VICTORIAN STATE ELECTION News Weekly
What Victoria's new Labor government has in store
, December 20, 2014
Daniel Andrews’ Labor Party defeated the Liberal-National coalition at the Victorian election on November 29 and will hold a majority of about six seats, although the ALP had a swing of only about 1.3 per cent on primary votes.
Victoria’s new Equality
Minister Martin Foley
In 2010, the Coalition won the election, taking 13 seats from Labor. The Coalition had a majority of just one in both houses of the Victorian parliament.
The Coalition vote was boosted by a major campaign run in marginal seats by the NCC and pro-life and faith-based groups, following passing of the controversial Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 and attacks on freedom of religion by the Bracks/Brumby Labor governments.
In contrast, at the recent election, many of the same groups were lukewarm about the Coalition government over its failure to amend Victoria’s abortion laws to respect the right of conscience for medical professionals.
The 2014 result has made the Coalition a one-term government. It suffered first from the lack of leadership under Ted Baillieu, and second from the parliament being crippled by the Geoff Shaw affair during the time of Premier Denis Napthine, who took over from Baillieu mid-term.
Geoff Shaw had been accused of misusing a government car and was forced to resign from the Liberals and sit as an independent. Yet the government depended on Shaw for a majority in parliament.
Labor ran an effective election campaign, with the help of several unions, using old-fashioned door-knocking, combined with texting and social media campaigning, in marginal Liberal electorates in south-east Melbourne.
Although the result for the upper house, the Legislative Council, is yet to be finalised, it is clear that Premier Daniel Andrews will have to rely on the Greens and micro-parties to have legislation passed. The ALP is expected to hold only 13-14 seats in the 40-seat Legislative Council.
The Greens are likely to hold five to six seats (up from two), with another six to seven seats held by the micro-parties, including the Australian Country Alliance, Shooters and Fishers, the Sex Party, the DLP and possibly others. In the previous parliament there were no micro-parties.
So what policies can be expected from the new Labor government?
It has promised to enact a radical social agenda, including an extensive gay and lesbian wish-list, for Victoria.
Under the guise of tackling bullying, the government will require every government secondary school to have programs to support and celebrate “gender and sexual diversity” through a state-wide rollout of the Safe Schools Coalition initiative.
It has promised to repeal the criminal offence of intentional infecting of another person with HIV; to establish a GLBT Ministerial Advisory Committee within the Cabinet; and to create a dedicated Gender and Sexuality Discrimination Commissioner in the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
The ALP has also pledged to recognise foreign same-sex marriages as registered relationships under the Victorian Relationships Register Act. The proposal is to allow same-sex couples to describe themselves as “married” on the application form.
Labor is also committed to granting adoption rights to same-sex couples.
Its proposed changes to Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act constitute an attack on freedom of religion. Under the promised changes, faith-based schools, youth clubs, charities, welfare agencies, hospitals and counselling agencies could be forced to employ people hostile to their beliefs.
Hypocritically, Labor’s proposal will not force Labor MPs to employ Liberal supporters.
In the closing stages of the Victorian election campaign, leaders of the major churches called for no changes to be made to the Equal Opportunity Act, in the interest of maintaining a fair balance between the right to equality, freedom of association and religious liberty.
Also, it can be expected that the abortion lobby will be pushing for “bubble zones” around abortion facilities to prevent pro-lifers praying for and approaching women entering an abortion facility.
The upper house losses suffered by both Labor and the Coalition to the Greens and the micro-parties highlight a major issue that has been developing over the past few decades.
Since the early 1990s, planning by successive governments has focused on a concentrated high-rise residential building spree in central Melbourne.
Hundreds of thousands of people are now living in one- and two-bedroom units. They are single-income or dual-income-no-kids households.
Coalition and ALP governments have poured billions into infrastructure support for metropolitan Melbourne. What they have created is a concentrated constituency of people inclined to vote Green.
Meanwhile, regional economies have been suffering from a lack of infrastructure development.
This has been made worse in central and northern Victoria from the huge loss to farmers of irrigation water that has been diverted to the environment under the Commonwealth government’s Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
This failure to pursue sensible decentralisation policies has left Labor bleeding to the Greens in Melbourne and the Coalition bleeding to micro-parties in the regional areas of Victoria.
The result is likely to leave Victoria with similar problems to the Abbott government, which is struggling to get its legislation though a divided Senate. The one difference in Victoria is that the upper house cannot block supply; so the Andrews government, with its control of the lower house, can easily pass its budgets.
Patrick J. Byrne is national vice-president of the National Civic Council.