Some random thoughts on the State Election result.
Labor is back in government for a 3rd term, winning at least 52 seats, perhaps only down slightly from the last “Danslide” election.
It underscores for me that despite widespread predictions of a COVID-19 backlash against the government, and Dan Andrews specifically, most people – even if they hate lockdowns – can recognise that they were a harsh but necessary part of the pandemic response, particularly in 2020 when no vaccinations existed.
But not everybody was happy, and it may have led to some swings against Labor in the northern and western suburbs.
We’ll see what happens in the upper house, but there seems to be a good chance that extremists like Bernie Finn and Catherine Cumming, previously elected as part of a party but now independent or in micro parties, won’t be re-elected – though Legalise Cannabis has apparently done well, and it looks like Fiona Patten is back.
Of course the vaccine extremists aren’t happy with Labor winning government again. Along with some social media keyboard warriors and Sky After Dark presenters, they seem to be incapable of understanding that different people have different opinions.
With Labor retaining government, the Suburban Rail Loop is a goer, and may have contributed to the Coalition’s reduced polling in some eastern suburbs seats such as Box Hill and Glen Waverley.
The challenge for Labor is to keep SRL costs under control, and preferably to make alterations so more benefits materialise.
The cost of it will be huge no matter what, but it’s spread over a lot of years, so hopefully will be manageable.
Apart from wanting to scrap SRL, build East West Link, and having a fares policy that would have thrown away most revenue, the Coalition had a good set of transport policies, including short sensible tram extensions and a range of bus upgrades.
The Coalition completely dropped the ball on their bus policies, and one journo I spoke to reckoned they’d been pretty disorganised in general – a more prominent example being David Davis’s failure to present total pledge costings when the media asked.
For the buses they had specifics, but the information was incredibly difficult to find, and even their local candidates mostly didn’t use it, with only a few exceptions.
Notably on the $2 daily fare cap policy, many seemed to see the danger of such a drastic cut. And Emma King of VCOSS (who knows a thing or two about good policy to support low income earners) noted on Channel 9 that it’s better to focus this type of heavy discounting on the people who really need it.
Labor pledged V/Line fare cuts to $9.20/day. This (like the Coalition’s proposal for V/Line fare cuts) is welcome, because those fares can be pretty expensive. But they’ll need to watch the effects on crowding – they have plans for increased services, but it sounds like the fare cuts may come first. Maybe they should do them both at the same time.
On the bright side: apart from the Coalition and their fixation with East West Link, no new motorway projects were proposed by the major parties. (We’ve already got more than many cities our size, and Labor’s got their hands full building West Gate Tunnel and North East Link.)
Let’s hope – as happened with WGT – they don’t pull any more out of their hat (or Transurban’s) between elections.
In terms of public transport specifically, Labor has accomplished much in the way of infrastructure. During the campaign they were pretty quiet on service upgrades (other than V/Line), but as patronage recovers post-COVID and the gaps in the service offering become more apparent, they’re going to have to act to relieve off-peak crowding, and provide better suburban bus services to help people access opportunity.