Well, Labor won. It’s not exactly a surprise, and it’s more or less a positive thing (from Quit Coal’s point of view) but there are a few interesting things that it’s worth thinking about: two factoids, the upsides, and the Upper House result.
There are two factoids about this election that everyone is repeating. First, there hasn’t been a one-term government in Victoria in sixty years. And second, there has been an unprecendently large pre-poll (that is, people voting before election day) – about one in three Victorians.
To be honest, the one-term thing isn’t really that important. It’s just an interesting fact. 22% of first-term state governments have lost in the last sixty years. It seems pretty unlikely that Victorians are SO MUCH more willing to give governments a second chance. The Ballieu-Napthine government is the first Victorian government to have a four-year first term. You might need to read that again.
The terms were changed from three years to four in 2003 when Labor was in power. They got re-elected and so the outgoing Liberal government is the first one with a four year first term. The idea here is that by the fourth year of a government (ie, the first year of a second term under the previous system), the citizens expect them to be able to get on with the job. But the Napthine government has been stagnant, unable to get media attention for their messages over the noise of Geoff Shaw, ministerial porno scandals, and the Federal Government being loudly unpopular. So Labor got in instead. Oppositions don’t get elected, governments get booted out.
The second factoid: unprecedented pre-polling. 30% of the state decided to vote in advance. Some people think pre-polls tend to favour conservatives. But there are reasons to think the pre-polls might include more environmentally concerned votes too. For example, the author of this article voted at a pre-poll… It’s looking unlikely – but the Greens could scrape a win in the seats of Brunswick and Prahran. Unfortunately, that won’t make much of an influence on Government policy, because Labor have a fairly comfortable majority.
The upsides? One additional Green, at least, and the first Greens Lower House seat, and possibly tw o in the Upper House. One independent in the National Party heartland of Shepparton. There has been an interesting campaign in the seat of Morwell where the Hazelwood mine fire brought the community together to run a campaign against incumbent Nationals Energy Minister Russell Northe. It was always unlikely for Tracey Lund – the community candidate – to get elected, but it was hoped that even if she didn’t make it past the line her preferences would be enough to get Labor ahead of Russell Northe. However the seat of Morwell has seen an 11.6% swing towards Labor – which is almost exactly how much of the vote Tracey Lund received! Independents can shift votes away from conservative parties far more effectively than the Labor or Greens can. Labor may end up winning the seat on pre-polls.
Other nice things with independents: gas campaigner Phil Piper got 3.2% of the primary vote in Gippsland South; the Shepparton independent – now the Member for Shepparton – got a massive 36% of the primary vote; Clare LeServe got 11.4% in Bass – mostly taken from Liberals voters; and Tex Perkins got a good percentage even though he told everyone not to vote for him and left the country.
The good things from Quit Coal’s point of view? Well, a general shift towards the Greens is nice. If that trend continues, they’ll almost certainly get elected in Brunswick, Prahran, and Northcote next time. Independents are often preferable to the major parties on environmental issues. But ultimately the Labor party can govern in the lower house without the approval of anyone else. Labor has three environmental policies that are better than the Liberals.
First, they’ve promised to relax laws around wind farm bans. They’re going to keep the laws, unfortunately, but it’s a small step in the right direction. Second, they’ve promised a twelve-month inquiry into coal seam gas. It’s not as good as a ban but it’s better than a moratorium that would almost certainly be lifted. And thirdly, the East-West Link would have seen an increase in carbon emissions from traffic. Labor has said that they’ll tear up the contracts. But on each of these issues, and all the other things people voted for, everyone is – or should be – worrying about the issue of ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ promises. We’ll see what happens.
Finally, the Upper House result. The Upper House (technically it’s called the Legislative Council – it’s the equivalent of the Federal Senate) is going to be pretty diverse. The Greens have probably picked up an additional three seats, bringing them to 5. There are going to be six other candidates, including the Sex Party, who have good climate policy but doesn’t like to talk about it, and the Shooters Party. It is not yet clear what position the Shooters and Fishers Party will take on key issues like coal, gas and renewables. Labor frontbencher Brian Tee didn’t get returned. The Government will need to have all the Greens and then two more senators on side to get significant legislation passed. It might also have a big impact on the results of committee hearings; there will be a stronger environmental voice in all reports that are handed to the Government.
And, that’s about it. We’re still going to have to keep campaigning to stop the powers that be burning coal, and drilling for gas, and pumping petrol. But the tide is slowly turning.
By Noah Beecher Kelk