From Crikeys perceived bias to controlled debates, your feedback and thoughts are here With the utmost respect, judging by the recent spate of articles concerning the Brack's government published on the main page, I wondering if the entire site should carry a Liberal party authorization and a hyperlink to the campaign site.

I've noticed that whilst there is a 34,000 word account of a rather nasty internal ALP brawl, a series of negative remarks about the Greens, there is nothing nearly so prominent about Victorian Liberal party preselections or branch stacking on the main page. Unless the Victorian Liberals are such civilised sort of chaps that they would never resort to anything as base as holding a plebiscite it seems rather one sided.

Sure, voters ought to be informed about the type of reprobate who runs for public office, but the timing of the Delia re-run and a lack of information on the other side pushes it over the line into apparently biased editorial priorities territory. There are bad blokes on both sides of the political spectrum who deserve periodic attention and not all of them are ex-union organisers endorsed by the ALP.

I guess in the circumstances Crikey is better value Liberal party news and views at $66 per year than the Australian over the course of a year. If your coming out for the Liberals, at least do it openly on each page in the politics section and in the sealed sections below the header. Remember, under the bit labelled "About Us" it says everyone with their fingers in the till and something about disclosure and the other lofty aspirations of 4th estate.

Michael Catchpoole



More criticism...

Great to read your updates as always.

I am concerned that you're returning strongly to your Liberal roots and your web commentary is starting to look quite biased. In particular your debate coverage is shameless pro-Doyle when the outcome was not nearly as clear (as all the commentators seem to agree on, even Mitchell said Doyle only slightly won).

It really just goes to show that all debates do is serve to reinforce peoples existing prejudices. If you believe that there is a problem with unions, you would have applauded Doyles digs. If you believe that services were decimated under Kennett then you would have admired Bracks for focusing on health, education and police numbers.

Your current attacks on FOI seem awfully coincidental with a clear Liberal leak (I can't recall you mentioning the issue before), and bringing back Delia Delegate (as interesting as he/she was) just looks like spite. Since you're not running you need to declare whether you're going to continue to run Liberal lines every day or bring a bit of balance into the debate and look behind the issues.

If you wanted to stick to your economic strength you could ask the Libs where the money's coming from because they're starting to look like major spend thrifts as they seem to think you can cut taxes and increase spending at the same time.

On the other hand I think your Saturday Age column was very balanced and a good read.

Sorry to bitch, but I've held off for a week.

Public Service Pete



Terry Maher no idea on 'Green potential'

I agree with Terry Maher that Richard Di Natale's hopes of holding Labor to 30% in Melbourne are "fantasy" - and I suspect Di Natale knows that himself. But it doesn't follow that he doesn't have a good chance of winning the seat.

Maher's own report in Crikey on 30 October told us that Labor's polling showed them getting only 38%. Let's say that holds up, and using round figures, say the Greens get 20%, Kevin Chamberlin and others another 20% between them, leaving the remaining 22% for the Liberals. If Di Natale then gets 60% of the preferences of Chamberlin & others (with the rest splitting evenly between ALP & Liberals), that gives Labor 42%, Green 32% and Liberal 26%. Provided Liberal preferences hold reasonably well (better than 70%), that would give the Greens the seat.

For Maher to say that "at the end of the day, any vote for 'Di Natale is a vote for Bambi Bracks and his Bunny Bronny' just doesn't make sense. It's not as if anyone else has a better chance of beating Labor. And nothing against Bronwyn Pike personally, but it would do this government a lot of good for a minister or two to go down, and the Greens (either in Melbourne or in Northcote) are the only ones that are likely to do it.

Charles Richardson



FOUND! Voter reunited with ALP and Steve Bracks!

I am a very disillusioned 33 year old loyal Labor voter and this election is the first time I have actually said that I was NOT GOING TO VOTE Labor mainly based on my perceptions that this government has been barely distinguishable from the Kennett Government, with money coming before peoples needs and the reprehensible policies of continuing to support the Grand Prix at the current site and the irresponsible increases in logging, wood chipping and other environmental principles that should never be compromised by a Labor government.

However, I commend your performance in the debate and you have successfully won me back, but it is conditional on bringing the party back closer to its roots on the environment and social reform, and accountability with a few radical things thrown in (heroin trials, etc.)

Doyle also goes on about 800 reviews and reports. To this please answer and what is wrong with that? What, a government that consults, is that a bad thing? Id like to see what his reply was. And what do you get without consultation Doyle, roads you pay for, a GP in the middle of the city and states assets gone forever!

Finally based on this performance, dont shy away from another debate. You came across as confident and honest, whereas Doyle squirmed and looked very uncomfortable, casting serious doubts as to can he be believed? I think not!

Anonymous



Steve Bracks in control of his 'debating sandpit'

Your article on the state of the budget was excellent. Even your critics spin doctoring didnt detract for the truth - well done!

Well, we had the 'only doing it once' debate. Seems a raw nerve was hit on the $1.8 billion surplus Bracksy has dwindled down to near nothing within 3 years!

Crime figures were an issue too. "How safe are we?" Bracksy pondered, "over all, crime is down."

For my money safety equals fall in violent crimes on persons, oops, Bracksy failed that one too! Violent crime on persons up more than 24%.

As for the debate, I think you will be getting a mail on how Bracksy prepared! I think we will be calling it the debate when you're not having a debate.

Thought the questions could have been a bit punchier to both of them, or did Labor Party 'approve' them too.

(Not playing unless by my rules or you won't be allowed in the sandpit)

Concerned Voter



Libs no to crucial country trains

Your comments regarding the Vic State election are interesting.

I'd like to add an additional ingredient to the mixture so to speak, that Is, the future or otherwise of the three independents.

One issue that the independents have been strong on is the reintroduction of passenger rail services back to Bairnsdale, Mildura and Leongatha. The Bracks government has stated that passenger services will return soon (with these three given priority).

Apparently current Liberal Party policy is to scrap these plans and not go for the reintroduction of these trains. I wonder how the Independents feel about this? Not to mention the locals. In Mildura Russell Savage won on a platform (so to speak) of getting the 'Vinelander' back to Mildura.

With the privatisation of the Victorian rail network things like reintroducing passenger trains take a little longer now as there is even more beauracratic hurdles to go through. The track is owned by VicTrack yet Freight Australia has access rights over these three lines at present. It is a long process to negotiate the rights so to speak to allow V/Line Passenger (or likely West Coast Railway) to allow the running of passenger services.

Add to the equation that the Bracks government have made it no secret that they want to operate all Victorian country rail services at some stage. Yet at the present West Coast Railway have indicated all along that if passenger services were to return to Bairnsdale and Mildura then they would be happy to put their hand up. Bairnsdale and Warrnambool had/have very similar loadings and are about the same distance from Melbourne.

Just to add even further problems the government and Freight Australia want to standardise 80% of the track in Victoria including the Mildura line (currently underway). So that makes it complicated and expensive for an operator as carriages and locomotives would have to be gauge converted. Freight Australia have indicated that they would be happy to assist an operator to run passenger trains to Mildura and Bairnsdale. Some say they are even interested in acquiring V/Line Passenger from National Express if the government is interested.

All very confusing.

Make no mistake, the Kennett government made a total balls up of the transport privatisation agenda.

Before the 'Vinelander' was replaced by a coach it used to run six days a week fully booked, with around six to seven carriages including two sleepers. At Easter time, this train was often run with up to fifteen carriages and in two divisions. When the coach replaced the train, loadings slumped to about twenty passengers per trip, on a sixty-seat coach.

Disgraceful.

The same can be said with the train to Bairnsdale. To the end Bairnsdale had some of the busiest passenger loadings on the country rail network.

The Liberals have never been able to put answers to these issues.

Steven
Train traveller and enthusiast.

Crikey: No doubt about the romanticism of the train versus the sterility of the bus. But its all about the bottom line now. Last Friday night, Doyle spoke of the potential gridlock at suburban Sunshine as somewhat of an excuse for not entertaining ideas about separate trains emanating from northern Victoria.



'AGE' analyst 'coloured by personal leanings'

It was interesting to see young legal professional Nicola Gobbo included in a panel of four by Saturday's Age to review the election debate.

While she declared Premier Bracks to have won the debate "easily", and did not hold back in criticising the style and substance of Mr Doyle, it is difficult to assume that Gobbo's perspective was not coloured by her personal political leanings.

This was the same Nicola Gobbo who, as an ALP-member, played a high profile role in the 1996 federal election, when she signed a statutory declaration pointing to one of her comrades on the liberal side of student politics as having confessed to the forgery of letters central to the fabled "Ralph Willis letters affair". This timely statutory declaration (coming less than 48 hours before the polling day) helped Mr Willis out a great deal - although, as history tells, not enough.

The Ralph Willis incident was big news at the time and had a fair share of intrigue associated with it. Indeed, Nicola was the subject of a front page Sunday Age spread a few weeks after the 1996 election in relation to the incident.

Leslie Letterhead



Stick to the footy commentary Phil Cleary

Just a glimmer of sense from Phil Cleary. He says he has decided against standing for the election which is perhaps the first sensible decision he has made in years. We have enough second rate bum politicians without adding to them.

Good on ya Phil. Perhaps you are growing up at last ?

David Gothard