TRUE OPINION: Victorians head to the polls tomorrow as Premier Daniel Andrews tries to fend off a challenge from the Liberal Party’s Matthew Guy in the state election. Our Melbourne correspondent, Gary Johnston, takes a look at the uninspiring and dreary state of political play.
You may not be aware of the fact, but come tomorrow (November 24) the populace of Victoria will go to the polls in a state election which promises to be the most vapid and uninspiring in living memory. Since in fact, the last one, four years ago. How time flies when you’re not enjoying yourself.
State elections of course, have significantly less riding on them than those of a Federal persuasion. Nevertheless, political anoraks – if no one else – are anxiously anticipating the outcome, given that the Victorian result may be viewed as a regional snapshot, potentially forecasting a national trend which could result in baseball cap-wearing man of the people and semi-functioning piss-pot Scott Morrison being delivered the political equivalent of the pearl- handled revolver in his desk drawer. (Having said that, given the inept ScoMo’s demonstrated sure-handedness, he’d almost certainly miss and fatally take out one of his close-at-hand toadying colleagues; nominations on a postcard, please.)
Why is the Victorian election so lacking in excitement? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the two main contenders: Labor’s Dan ‘The Man’ Andrews – so called because his name is Dan and he’s a man – and representing the Coalition, Matthew ‘Mafia’ Guy, a soubriquet awarded due to an all expenses paid lunch spent in the company of a businessman reputed to be connected to ‘organised crime’.
This caused no little outage – faux or otherwise – and Guy was swiftly reminded that if he wished to break bread with bloodthirsty, faceless individuals not averse to ensuring their rivals sleep with the fishes, he should stick to dining with members of the National Party.
‘Image’ appears to be the most important facet of political figures these days, since in the eyes of the spin doctors who decree such things, it makes those ‘imaged’ more palatable and accessible to the general – make that gullible – public.
And so, just as ‘ScoMo’ is being punted as an ordinary battler, very much like me and you – assuming that your annual income is a paltry $527,852 – Dan and Matthew have been duly packaged in a similar fashion, an appropriate noun, since both are more curtain, than leadership, material.
First and foremost, it seems it’s a necessity to be described as a ‘family man’, which doesn’t actually mean that, unlike Dolly the Sheep, you haven’t been scientifically cloned, but is a wholly sexist epithet referring to your perceived status as loving husband and father.
Nothing intrinsically wrong with that of course, until you recall the opprobrium endured by Julia Gillard due to her perceived failing in the childbearing department. Other ‘family men’ who turned out to be members of said group include the now disgraced ex-NSW Labor leader Luke Foley and the abominable showman, Barnaby Joyce, of course. who, in an effort to strengthen his paternal credentials further, even had an additional family with a young aide.
The second step in developing ‘image’ is to invent a few hobbies designed to present the prospective leader as steady and responsible. Or, to put it another way, deadly boring. ‘Dan the Man’, therefore likes reading political biographies, which is suitably tiresome, but if that doesn’t persuade the electorate he’s a regular, knitted- sweater wearing dullard, he ramps it up a notch by claiming to like playing – shudder – golf. Job. Done.
‘Mafia Guy’ on the other hand, is said to be keen on cycling and hilariously, given his past record of selling off prime farmland whilst Planning Minister in a previous regime, also claims to ‘love trees’. Quite how this stated ‘amore’ manifests itself is unclear, but given its obvious connotation with climate issues, suggests ‘Mafia Guy’ couldn’t really think of any interests he has in living organisms possessed of self-awareness or indeed, any form of true mobility. No music, no movies, no theatre, no interest in cultural activity at all, it seems. Worse, far worse, no policies.
The issues, such as they are, on which each candidate is spruiking are, in order of import: crime, transport, infrastructure, crime and crime.
Both parties, running scared like pigs from a gun fired by the Murdoch press, the true drivers of Victorian political policy, are toeing the hang and flog ’em line beloved of reactionaries worldwide, promising mandatory sentencing and tougher bail conditions, despite the fact that, firstly, both have failed in the past and secondly – significantly you might imagine – crime in Victoria is actually falling.
No matter, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good scaremongering. The net result of this blatant form of manipulation is the fact that, according to the Productivity Commission, Victoria is now officially the “most fearful state” in the nation, with a significant number of people reporting that they “feel unsafe at home”.
Instead of being bad news, this is tasty catnip to politicians of every hue, especially those with no notion of leadership or strategy and both Andrews and Guy have hitched up their wagons and formed a inward-looking circle. “Trust us”, they say, “we’ll come down hard on crime, build new prisons, lock ’em up, throw away the key and worry about finding it later.” Much later.
TRUE OPINION: Be Afraid! The Politics of Fear
What they don’t say, naturally enough, is that this strategy is expensive, ineffective and has been unilaterally discounted by almost every first world nation in the world and, indeed, some of the ones in the second and third division.
What do responsible people do when faced with moral panic, real or imagined? They re-assure, calm, deal with it in a rational compassionate manner.
What don’t they do? Inflame the anxiety. Sound the alarm. Frighten everyone bit more, in the hope it’ll lead to endorsement. A classic – i.e – very old – British sitcom called Dad’s Army used to feature a character by the name of Corporal Jones whose response to any emergency was to issue up the cry, ‘don’t panic’, whilst simultaneously running around in a state of blind agitation, thereby ramping up the level of ‘panic’ to somewhere around eleventy-stupid.
Tragically for the voters of Victoria, it seems Daniel Andrews and Matthew Guy, the two-man battalion of the Dad’s Army in the running for the title of State Premier are every bit as reactive, not to mention hapless, ineffectual and ludicrously comic. ‘Thank you very much’, one or the other will say come Saturday, ‘I’m here all week’. Except, in truth, they’ll be here for four – count ’em – years. Not really that funny after all, is it?