The Victorian election campaign has finally, sort of, spluttered to life, but the fact that it took ABC Mornings host Jon Faine to do it in front of a hectoring crowd of creek protestors on the patio of Sofia pizza restaurant in Frankston probably says a lot for the disinterest most of the state’s citizens have in this campaign.
Five million Victorians will go to the polls in a tick over three weeks, but the election water torture in Canberra, a four day, Melbourne Cup punctuated weekend, and the rational and correct desire of most denizens to crack out the beach umbrellas has meant that a fog of ambivalence has descended on Spring Street while the pollies try desperately to drum up controversy.
Crikey arrived at the pier-side pasta den to witness Liberal upper house leader David Davis and deputy premier Rob Hulls trading insults over that classic state politics chestnut, law and order, with each side rehashing their tired crackdown rhetoric to prove how they were going to make the state safer by dispatching more semi-automatic armed police to notorious trouble spots. Crime continues to fall in Victoria, and Melbourne is one of the safest cities in the world, but you wouldn’t know it from some of the bile seeping through Faine’s microphones.
Still, Victorians apparently feel unsafe, hence the necessity to parrot the Herald Sun’s lines about the state being prostituted to thugs and gangs. Hulls, getting that Percy’s look about him, repeatedly challenged Davis, demanding that he send the Coalition’s promises through the State Treasury, without disclosing that the detail will then be available to staff in the Premier’s office.
It was then on to the local issues, in which also, surprise surprise, feature law and order heavily, a straw poll revealing that only two people in the marquee cared about jobs, which the Brumby government will hammer relentlessly until polling day in the style pioneered by Peter Costello. But amazingly, the Liberal candidate for Frankston, Geoff Shaw, failed to show up to debate local Labor member Alistair Harkness and Greens beanpole Simon Tiller, with his slot filled by Baillieu factional warrior Inga Peulich.
Harkness is just holding on in Frankston by 3.2%, the ALP has apparently pledged to drown him in serious dollars before November 27, and this appeared to boost the MP’s confidence with staunch backup from Faine who hates it when people disrespect his platform by going AWOL.
After a break for the news, Police Minister James Merlino made a cameo appearance to talk about, er, law and order, but was embarrassed in one of those priceless radio moments by some local high schoolers who expressed their stern displeasure at having to wait around the bong-heavy twilight zone that is Frankston Station after 6pm.
Armed guards on trains were the solution, the well-articulated 15-year-old said, leaving Faine to menace the minister into making an off-the-cuff announcement.
But like so much of this campaign to date, nothing substantial was forthcoming.