DUMB STUNTS and meaningless slogans have characterised the resumption of Victoria’s state election campaign, with Labor leader Daniel Andrews promising to decree that vehicle registration plates carry the slogan “The Education State” if his party wins the election on 29 November. This farcical nonsense foreshadows a disastrous government if Labor wins, with substance relegated to an afterthought, and childish games held aloft as “policy.”
First things first: I spent some time, in the afternoon on Melbourne Cup Day, engaged in a vicious Twitter brawl with a cohort of Labor-aligned apparatchiks over the issue of the unending ambulance workers’ pay dispute with the state government, and whilst there was (to be fair) perhaps at least a grain of value in arguments put by all sides, the descent into complete abuse by those defending the ambulance workers’ union and their declaration that pro-Liberal voices be simply shut out if they couldn’t be silenced was probably an authentic foretaste of what Victorians can expect if they wake up with Daniel Andrews as their Premier come the end of the month.
Readers can form their own views of the merits or otherwise of Twitter, and whilst I am willing to engage with anyone who wants to initiate a contest of ideas, I find any forum that is self-limiting by virtue of its propensity to motivate its participants to start using bad language out of sheer frustration (and yes, I removed a few tweets yesterday morning in which I’d used the F-word) amply accommodates those prone to behaving like a law unto themselves.
The issue at its core — and it is relevant to my article today — stems from the fact that ambulances in Victoria are driving across the state with anti-government slogans scrawled all over them in chalk, coupled with the ambulance union modifying conditions for acceptance of a pay deal with the state government and withdrawing their agreement to accept it just weeks out from polling day.
The Liberal-aligned tweeters posited that the slogans on the ambulances were akin to vandalism of state property and a political abuse of a public service. The Labor-aligned tweeters were insistent in response that not only did all of this represent legitimate concern for people dying (when the whole thing is over the size of their pay cheques, not resources) but that the Fair Work Act legitimised everything the union campaign has entailed to date.
If nothing else, it proves how flagrantly the Fair Work Act is being exploited by unions to attack conservative governments through “protected” industrial action, and authenticates concerns articulated at the time that the Act was in fact constructed, at least in part, for exactly that purpose.
And the reason I mention the unedifying fracas on Twitter is because it highlights a few key insights into the Labor mentality in Victoria: the “truth” is supplied pre-determined and is dictated, with one compliant opinion only being permissible; “facts” are only accurate if they accord with this “truth.” Any opinion that dissents from the “truth” needs to be shouted down as aggressively and as patronisingly as possible and — if this fails — simply blocked out of existence, presumably lest it convince others to dispute the “truth.”
Another signpost to the Labor mentality was taken for, er, a drive once ’round the park yesterday, with Labor leader Daniel Andrews pledging that if he is elected Premier in a few weeks’ time, an early directive will be to instruct that the present slogan on Victorian registration plates — “Stay Alert, Stay Alive” — be replaced by “Victoria – The Education State” in a stultifying piece of crassness derived from what the ALP thinks it sees whenever it metaphorically sees itself in a mirror.
It’s hard to know just where to start, but here we go.
Some who read this column will actually be surprised to know that I think “Stay Alert, Stay Alive” was a masterstroke of former Premier Ted Baillieu, de-politicising as it did one aspect of life in this state that had needlessly become a talisman for tribal loyalties as Jeff Kennett declared in 1992 that we were “On The Move,” only for this mantra to be erased from existence by the Bracks government eight years later in a proclamation that Victoria was actually “The Place To Be” and well-motivated by extreme anti-Kennett sentiment in doing so.
To be honest, whilst I liked “On The Move” and resented “The Place To Be” bitterly, I actually think having cars driving around with political slogans emblazoned on them by law is a stupidity that was well dispensed with by Baillieu in favour of something that was a) unambiguously apolitical, and b) a worthy (if simple) message of road safety well suited to the medium used to deliver it.
So first up, a Labor government in Victoria promises to re-politicise something I suspect even most politically aware voters are heartily pleased to see the political contest removed from.
But so arrogantly cocksure is the ALP that it is the “party of health” and the “party of education” that it deems it appropriate for every car in Victoria to serve as a mobile billboard to advertise the fact.
Andrews’ announcement comes with a pledge to build 11 new schools (mostly in ultra-safe Labor electorates) at a cost of $88 million: a figure disputed by Treasurer Michael O’Brien, who estimates the real cost is about $180 million. But whether Labor’s “costings” are accurate or not, Victorians can confidently expect, based on the atrocious record of government projects under the ALP between 1999 and 2010, that the $88 million quoted will blow out to at least half a billion dollars, and so in that sense the veracity of the Labor number isn’t important.
No major project delivered by Labor last time came within a bull’s roar of being delivered on budget.
But the ALP seems to think simply that by talking about health and education incessantly, it will win the election; it’s the old Labor principle (most recently best illustrated by Julia Gillard) of simply repeating idiot-simple mantras over, and over, and over, and over until the gullible and the stupid accept it as fact, and anyone else throws their hands in the air and surrenders to it.
For all the blather on health, Victorian Labor has a questionable record indeed to defend, and not least on account of its leader — when he was Health minister in the Brumby government — having defended waiting lists and surgery times that had been modified by bureaucrats to show the then-government in a much rosier political light than was really the case.
It has yet to satisfactorily explain why health unions saw fit to shanghai hospital staff into masquerading as sick patients on trolleys in corridors to provide photographic “evidence” of ALP claims the health system had been shot to pieces after Labor lost power in 2010.
And no explanation has been offered (and nor is it likely to be) as to why, despite the Fair Work Act declaring it technically legal, the defacement of government property and the use of emergency service resources to conduct a political campaign against the elected government (cloaked in the pretence it is motivated by concern for patients when it is motivated by the desire for a pay rise) is in any ethical sense right or defensible.
And for all its blather on Education, the ALP track record isn’t much better than its record on Health.
For all the (GST-derived) additional funding the Bracks-Brumby government shovelled into Education, performance indicators in terms of educational outcomes and basic student competencies actually went backwards under their government.
It was content to sit on its hands as hundreds of millions of additional education dollars were either wasted or squandered under the Rudd government’s “Building the Education Revolution” programme: not ones to rock the boat of a fellow ALP government, Victorian Labor was content to see this money pissed up against a post rather than intervene in the disgrace that unfolded on the grounds of its own schools.
And under Andrews, Victorian Labor has been content to sit back and let the powerful teachers’ unions put the Coalition over a barrel and force upon it a wage outcome that guarantees the worst teachers, and those who fail to lift the educational standards in their classrooms, the same rates of pay as the very best educators who deserve to be — and should be — paid more than the no-hopers at the bottom of the pack.
Not simply content with all of this, Andrews now wants every vehicle on the road to trundle around Victoria advertising his party’s dubious wares on Education.
Just as the ambulance union has been doing with emergency service vehicles for years.
I have criticised Andrews in this column repeatedly over the past four years as a juvenile and immature specimen who never outgrew the fun and jollity of his days as a student activist in university politics.
Now, perhaps on the cusp of becoming Premier, it seems to be a situation that remains unchanged.
If — and God forbid — Labor should prevail in a few weeks’ time, and if there is a change in the number plate slogan to reflect that fact, a far better replacement would be “Victoria — The Puerile State.”
At least it would cut through the bullshit. And based on the way the ALP conducts itself these days, in tandem with its buddies in the unions, it would indeed be accurate.