberwell railway station. While SOS had been a qualified supporter of 2030, president Ian Quick said the Government had failed to deliver on 2030 promises such as investing in public transport, stating “just about everybody agrees with the majority of 2030 principles, but the principles just aren’t being translated into reality”.
Quick will nominate for the seat of Richmond as the first SOS candidate in a state election, a move that will increase pressure on Labor’s sitting MP Richard Wynne.
Doyle resigns unexpectedly and Kennett considers his options
Doyle’s announcement of his resignation as Opposition leader, possibly prompted by continual dismall poll results, created a flurry of speculation about who would replace him. Shadow frontbenchers Terry Mulder and Ted Baillieu and deputy leader Louise Asher were contenders. Former premier Jeff Kennett also announced he would consider making a political comeback as leader of the Liberal Opposition in Victoria.
Liberal factional tensions were increased with Prime Minister John Howard’s strong endorsement of Kennett, whose faction has feuded with that of Peter Costello/Michael Kroger.
Departing from his normal practice of not commenting on state Liberal matters, Howard said that although he preferred Kennett over Baillieu, “whoever is chosen, and it looks like it will be Mr Baillieu, will have my support and I believe with his organisational background as well, that will give him a good start in rebuilding the Party’s fortune”.
He also stated that: “Oppositions at a state level have got to realise that you can’t fatten the pig on market day when it comes to winning state elections. You’ve got to actually work out some policies months in advance and seeing as you’ve asked me, I think that the weakness of state oppositions in the past has been that they leave it until the last four weeks thinking they can generate a momentum. It’s too late then. Unless you start giving people a reason why they should change government months before an election, you’ve got no hope of shifting them.”
Political commentator Dr Nick Economou stated that a change in leadership is unlikely to reverse the declining fortunes of the state Liberal Party.
Baillieu takes the Liberal leadership baton
On the morning of 5 May, 2006. Ted Baillieu announced his candidacy for the Liberal Party leadership. Jeff Kennett withdrew from the contest and stated his support for Baillieu. Later that afternoon, Baillieu’s only other challenger for the position, Shadow Minister for Transport Terry Mulder also withdrew from the race and publicly supported Baillieu’s leadership.
Baillieu and current Deputy Leader Louise Asher were elected unopposed on 8 May, 2006 at a special party meeting after shadow police spokesman Kim Wells and shadow Attorney-General Andrew McIntosh withdrew their bids to challenge Asher’s Deputy position.
Many Victorians don’t know much about Baillieu. Aged 52, he is considered an economic conservative who holds progressive views on social issues in line with the Victorian Liberal tradition.
Baillieu was not accorded a honeymoon period in his new role. Labor Attorney-General Rob Hulls immediately attacked Baillieu, lampooning his privileged background and wealthy family. “Even his own colleagues describe him as Ted the toff from Toorak,” Mr Hulls said. Mr Hulls’ remarks drew an angry response from Liberal MPs, including Terry Mulder, who said the personal attack was “un-Australian”, and the Government was panicking.
On his first day as state opposition leader Baillieu ditched his party’s controversial pledge to levy only half tolls on the Eastlink tollway being built through Melbourne’s east, attacked Labor on its traditional policy strengths of health, education and public transport, and flagged an imminent reshuffle of the Opposition’s front bench.
The reshuffle, announced on 12 May 2006, resulted in prominent places for two MPs demoted in 2005 by Doyle. Richard Dalla-Riva regained his scrutiny-of-government portfolio and a place in the opposition cabinet for the first time. David Davis, the opposition’s environment spokesman, took on the planning portfolio previously held by Baillieu.
The Liberal Party’s environment policies
Baillieu then moved to boost the Liberal’s social and environmental credentials by pledging his support for voluntary euthanasia and stating that Port Phillip Bay should be dredged only if the environment could be protected. He also called for limits on greenhouse gases being emitted from Hazelwood power station and committed to support wind farms provided they had local support and were not built in pristine coastal areas.
Labor announces increased funding for bike paths and transport
Premier Steve Bracks announced a $72 million boost to funding over 10 years to encourage two-wheeled commuting and recreation, to be spent on establishing and upgrading on-road bicycle lanes and off-road cycling trails, and to provide safer pedestrian crossings on busy roads. Currently, only $4 million per year is being spent on on-road bicycle paths. Transport Minister Peter Batchelor said the aim was to encourage more people to take up cycling as an alternative to driving, which will help ease congestion on roads.
On 17 May 2006, Bracks announced a completed transport plan with a total expenditure of $10.5 billion, covering $2.9 billion for rail, a $1.4 billion bus package and $2 billion for arterial roads. $2.8 billion will be spent over four years creating 24,000 extra public transport services a week, adding 260km to Melbourne’s crosstown bus network and employing 800 new staff on the public transport network. Bracks stated that “this major new investment in the state’s transport network will connect our growing communities, cut congestion and deliver a modern and safe system for all Victorians”.
The plan was criticised by both the RACV and the Public Transport Users Association, both saying it did not go far enough. Alex Makin from the PTUA said the plan was a series of “regurgitated announcements” that failed to deliver rail extensions that were much needed. Ken Ogden from the RACV was disappointed there was no commitment to complete the ring road between Greensborough and the Eastern Freeway or the Frankston Bypass.
An alliance of 26 rural councils was next to criticise the transport package when they launched a savage attack because it ignores the Victorian regional rail network. The Alliance of Councils for Rail Freight Development, which covers municipalities in west and central Victoria and the Riverina, said the “$10.5 billion extravaganza” allocated only half of 1 per cent to the country rail freight network .
The Labor Government delivers its State budget
Treasurer John Brumby announced the 2006/2007 State budget in his budget speech to parliament delivered on 30 May 2006. The budget, assessed as generous by most commentators, included:
- An operating surplus of $317 million for 2006-07, and surpluses averaging $316 million for the following three years.
- Economic growth forecast at 2.5 per cent in 2005-06, and 3.25 in 2006-07, rising to 3.5 per cent the following year before returning to 3.25 per cent.
- Jobs forecast to grow by 1.5 per cent in 2005-06. Unemployment rate forecast at 5.5 per cent in 2005-06 dropping to 5.25 per cent until 2010.
- Net debt to increase from $2 billion in June 2006 to $7.1 billion in June 2010.
- Operating expenses projected to rise by 4.5 per cent in 2006-07 to $32.12 billion. Operating revenue to increase by four per cent in 2006-07 to $32.44 billion.
- Record infrastructure funding of $4.9 billion, with $12.6 billion to be spent over the next four years.
Business and investment
- $167 million over four years in further land tax reform, capping increases to land tax liabilities for a further year, reducing the middle rates by 20 per cent, cutting the top rate to three per cent in 2006-07 and eliminating indexation.
- A further 10 per cent cut in WorkCover premiums, with an estimated saving for businesses of $680 million over the next four years.
- $42 million for new measures to cut red tape for businesses and not-for-profit organisations by 15 per cent in the next three years.
- $3.3 billion for road, rail and public transport improvements, with the majority of spending allocated to arterial roads and freeways.
Police, justice and emergency services
- $109 million to fight organised crime and terrorism, and a further $59 million to replace Victoria Police’s LEAP database.
- $448 million to replace and upgrade schools and TAFES.
- $300 one-off payment to every child starting preparatory school or year 7.
- $500 ‘trades bonus’ to first year apprentices to help combat high drop-out rate of first year apprentices, at a cost of $36 million over four years.
- $1.3 billion for health, aged care and community services.
Several commentators noted that the budget was targeted towards the election and voters hip pockets at the expense of a longer-term investment in policy goals. The $300 payment to parents for children in prep and year 7 was criticised by some as a vote-buying tactic similar to the Liberal Federal Government’s baby bonus. Bracks and Brumby both stumbled while attempting to explain details about how the payment would be applied for and allocated to parents. Baillieu described the payment as a bribe.
Land tax cuts were seen as a move by Labor to prevent a pre-election backlash over politically sensitive property taxes. Baillieu countered this with a promise of significant stamp duty relief under a Liberal government.
The ongoing Government reliance on gaming revenue and the conflict between good policy and political self-interest was also highlighted, with poker machines contributing two-thirds of the state’s forecast revenue of $1.5 billion next year, while only for $15 million is allocated to problem gambling . Opposition Shadow Treasurer Robert Clark criticised the increase in debt financing as “a return to the Cain-Kirner years”, highlighting that the Government’s failure to cut stamp duty or extend the $3000 first-home-owners’ bonus meant those in the property market would suffer most .
The Snowy River privatisation collapses with State and Federal Government backflips
The planned privatisation and sale of the Snowy River Hydro scheme by the Victorian, NSW and Federal governments was strongly criticised, amid concerns that the environmental flows to both the Snowy and Murray rivers would be compromised .
The campaign against the privatisation gathered considerable momentum in rural areas of both Victoria and New South Wales, prompting major unease on the Federal Government’s backbench. Prime Minister John Howard’s announcement of the Federal Government’s withdrawal from the planned sale was rapidly followed by similar announcements from the Iemma Government in New South Wales and the Bracks Government in Victoria. Howard stated “The decision to sell has created a lot of unhappiness in the Australian community”.
Senator Bob Brown stated “It’s an absolute victory for people power and its an absolute victory for the Greens in the Parliament as the real opposition. It makes me feel great to be a politician . . . it’s a real win for democracy. In this age of two parties looking so similar to each other, people have got the alternatives, the Greens and the independents, to stand by them, when things go wrong”.
Craig Ingram, independent member for Gippsland East and one of the leading campaigners against the sale, also welcomed the decision stating “It really justifies what I’ve been saying and what the community have been saying and that groundswell of opposition to what the governments have been doing without any public support, without any justification, without any mandate” .
John Brumby’s budget had allocated the estimated $600m sale proceeds for Victoria to schools. The failed sale created fears that many schools would miss out on essential building upgrades.
In response, the Government stated that the initial $150 million schools’ money committed in this year’s budget was not from the Snowy proceeds, and will be spent as planned. Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu stated that the Government should not have promised money it did not have.
Bracks intervenes in Labor’s factional disputes
Factional brawls have been disrupting Labor’s preparation for the campaign, with “rogue elements” from both the Left and Right factions attacking each others’ parliamentary candidates. Steve Bracks attempted to contain the situation by supporting two threatened nominees, the Right’s George Seitz and the Left’s Khalil Eideh, despite speculation they could be disendorsed prior to the election. However, the 90-member Broadmeadows ALP branch announced it will “go on strike come election time” by not conducting fundraising, letter boxing or manning the polling booths.
The branch drew attention to candidates preselected for Parliament by “underhanded factional backroom deals”, including AWU secretary Bill Shorten, the member for Gorton, Brendan O’Connor, Right faction leader Fiona Richardson, Khalil Eideh, and millionaire Evan Thornley, complaining that “the party has lost its integrity”. Steve Bracks dismissed these concerns as being part of the “backwash” of the preselection process
The Greens launch their campaign
Australian Greens National leader Senator Bob Brown launched the Victorian Greens campaign on the steps of Parliament, stating that “changes to the state’s Upper House give Victorians their best chance yet to elect Greens candidates to parliament” and that “Victoria’s public transport, schools, hospitals and power generation need urgent attention and sustainable long term plans. The Greens in Victoria’s parliament will work to make trains, trams and buses work for all Victorians, turn the schools’ neglect around, better resource hospitals and reduce our energy dependence on dirty brown coal.”
All the Greens eight lead candidates for the Upper House were present. Greg Barber, Northern Metropolitan Region candidate stated “”We’re on our way in. Today we are on the steps of Parliament House, but with the support of voters in our regions, we will be working for all Victorians from the inside after November 25”.
Liberal state director Julian Sheezel launched a pre-election assault on the Greens, stating that “their ‘mad’ policies pose a threat to the social and economic fabric of Victoria” and urging voters not fall for the image of the Greens as “a cuddly, well-meaning political party who are concerned about the environment”. Greg Barber responded, stating “most of our policies are pretty common sense – but clearly common sense ain’t going to be that common in the next six months”. Barber said the Greens had been continuously represented in Australian parliaments for about 25 years, their record on legislative reform was clear, and “there won’t be any surprises” if they win balance of power in Victoria.
The Cargill diary incident
On Thursday 15 June 2006, Liberal Front bencher Andrew McIntosh ambushed Premier Steve Bracks and Attorney-General Rob Hulls during question time in Parliament. McIntosh had possession of the private diary of the Premier’s political strategist Tom Cargill, which contained notes including the phrase “Index search on Mrs Baillieu, kids etc” and “email firm names to Julie Ligeti”.
Before revealing he had the diary, McIntosh asked Bracks whether he could guarantee “that ministers and their staff are not abusing their power by collating personal information about the families of members of Parliament”. Bracks dismissed the idea as “ridiculous”.
McIntosh then asked Hulls whether his chief of staff, Julie Ligeti, was collating personal information on Mr Baillieu’s wife and children. Hulls responded “I have not the slightest idea what the shadow attorney-general is talking about”.
The Liberals then released the extracts from Cargill’s diary that appeared to contradict the statements made by both Bracks and Hulls. Bracks asserted that his Government did not have a “dirt unit” and was not out to dig up personal information about Mr Baillieu or his family, but went on to say that it was legitimate and unexceptional for political parties to investigate what was on the public record about the pecuniary interests of MPs and their families to ensure that MPs’ private interests did not conflict with their public responsibilities .
The “Cargill diary incident” was partly countered by information coming to light about a secret 60-page dossier written by Edmund Carew, a former adviser to Ted Baillieu and Robert Doyle, that contains attack lines for the party to use against former Labor state secretary Jenny Beacham. Carew has been accused of compiling the dossier as a “dirt file” with personal information on the family members and business interests of Beachem . Paul Austin writing in The Age then pointed out that both the Labor and Liberal parties were engaging in political point-scoring over “dirt files” and “dirty politics”, given that Register of Interests Act of 1978 requires state MPs to declare any substantial pecuniary or other interest held by them or by any member of their family (including their spouse and children) that may give rise to a conflict between an MP’s private interest and their public duty .
Factional fighting in the Liberal Party
A battle between the “Peter Costello/Michael Kroger” and the “Jeff Kennett/Ted Baillieu” factions within the Liberal party played out during preselection for the seat of Warrandyte that will be vacated by Phil Honeywood. The dominance of the Costello/Kroger group was confirmed by the prelection of their candidate, money markets advisor Ryan Smith, beating Baillieu’s preferred candidate, architect and Melbourne City Councillor Peter Clarke, by one vote . After improved poll results in May, negative poll results in late June sent another shockwave through the Liberals.
Further internal strife associated with candidate preselection led to reports that the Victorian Liberal Party appeared to be “imploding” in the lead-up to the election. Victorian Party Director Julian Sheezel was informed that “factionally driven manipulation of the preselection of candidates was a betrayal of the party’s values and was damaging its chances of defeating the Labor Government” . Clarke later publicly blamed his preselection loss for Warrandyte on interference and vote stacking by the Costello/Kroger faction.
Windfarms become a political football
Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell’s controversial veto of the $220 million Bald Hills wind farm in South Gippsland earlier in 2006, supposedly due to a perceived threat to the endangered Orange-bellied Parrot, was strongly criticized by Labor’s Rob Hulls as an ad hoc political decision that Labor would legally challenge.
Ian Campbell eventually said he would reconsider his veto after the project’s developer took the Federal Government to the Federal Court, and allow the developer to resubmit plans for the 52 turbine project.
The Victorian Greens upper house candidate for eastern Victoria, Louis Delacretaz stated that “while the Greens are strong supporters of renewable energy, the local community has to be supportive of the site and the application. That means you’ve got to bring local people on-board, you can’t just impose something on them. Clearly the evidence is now (that the Government veto) wasn’t due to the orange-bellied parrot, it was really just a political football”.
Victorian Environment Minister John Thwaites then attacked the Greens statements, stating that “This demonstrates that the Bracks Government has much stronger environmental credentials than the Greens”.
100 days to go
With 100 days to go until the election Steve Bracks vowed to serve a full four-year term if Labor is returned to power, which would make him the second-longest serving premier in Victoria and the longest-serving Labor premier. Bracks stated that water management would be one of his key priorities if he won the election and guaranteed that Victorians would never be asked to drink recycled sewage water.
While he promised that there would be no Cabinet reshuffle prior to the election, he warned ministers that none of their jobs were guaranteed after it. Two days later, consideration of a major state cabinet reshuffle after the election was reported, with ministers Mary Delahunty, Andre Haermeyer, John Pandazopoulos, Theo Theophanous, Candy Broad and Marsha Thomson all likely to be under pressure. Tim Pallas, Evan Thornley, Liz Beattie, Dick Wynne, Daniel Andrews, Elaine Carbines (provided she wins her marginal seat), Joe Helper, Tony Robinson and Fiona Richardson were rumoured to be possible new entrants.
The ACNielsen poll reported on 21 August put the State Opposition within striking distance of the Bracks Government, showing a surprise 3 per cent swing to the Liberals compared to Labor’s landslide win at the 2002 election, with new Liberal leader Ted Baillieu’s approval rating rising and Premier Steve Bracks’ rating falling.
The poll also recorded a strong vote for the Greens at 11 per cent, reinforcing the likelihood that they will hold the balance of power in the upper house after the election. While the poll showed Labor retains a big lead with 55 per cent of the vote, it would be in danger of losing marginal seats, most in Melbourne’s east and south-east and many held by women, such as Evelyn, Hastings, Gembrook, Kilsyth, Ferntree Gully, Mount Waverley and Bayswater. The poll supports Baillieu’s claim that the Government is beatable and the Liberals are “in the game again”, despite holding just 17 lower house seats.
Costello, Kennett and Kroger brawling threatens to derail Baillieu’s campaign
Another round of brawling between senior Liberal party figures diverted attention from Baillieu’s campaign during late August 2006. Peter Costello’s refusal to directly endorse Baillieu’s credentials as leader brought a stinging response from Jeff Kennett, who accused Costello of disloyalty and said “”It would be nice if Peter felt he could be useful. But if he can’t be useful, then he’s better shutting up”.
Liberal powerbroker Michael Kroger then hit back at Kennett, stating “The Liberal Party does have a cultural problem in the sense that these former leaders seem to find it necessary to bag the Government … whenever they find the opportunity” then went on to accuse Kennett of still being bitter over his election defeat of 1999 and calling on him to “move on”. Baillieu distanced himself and the campaign from the conflict, stating “I’d rather be talking about other things, but I’m not going to be distracted and diverted”. However, the brawling occupied much of the print and television media for the week, with some claims that the Liberal’s campaign was being damaged.
Issues arising during September
Issues that caught some media attention during September included:
- The Bracks Government was criticised about its handling of FOI requests
- A widening rift between police and the Bracks government concerning public hearings held by the Office of Police Integrity
- The Liberals promised a “tough new approach to crime”
- People Power’s Robyn Allcock claimed that “the party’s tough stance on the environment offers an alternative to the Greens”
- A local backlash over the Bracks Government’s $1.5 billion plan to secure Melbourne’s drinking water supply by using treated effluent from the city to cool Latrobe Valley power stations.
The Exclusive Brethren attract some attention
The Exclusive Brethren, a secretive Christian sect, were reported in September as “poised to intervene in the November Victorian election after endorsing the conservative social policies of National Party leader Peter Ryan”. The sect, which forbids its own members to vote, has a history of consulting conservative politicians about policies and then spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on anti-Green, anti-Labor advertising. The sect was strongly criticised for these tactics during the Tasmamian State election in March 2006, and the New Zealand election in 2005, where they targeted New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark with a smear campaign.
50 days to go
With the final sitting of the Victorian parliament before the election water management policies continued to be a big concern, with the Brack’s Labor government and the preceding Kennett Liberal government both criticised for failing to require water-saving on major projects such as the museum in Carlton Gardens, the Royal Exhibition Centre (“Jeff’s shed”), the Docklands film and television studios, the Telstra Dome, and the new Southern Cross Station.
Ted Baillieu’s idea of building a new dam across the Maribyrnong River attracted criticism from environmentalists that the dam would “come at significant environmental cost” and that it “would not provide much extra water for Melbourne, especially in dry seasons”.
Melbourne’s great thirst for water and the draining of regional supplies is also causing concern in many rural areas such as Gippsland and Bendigo.
40 days to, the drought bites harder and nuclear energy is ruled out
The continued drought throughout Victoria shifted public and political focus to water usage and conservation. Peter Costello claimed it would be the “worst drought ever” and have a severe impact on rural regions. The Bracks Government announced harsh stage-two water restrictions in Melbourne as water catchments drop to dangerously low levels, and that watering lawns and washing cars using hoses will be banned from November 1.
Bracks also pledged a water pipeline to connect Ballarat to the Goulburn-Murray river system and prevent the city from running out of water.
The Liberals announced that five of Melbourne’s most notorious level crossings would be removed under a state Liberal Party election promise aimed at improving safety and reducing congestion in key traffic hotspots. However, the plan was branded as ill-conceived by the Bracks Government while the RACV stated it was financially unviable.
Both Labor and Liberal parties gave “a resounding no” to the prospects of building a nuclear plant in Victoria, following Prime Minister John Howard’s statements that nuclear energy was part of the solution for global warming and it would be “unreal” not to include the nuclear option among strategies to tackle climate change.
Ted Baillieu’s pledge of free public transport travel for all Victorian students under a Liberal government received a generally positive response, but was criticised as underfunded and dishonest by Treasurer John Brumby.
1 Month to go, conflicting opinion polls are released
On October 24, The Age and Herald Sun both released polls. The Herald Sun’s poll conducted by Galaxy showed the ALP at 44%, the Libs at 39% and the Greens at 7%; and said that would amount to a 10 -17 seat swing, quoting this as “revealing a massive turnaround for the Liberals” and “a blow for Mr Bracks”. The article also stated that Labor risks losing to the Liberals the marginal seats of Evelyn, Hastings, Gembrook, Kilsyth, Ferntree Gully, and Mount Waverley. Other seats mentioned that may change hands included Bayswater, Prahran, Mordialloc, Bentleigh, Eltham, Morwell , South Barwon, Burwood, Frankston and Forest Hill.
In marked contrast, The Age’s ACNielsen poll and showed the ALP at 42%, the Libs/Nats at 40% and the Greens at 13%; with the ALP on 56% and the Libs/Nats on 44% in the two party preferred and stating that “The Victorian Liberals are in danger of a crushing defeat at next month’s election, with the latest ACNielsen/ Age Poll showing Premier Steve Bracks on track for a landslide victory”.
Then, on October 25, the regular Newspoll results were: ALP 43%, Libs 35%, Nats 4%, Greens 7%. And in the two party preferred ALP 54% and Libs/Nats 46%. In two days three polls provided up with three quite different results.
The Greens campaign was reported in The Age, with a summary of their agenda including:
- Cutting Victoria’s greenhouse emissions by 20 per cent by 2015
- Decommissioning Hazelwood power station by 2015
- Ending duck shooting
- Stopping harbour channel-deepening
- Evaluating medically supervised injection spaces for drugs.
- Replacing criminal penalties for personal drug use with civil remedies
- Ensuring public goods and services publicly owned and provided
- Disclosure of public-private partnership contracts
- Removing two-thirds of poker machines and establish a cap.
- Run trains and trams every 10 minutes in peak periods and extend train and tram lines.
With the environment emerging as a surprise key issue in for the November 25 poll, Ted Baillieu rejected Labor claims he is a “greenhouse sceptic”, stating that “a Liberal government would set up a greenhouse gas emission fund to foster new investment in low-emission technologies” and for “cleaner coal”. Baillieu stated that although he “accepted that climate change is with us now, and that global warming is the source of that change” he would continue to support the burning of Victoria’s brown coal reserves.
Two independents threaten to jump ship
Russell Savage and Craig Ingram, conservative country MPs from rural Victoria, stated that they would be prepared to form a coalition with the Liberals after the election, claiming that their relationship with Labor has soured in the past seven years. Both had previously supported the formation of the first Bracks government in 1999. However, their numbers are unlikely to be necessary for the formation of another Bracks government.
Policy announcements are cranked up, attack ads emerge, and both parties bid for public transport votes
Both the major parties promised to overhaul metropolitan transport fares, with Ted Baillieu announcing that a Liberal Government would abolish zone 3 fares. Four hours later, Premier Steve Bracks followed suit, but also offered a reduction in V/Line fares. Both parties were criticised for trying to buy votes with this, and compromising the funds available for longer term strategic public transport planning issues
Labor released a television campaign advertisement attacking Baillieu for his connection to the Kennett government’s cuts to public services. Baillieu described the advertisement as “grubby and typical of Labor”. The advertisement also upset the ABC, who claimed that the ad used ABC material without permission.
Family First and Labor preference deal is flagged
In late October 2006, preference deal negotiations were well under way between all parties. Labor was first reported as considering preferencing the conservative Family First party ahead of the Greens in a bid to shore up support in several marginal eastern suburbs seats. A preference swap between Labor and Family First in seats such as Eastern Metropolitan and Eastern Victoria could see the Green shut out of these seats and either Labor or Family First elected to the fifth vacancy in both seats, in a similar result to the election of Family First senator Steven Fielding on Labor preferences in the 2004 Federal Election. The end result of such a deal could determine the balance of power after the election. Stephen Newnham, ALP state secretary, refused to comment on how his party would direct its preferences.
The formal campaign – November 2006
Premier Steve Bracks kicked off Labor’s formal 25 day election campaign on October 31, 2006, the day writs were lodged for the election, conceding that the water crisis is the biggest challenge confronting Victoria and a future Labor Government. Bracks announced that stage two water restrictions would commence on November 1, 2006 and that a telephone hotline to “dob in water cheats” would be available. Water storages in Victoria were at a low 43.6 per cent, compared with 60.3 per cent for the same time last year.
Other Labor initiatives included:
- Gearing up its fire-fighting efforts with a $4 million contract for a second helicopter to supplement the “Elvis” water-bombing tanker.
- In Bendigo, Health Minister Bronwyn Pike unveiled $10 million of funding to expand neonatal hearing tests for newborn babies.
- Transport Minister Peter Batchelor announced $20 million spending on the intersection of Cranbourne-Frankston and Moorooduc roads in Frankston, claiming that this would cut congestion in Melbourne’s outer south-east
- Bracks unveiled water-saving initiatives in the seat of Burwood helds by 5.1 per cent, which was held by former Liberal premier Jeff Kennett.
- The previous week, Bracks outlined a $114 million drought package which included a $5000 rebate to subsidise farmers who are getting less than 50 per cent of their water entitlements.
Opposition leader Ted Baillieu commenced the Liberal campaign criticising the Bracks government squandering an “extraordinary opportunity” by not delivering over its seven year term despite having ample surpluses from the GST, increased taxes and fines, and having an unprecedented parliamentary majority. Baillieu criticisms of Labor included:
- Victoria’s economic performance has fallen behind other states and standards have been eroded.
- Traffic is a major problem and Trains and trams are late and overcrowded.
- Hospital waiting lists are too long.
- Schools have are suffering from a lack of basic maintenance.
- Investment in key infrastructure has been underfunded.
- Rail standardisation has been all but abandoned.
- Victoria’s water supplies have not been secured and water recycling has not advanced.
- The government had blatantly promoted itself by taxpayer funded government advertising and promotion
- Politically sensitive issues such as pokies, lotteries, the proposed toxic dump at Nowingie have been deferred to the post-election period
Baillieu stated that the Liberal platform included:
- a strong action plan for Victoria which was fully costed and budgeted
- primary industry would be put back in primary focus.
- Education is at the centre of their agenda because to re-skill our Victoria to meet the challenges of the future
- Students would be given free public transport.
- Kindergartens would be free for most four-year-old children and be linked to the Education Department.
- Making second languages mandatory.
- Fixing roads and bridges
- Cutting pokies by 20 per cent.
- Establishing a greenhouse emissions reduction fund.
- Making Victoria the lowest taxing state by 2014.
Baillieu’s “pinocchio moment”
Ted Baillieu went on to Melbourne radio station 3AW to recommend the website www.bracksbrokenpromises.com.au which he claimed was independent and anonymous, yet the person who authorised the website was state Liberal party director Julian Sheezel at 104 Exhibition Street in Melbourne where Liberal party offices are located. Baillieu, after claiming the website was independent and anonymous, claimed he was not aware it was authorised by his party upon being told of this by the radio host.
Stephen Mayne reverses his decision to drop out
People Power co-founder Stephen Mayne announced he was running again as an upper house candidate after unexpectedly withdrawing has candidacy in mid October, saying saying he lacked the time for politics after his wife Paula Piccinini was elected to the RACV board. Internal friction with People Power was also cited as a reason for his temporary withdrawal.
People Power were also reported as seeking preference deals with both Family First and the Greens. Mayne was reported as giving himself a 15-20 per cent chance of getting elected in Southern Metropolitan, partly due the seat being “full of shareholders and ABC listeners”.
Bracks and Baillieu debate head to head
Premier Steve Bracks and opposition leader Ted Baillieu participated in the only televised leader’s debate for the campaign on November 4, 2006. The Greens and the Nationals were not given the opportunity to participate in the debate. Bracks claimed his government’s achievements in health, education, policing and the environment had all contributed to an improved quality of life for Victorians. He also linked negative aspects of Prime Minister John Howard’s industrial relations reforms with the Liberal’s campaign in Victoria.
Baillieu criticised the record of the Bracks government, claiming that millions of dollars has been wasted and stated that Victoria needed to strive “for a state of excellence, not a state of mediocrity”. Neither leader was reported as a clear winner from the hour-long debate. The following day, Labor continued its assault on Baillieu with further advertisements accusing him of profiting from sale of real estate from schools closed by the former Kennett Liberal Government.
Democrats and People Power campaign launches
People Power launched their campaign on Sunday 5 November 2006 with some theatrics on the steps of parliament, waving mops and brooms in the air and promising “sweeping changes to Victorian politics. Stephen Mayne, their high-profile candidate, for Southern Metropolitan region, pledged to represent the “middle ground”, saying: “We’re a genuine alternative to the Greens and Family First.” Party president Vern Hughes described their policy as a “radical blueprint” for change which includes:
- instigating a culture of openness and accountability for voters
- a cross-party ethics committee to oversee MP perks and conflicts of interest,
- third-party approval for government advertising
- longer sessions of Parliament
- more robust freedom-of-information legislation.
- a review of public-private partnerships (PPPs)
- removing all pokies other than Crown Casino’s in 2012
- free weekend public transport in metro Melbourne; extend zone 1 fares to entire metropolitan area
- Cut 20,000 bureaucrats by end of 2008, and further 5000 by end of 2010
- scrap Port Phillip Bay dredging plans
- Extra $200 million for drug rehabilitation
The Democrats also launched their campaign at Southbank on the same day. Their policies include a focus on water and healthy rivers, with a pledge to ensure the Yarra is clean enough to swim in by 2015. Contest between minor parties over seats in the upper house is hotting up. Paul Kavanagh, a lead Democrats candidate stated “The Democrats are the only party who can protect Victorians from the complacency of the Bracks Government, the inaction of the Opposition and the blinkered ideology of the Greens and Family First”. Their policy platform for the election includes:
- improved management of water resources
- an increased investment in education (particularly within the resources starved public education system)
- a significant reduction of gaming machines in the state (up to 50%)
- the development of an expanded public transportation system and its use
- an increased focus on issues that affect Victoria’s younger people including housing affordability, sexual health, and an increase in participation in the democratic process of government.
Possible preference deals reported in the second week
There were several media reports about possible preference deals between parties during the final week leading up to the lodging of upper house ballots. Early reports indicated that Labor was considering a preference deal with the conservative Family First party at the expense of the Greens. The Greens responded with a threat from Bob Brown that Labor could lose Greens Party preferences in its most marginal seats if they agreed to a preference deal with Family First. The Greens and Family First also strongly criticised each other’s policies.
Tensions within Labor were then reported about the rumoured deal between Labor and Family First. Labor MPs reported a furious reaction from party supporters about directing preferences to Family First to the detriment of the Greens in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. Premier Steve Bracks refused to rule out striking the deal.
The Liberals were then reported as considering a preference deal with the Greens, despite previously issuing warnings to anyone considering voting for the Greens. With reports of Labor changing their direction and moving closer to a preferences deal with the Greens ahead of Family First, Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said Victorians should be concerned about the rise of the Greens. However, he did not rule out a deal with the party either.
Many Labor supporters have disliked Family First’s Senator Steve Fielding recent casting votes on federal laws which delivered voluntary student unionism and changes to cross-media laws. Fielding was elected by Labor preferences in 2004. While he is not contesting the state election, his actions were reported as possibly scaring the Labor Party into a preference swap with the Greens.
The next deal rumour reported was for a preference swap between Labor (directing preferences to the Liberals in strong National upper house seats) and the Liberals (directing their preferences to Labor ahead of the Greens in the lower house seats of Melbourne and Richmond). This deal would have potential to keep both the Nationals and the Greens at bay in the upper house where either party may win the balance of power. Premier Steve Bracks sought to play down speculation on this.
- Bracks attacked over $9m ad campaign, The Age, 22 November 2005
- It’s only 33 weeks for Doyle, The Age, 7 April 2006
- Nationals to support minimum sentencing, National Victoria Media Release, 6 April 2006
- Traditional values feature at campaign launch, National Victoria Media Release, 7 April 2006
- Doyle slams speed cam ‘slug’, The Age, 10 April 2006
- Anti-pokies candidates set sights on November poll, The Age, 19 April 2006
- Ted Baillieu MLA Tackling problem gambling while removing pokies, www.vic.liberal.org.au, July 24 2006
- Greg Barber Liberal pokies plan won’t cut the losses say the Greens, www.vic.greens.org.au, 24 July 2006
- Alan Attwood, Gambling with the lives of all Victorians, The Age, June 23 2006
- Water plan won’t save rivers from over-use, The Age, 21 April 2006
- Central Highlands Information, Water Catchments in the Central Highlands, The Wilderness Society, 2006
- Premier Bracks allows destruction of old growth trees and endangered wildlife on Melbourne’s fringe, The Wilderness Society and Australian Conservation Foundation Media Release, 6 February 2006
- Steve Bracks condemns Victoria to climate change, Environment Victoria, Media Release, 6 September 2005
- Thwaites refuses early release of Gunnamatta Beach tests, The Age, 30 April 2006
- Greenhouse showdown over smelter, The Age, 21 May 2006
- ALP spells out plans for third term, The Age, 23 April 2006
- Vic push for same-sex bill, The Age, 30 March 2006
- Libs vow to scrap 2030 plan, The Age, 1 May 2006
- SOS sends help to Libs on planning, The Age, 2 May 2006
- Save Our Suburbs eyes seat in Parliament, The Age, 3 May 2006
- Kennett considers a come-back, The Age, 4 May 2006
- 22.0 22.1 Liberals ‘falling apart’, The Age, 4 May 2006
- Doorstop Interview Ford Australia, Campbellfield, Prime Minister of Australia Newsroom, 5 May 2006
- A blueblood pin-up, Herald Sun, 6 May 2006 Labor takes a swipe at ‘Ted the toff’, Herald Sun, 6 May 2006
- Baillieu drops ‘half tolls’ policy, The Age, 9 May 2006
- Front bench reshuffle imminent, The Age, 9 May 2006
- Baillieu marks out green battlefield, The Age, 12 May 2006
- Bike paths get $72 million boost, The Australian, 14 May 2006
- Bracks’ $10.5b transport plan, The Age, 17 May 2006
- All aboard for a $10 billion ride, Herald Sun, 18 May 2006
- Councils railing over Bracks, The Age, 22 May 2006
- State budget at a glance, The Age, 30 May 2006
- Money in the pocket, but where is the vision?, The Age, 1 June 2006
- ‘A return to Kirner and Cain years’, The Age, 31 May 2006
- Greens from Victoria and NSW call on state governments to rethink Snowy Hydro scheme sale, Victorian Greens Media Release, 15 February 2006
- Greens hail Snowy backflip, The Age, 2 June 2006 Snowy u-turn hits school upgrades, The Age, 2 June 2006
- Bracks tries to broker factional peace, The Age, 10 June 2006
- The Victorian Greens are on track for seats in state parliament, Media Release, 8 June 2006
- Greens feel Liberals’ wrath, The Age, 7 June 2006
- How Bracks insiders sullied the image of Saint Steve, The Age, 17 June 2006
- Liberals ‘dug dirt on Labor woman’, The Age, 21 June 2006
- Bracks reveals politician beneath those smiles, The Age, 23 June 2006
- Another party shooting at its own foot, The Age, 30 June 2006
- Internal strife hampers Liberals, The Age, 15 July 2006
- Jo Chandler Libs ‘victims of faction’s power drive’, The Age, August 31, 2006
- Kathy Bowlen Federal Government overturns planned Gippsland wind farm development, Stateline (Victorian edition) transcript, April 07, 2006
- Liz Minchin Greens blow cold on wind farms, support local views, The Age, August 16, 2006
- Ellen Whinnett I’ll bring up 11 years – Bracks Herald Sun, August 17, 2006
- Paul Austin Bracks to shuffle the Labor pack, The Age, August 19, 2006
- Paul Austin, Baillieu up but Bracks holds sway The Age, August 21, 2006
- Michael Harvey Kennett fires up conflict, Herald Sun, August 23, 2006
- Farrah Tomazin Baillieu stays out of internal strife, The Age, August 25, 2006
- Michael Bachelard Religious sect backs Nationals in run-up to poll, The Age, September 19, 2006
- Royce Millar and Stephen Moynihan Major projects fail to harness precious resource, The Age, September 30, 2006
- Kenneth Nguyen Liberals’ big scheme faces stiff opposition, The Age, October 9, 2006
- Paul Austin Yes or no? A dam fine election question, The Age, October 9, 2006
- Water torture, The Age, September 14, 2006
- Worst drought ever, tips Treasurer, The Age, October 12, 2006
- Tough new water curbs as Bracks acts on crisis, The Age, October 15, 2006
- Bracks pledges Ballarat pipeline, The Age, October 17, 2006
- Libs pledge to ease road hot spots, The Age, October 10, 2006
- Parties give a resounding no to nuclear plant, The Age, October 18, 2006
- ↑ Ashley Gardiner Free transport pledge, Herald Sun, October 23, 2006
- Ellen Whinnett, Poll reveals Labor backlash, Herald Sun, October 24, 2006
- Paul Austin Liberals face crushing loss at poll, The Age, October 24, 2006
- Peter Ker Greens’ campaign to win the balance of power, The Age, October 24, 2006
- Farrah Tomazin Energy technology ‘crucial’, The Age, October 25, 2006
- Ellen Whinnett, Big switch is on for independents, Herald Sun, October 24, 2006
- Stephen Moynihan Parties agree to fare fight, The Age, October 26, 2006
- Kenneth Davidson Voters are forced to live on a diet of fairy floss, The Age, October 26, 2006
- Farrah Tomazin Labor’s ‘grubby’ ad starts campaign rolling, The Age, October 26, 2006
- Mathew Murphy, Labor could preference Family First, The Age, October 27, 2006
- Farrah Tomazin Bracks taps into water crisis concerns, The Age, October 31, 2006
- Ted Baillieu, Moving beyond Labor’s traffic jam of inaction, The Age, October 31, 2006
- Mathew Murphy, ‘Pinocchio moment’, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, November 1, 2006
- Dan Silkstone, Confident Mayne reboards sinking ship, The Age, November 1, 2006
- Mathew Murphy, Political newcomers lose their Mayne player The Age, October 19 2006
- State of ‘mediocrity’: Baillieu, The Age, November 4, 2006
- Farrah Tomazin and Peter Ker, Fiery but no clear winner, The Age, November 4, 2006
- Orietta Guerrera, People Power promises a real Spring Street clean, ‘’The Age’’, November 6, 2006
- Mathew Murphy, Labor could preference Family First, The Age, October 27, 2006″
- Peter Ker, Greens tell Labor: no Family First, The Age, October 30, 2006
- Paul Austin, Bracks faces backlash over Family First, The Age, October 31, 2006
- Peter Ker and Farrah Tomazin, Liberals may think Green on preferences, The Age, November 1, 2006
- Michael Bachelard and Mathew Murphy, Fielding factor tips Labor towards Greens, The Age, November 2, 2006
- Bracks plays down preference deal, The Age, November 6, 2006
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