Timing is everything in politics, as Hillary Bray reports from Victoria.

Until the second half of last week, two dates were being tossed around – November 30, the first possible date for an election, or December 7.

The general view was that it would be the seventh. Going for the earliest possible date would smack of desperation – and the poll would have to be called on November 4 and risk distracting from something much more important than any election, the Melbourne Cup.

Not any more. It’s expected that Bracksy will be heading out to shake hands with the Governor on Monday. Does he really expect the state budgetary situation won’t unravel that much more in just a week?

Well, that’s only one problem he faces.

Back in 1999, when Victorian turned on Jeff, Bracks was viewed as an absolute cleanskin – and he’s been very successful in keeping that imagine. The truth, however, has been less prosaic.

Steve Bracks has presided over a cruddy government that’s been content to coast along on the favourable economic wave Stockers and the Jeffmeister generated. It’s been terrified of making decisions, lest it offend anyone. And its squeaky clean image is a load of bullsh.

Labor has been just as keen on using taxpayer funded government advertising for its own political ends as that old adman Jeff was. It’s handed over plum jobs to it’s mates.

The Cole Royal Commission into skulduggery in the building industry is going to spark off the last thing it needs – conflict with inhabitants of the wilder shores of Marx who still play an important and influential role in the state’s union movement.

And to top it all off, the Auditor General says the budgetary situation is deteriorating.

Going to the polls on the first available date may not be dignified. It may smack of panic. But given all those variables, it’s also completely understandable.

Don’t be green

This election will be a clash between the Labor and Liberal Parties. Forget the hype. It won’t be Cunningham Mark II. The Libs didn’t run in the by-election. Here, with the two big parties contesting every seat, the preference flows will be completely different.

Only a green political observer would fall for the Green propaganda about the likely outcomes of the battles in safe Labor inner city seats like Melbourne where major third party or independent challenges are likely.

Sure, the campaign there will be interesting and the local shrub-huggers and nimbies are getting worked up about the Commonwealth Games village, but you can also bet that the Liberals will hammer the government over the construction cost blow-outs of the Games, not where they are building the village.

The Bracks government is not about to be swamped by a Green wave in the inner city. Instead, it is up against a redistribution that has favoured the opposition. The Liberal and National parties would be able to form government if the 1999 results were repeated on the new boundaries, and Labor needs to pick up six seats to form a majority government.

Labor is more at risk over the endless delays in upgrading the Geelong Road, and in the delay in constructing the eastern freeway extension. Bracks can’t afford to lose the state seats of Geelong and Mitcham, and other seats Labor had hoped to gain will be slipping from their grasp with the construction delays.

The Bracks government’s fate will be decided in the outer suburban and regional marginal seats, not the inner-city nimby belt. Your average swinging voter is more concerned about getting the freeway built that allows them to get from A to B quickly rather than the amount of greenhouse gases they generate on the way.

Hillary doesn’t want to sound like Paddy McGuinness or any of News Limited’s dancing bears, but the words “chattering class” and “elite” do come to mind as an obsessive debate about greens in the inner city gets going. What about the RARA belt seats Labor unexpectedly won in 1999? They’ll be more important than Albert Park.

Here’s a prediction. If the Bracks government is re-elected, there will be no Greens in Parliament. If the Bracks government is defeated, Greens will be elected.

And if somehow the Greens get the balance of power and start to make demands, J-Bro and the NSW Coalition will be rubbing their hands with glee.

Dems damned if they do or don’t

What does the Victorian state election hold for the Dems? Last week’s Newspoll had them on three per cent – up one per cent on the last polling period but less than half of the Greens’ rating of seven per cent.

They seem set to contest around 12 seats, but can’t really be expected to better the Newspoll result.

The party needs to be seen on the ground – anything else would suggest that they are on the verge of giving up – but it will be a matter of aiming their sights low. Anything else risks creating another round of recriminations that will do nothing for their stability and long term future.

Beat-up corner

Death stalks the Victorian election campaign – or Doctor Death, anyway.

Batty biddies who are tempted to top themselves in the off chance they have a terminal disease will be glad to know that publicity tart Philip Nitschke is keeping his options open.

Still, the Geelong Advertiser took the bait and came up with an opening par for a beat-up last week that deserves to live on as a classic of the genre: “Pro-euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke yesterday did not rule out standing sympathisers in the Geelong region’s three marginal seats in Victoria’s upcoming election.”

“Did not rule out”. Love it, just love it.

South of the border

As election fever hots up in Victoria, government MPs in Sydney are looking south of the border very closely.

With their own election now just over four months away and dark mutterings on Macquarie Street that Labor will be reduced to a minority government, they want to be across every possible political manoeuvre.

Feedback to [email protected]

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW