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Just ten weeks from polling day and we are left to ask, could the political outlook for Victorian voters be any more dispiriting?

For those voters actually engaged in the state’s democratic process – things are looking grim.

Very grim.

Neither the Government nor the Opposition presents voters with a credible (let alone compelling) case for governing what is now a state drowning in debt. Labor debt.

Consider this…

Victoria’s projected debt of an astounding $170+ billion is greater than the combined debt levels of New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania. Identifying an Australian state government more fiscally profligate than the incumbent Victorian Labor government is a challenge. There isn’t one.

Most eligible voters are, in all likelihood, blissfully unaware of the proximity of the election – on Saturday 26 November – in which they must cast a vote.

The sorry truth is that many first-time voters are clueless that Victoria is home to a State Parliament. They are so uninterested in ‘domestic politics’ that most would be unable to locate their Victorian Parliament building.

Worse, many long-time voters appear dismissive of the looming November poll.

Numerous voters do not appear to appreciate that state governments have a statutory four-year term, while the federal government has only three years in which to convince voters they ought to be re-elected.

Labor’s second four-year term is up and they must ‘face the people’ in November.

Setting to one side the alarming truths about the ramshackle state of the political scaffolding in Victoria – let us focus on the appalling choice confronting voters.

For those wishing to vote for an administration likely to take its fiduciary and democratic responsibilities seriously, they have a double dilemma.

Neither the incumbent (eight-year-old) Labor government nor the Liberal-National Opposition instil the slightest confidence, capacity, or inclination to govern in the voters’ interests as opposed to their party-political interests.

A ‘politically useful’ mix of voter ignorance and apathy is more likely than not to get the Andrews Labor government over the line for an undeserved third term – albeit with a reduced majority.

For two of the last four years under the iron grip of Daniel Andrews, voters and their families have been subject to Covid-related laws, restrictions, and impositions which have been amongst the most heavy-handed anywhere in the world. The impact on lives, livelihoods, businesses, and especially on the lonely, poor, and those in aged care has proven to be catastrophic. The consequential decline in our collective mental health will take years to correct and manage.

Andrews’ panicked handling of the early stages of Covid by mandating the harshest of lockdowns seemed, ironically, to provide many voters a sense of security that government was acting in their interests.

This sentiment rapidly proved to be a mirage, like so much else this government claims to have achieved during its long occupation of the government benches. In Victoria, it is evident that all is not what it seems.

When it comes to ‘state craft’ within Victoria, there has never been such a comprehensive and invasive operation to mislead and deceive the electorate about the true state of affairs confronting taxpayers. On top of this, chronic ALP rorting and branch stacking were identified in IBAC hearings during the last year. These have left a stain on Andrews personally, along with others in the ALP hierarchy.

This government has no peer when it comes to the employment of what feels like propaganda. A sizeable team of taxpayer-funded operatives assist the Premier’s Office in this task.

It is relentless. Bad news is smothered by puerile ‘good news’ stories from Spring Street or by careful management around the timing of their press releases. Take the 000 Report into Emergency Ambulance Services as an example – released in the early hours of a Saturday morning during the AFL football finals.

Andrews is well known within Labor circles as a communicator ‘par excellence’. This assessment takes no account however of basics such as honesty, truth, or the public’s right to know. All too often with difficult issues – Andrews dismissively refuses to answer questions or claims he won’t comment because inquiries are ‘in play’ or pending. He is one of the nation’s most accomplished political spinners. He is also fond of putting his political survival well above that of the public interest.

While the same cannot be said for Opposition Leader, Matthew Guy, his party has had some small successes in highlighting the appalling shortcomings in public health, mental health, aged care, and emergency service 000 failures leading to more than thirty deaths – especially in the last year.

Sadly for those voters looking for an alternative to Andrews, the pickings are lean. Guy – a second time Opposition leader – has failed to ignite the public imagination and voters are struggling to identify what positive alternative he and his colourless MPs offer the electorate. Getting ‘cut-through’ in Opposition is tough, particularly when the media tends to favour the incumbent and voters are simply not listening.

Against the horrors of what occurred during the Covid lockdowns and the evident shambles in the state’s public health system – no single failure of the Andrews Cabinet comes close to the grotesque level of debt to which young, and as yet unborn Victorians have been assigned.

Weak political leaders make unfunded promises to deliver infrastructure and services. Strong leaders establish robust financial parameters for all public spending and stick to them. The Andrews government has failed miserably to adhere to this doctrine.

For the Opposition, the challenge is to commit to a political agenda that is forward-looking and fiscally responsible while also reducing the obscene debt created by Andrews over his eight years in office.

As is so frequently the case with profligate governments they unleash a swag of surreptitious taxes, fees, charges, levies – call them whatever you like – in order to plug fiscal holes of their making. Backed by a bloated public service (in excess of 300,000 people) Andrews is content to tax virtually everything Victorians do – even bushwalking, rock climbing, and just being in state and national parks.

Voters will go to the polls with a terrible choice before them: to re-elect a Labor government that is mired in debt and deceit, or to opt for an Opposition that has manifestly failed to project a fresh, innovative, and positive agenda for the next four years.

Such is the desolation of the political landscape here that it may be time to join the 50,000 Victorians who quit the state last year and wisely moved elsewhere.

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gtsemil@gmail.com