Sunday, January 22, 2012

It's Time To Talk About Ted

THE BILLABONG and those who visit seldom represent what might be termed a balanced microcosm of our society. With the exception of the Rufous Bird’s little brother, who is in his forties and should know better, very few Greens are invited to dally by the barbecue. Labor supporters tend to be somewhat more numerous, but for those guests excuses can be made, most being old friends whose fealty to the politics of their youth has remained immune to all the evidence of incompetence and corruption which has accumulated  since the glory days, when we all tramped together up Bourke Street and venerated Dr Jim.  A couple of those faded red veterans were present last night, when a leg of lamb spiked with garlic, secret herbs and diced pancetta emerged from the smoker, the joint’s crisp, smothered-mustard crust making it look like a NASA project that re-entered the atmosphere at the wrong angle. The bone was stripped, the corkscrew given quite a workout and amity ruled the night, good fellowship reaching its apogee at about the same time dessert hit the garden table by the fish pond. We should all eat fruit and often, as doctors and dieticians advise, but a good preliminary soaking in lots of banana liqueur does much to boost the take-up rate. That was certainly the case last night.

And so the evening proceeded, guests alternating their attention between Lleyton Hewitt’s slow march to victory and talk of another ultra-fit specimen’s rather less successful efforts to take a few sets in what is proving a rather more demanding arena, that large building in Spring Street across the road from the Imperial Hotel.

“He’s not as bad as he could be,” observed one guest. “I thought we were going to get another Kennett, but Ted hasn’t been so bad, really.” The Ted of whom he spoke is our Victorian premier, the alleged conservative Baillieu, who should be a little concerned the person who finds him so tolerable has voted the straight Labor ticket at every election since 1969. For those present who helped put the Liberals into power it was a chilling moment. To the clink of coffee cups and the scrape of the big spoon’s second servings of that delightful fruit salad, a shared vision of a one-term government crystalised in just those few words. Perhaps more worrying for a premier who would like to be re-elected in 2014, there was not one word of support from guests who represent what should be his party’s natural constituency. Indeed, the criticism from the right was bitter, vehement and voluble.

One disenchanted sort mentioned Deputy Premier Peter Ryan’s pre-election pledge to take a long, hard look at this state’s ravenous revenue cameras, which extract something like $500 million every year from drivers who are, in most cases, no more than a few kilometres per hour over the limit, usually within a typical speedo’s margin of error. Well Ryan did take a look and reported back that John Brumby’s shakedown artists were correct all along: If motorists are to behave, they must be gouged at every turn (and intersection, traffic light, country road and suburban street).

His view was endorsed by another guest, who owns a small trucking outfit and had hoped his drivers would encounter fewer time- and money-wasting random inspections. As he noted, fuel and overheads have all gone up, and so has the amount of cash being stripped from his bottom line by fines, which have seen a marked increase under Victoria’s allegedly pro-business government. One of his trucks had just spent two unproductive days off the road, he claimed, after a random inspection revealed the fuel gauge was broken. He may have been exaggerating, as he also mentioned several other deficiencies that needed to be fixed, but he was not stretching the truth about this government’s apparent indifference to an entrepreneur’s need to turn a profit.

A veteran Liberal Party member voiced similar disenchantment, disgusted by what he described as the influence on our premier of a small, tight circle of backroom operatives. Big Ted, he reckons, is naturally shy, and has established about himself a cordon sanitaire of human filters and courtiers, whose primary passion is for internecine power plays and plots. He mentioned rumoured efforts by one of those operatives to secure pre-selection in a blue ribbon seat, and how the incumbent had been denied resources and staff as part of that campaign. As the purported target is on the front bench, his performance as a minister – and the entire Baillieu government by extension – has been seriously hamstrung.

That was not the late evening’s most jaw-dropping gripe, which came from a Liberal-voting lady whose immense discretion has allowed her to survive and prosper in the hostile environs of our little state’s lockstep leftoid “arts community”. Her faith in Baillieu was shattered, she said, when she learned of the guests at his table as last year’s Premier’s Literary Awards were doled out.

“You will be astonished to see who Ted hangs out with,” she said, going on to mention a few names that struck all present as so improbable the list could not possibly be true. To establish if she had taken just a bit too much of the fruit salad, Young Master Bunyip was sent to fetch the Billabong’s latest laptop, which he did with reasonable efficiency, given the large and lumpy cigarette he had just been sharing with a knot of Labor voters and self-evident libertarians (who, as the old joke goes, are conservatives with bongs). Google worked its magic and apologies to Madam Artsy were soon being offered. Ted’s taste in companions proved every bit as bad as she had claimed.
On Baillieu's table were former premier John Cain and his wife Nancye, as well as Private Media publisher and Wheeler Centre chairman Eric Beecher. Also in attendance were Gay Alcorn, editor of The Sunday Age and authors Kate Holden and Sophie Cunningham. Meanwhile a white-suited Casey Bennetto, creator of Keating! The Musical, garnered laughs for his MC work, which included a series of musical tributes to the awards.
Beecher! Alcorn! Holden! And, of all people, former Meanjin editrix and piñata whacker Cunningham! By God but how that crew must have laughed behind Ted’s back. Not since Franklin Delano Roosevelt shipped all those planes and trucks and war goods to Stalin have so many resources been gifted to ideological enemies. Take a look at Ted’s literary short list, especially the winners, if you think that analogy is a stretch. Like Stalin they will have been overjoyed to find themselves on the receiving end of such largesse, all the while counting off the days until they can cheer their detested benefactor’s downfall.

 Come the next election....

There are no two ways about it. Ted Baillieu, lovely bloke that he is, does not belong behind the premier’s desk. If he is to remain there – and that would be due solely to conservatives’ lack of gumption in declining to forcefully remind him of both their restiveness and the voting public’s unfilled expectations – only one thing might be said in his favour.

Come 2014 and the return of Labor, Victoria’s stability will not be rocked in the least. Liberal or Labor, the electorate will not notice a damn bit of difference.


  1. The Coalition will easily win the next election.

  2. John Cain? John Cain?? The presbyterian socialist wreaker of Victoria?? I was living in Victoria when he was Premier, and watched agape as he did everything he possibly could to wreak the economy, feiging surprise when it finally happened. I have only seen one more incompetant economiccaly destructive government, they are currently in action in Canberra.

    1. Yes, absolutely spot on about Cain.
      We only got those wretched pokies because he had sent the state broke and Kirner needed the revenue. (and haven't they been a wonderful benefit to the ALP heartland suburbs.)
      There was nothing left after Cain was finished. Poor old Joan even had to flog the people's bank off the that Sydney Spiv Keating such was the depth of the mess he and Rob Jolly caused.

  3. Tony: Tribal loyalty obliges me to hope you are right, even though I and others like me will have to hold noses while filling in the ballot. But if Ted's embrace of Labor-lite continues, why not vote for the genuine article?

    Why isn't he clearing out the luvvies, at the very least? Take the Premier's literary awards, which he has left in the hands of the former government's camp followers. Why is Film Victoria still a sanctuary for Brumby holdovers?

    Because we are such a pleasant and decent lot, the worst mistake conservatives make is to imagine our enemies are similarly decent. They aren't. Sure they will smile and nod, take your money and break bread with you, but the slightest opportunity to advance their agaenda, and their self-interests, sees them spring immediately into action.

    Ted could have friends, lots of them, and good friends, too. But he must first acknowledge conservative concerns. To date, he has shown precious inclination to do so, and that is profoundly disappointing.

    And if he does get in the mood to roll up his sleeves, the next thing he must do is fix his government's publicity machine. Ever notice the number of times, usually when the Age breaks another faux scandal, the words "the minister was not available for comment" appear at the bottom of those stories?

    By the election the impression of a government beset by corruption will have taken root and, as there is so little difference between Ted and Labor, why not vote for the party offering the biggest swag of handouts?

  4. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.January 22, 2012 at 6:18 PM

    Yes, Professor, we expect the incumbent Libs to lead the way for the coming Federal rout and start gingering up the luvvies, not to continue watering the precious little flowers.

    The Ape and I tend to keep our lefty friends all in one bunch now and see them in groups separate to other companions of trencher, barrel and vat. Otherwise it all gets just too hard, as the lefties trundle in, as lefties do, with the assumption that there will be no cognitive dissonance with anyone. We only keep our lefty friends with the application of lashings of teeth-gnashing discretion, and still they smell a rat with us I am sure. We are drifting apart.

    No such luck with the lefties within the family though.

  5. Prof, are you familiar with the term "RINO"? It's what the Yanks call someone who is Republican In Name Only. That's our Ted, Mr. Disappointment.

  6. Before Ted was elected I attended a fund-raising breakfast for the local candidate at which he was the guest speaker. One word: underwhelming. A speech consisting mostly of platitudes. And during questions afterwards he revealed he's up with the best of the when it comes to waffling and avoiding giving an answer.

    So we now have a government of remarkable non-achievement. Treading water as it were. What happened to the major infrastructure projects we were promised, e.g., closing the Greensborough Gap and connecting the Eastern Freeway to Citylink. It was all talk and no action.

  7. Ted is playing what was described in Bracks' first term as "cross-over" politics. In other words, don't rock the boat from the off, steady as she goes, benefit from the authority innately granted by incumbency, and roll from a tight majority at the first election to a large majority at the second election. Then, with a tidy electoral buffer to protect them, they can slough off the dead wood in the bureaucracy and all the assorted quangos.

  8. Tony, re. your second comment: That tight majority you mention, what if there is a backbench heart attack or someone is forced to resign under scandalous circumstances?

    At that point, do you reckon our side might regret a gameplan hung on four years of not rocking the boat and hoping incumbency, rather than achievement, is enough to get Team Ted back over the line?

    With a one-seat majority, Ted's hold on power is a good deal more tenuous than Gillard's. He really does need to start getting things right (pun intended).

    Part of his misguided approach, I believe he gets from his mate Kennett, who may have warned him once too often that his own government was turfed out because of its perceived arrogance and emphasis on bulldozing opponents.

  9. Walter: In regard to linking the Eastern Freeway to the Bolte Bridge, don't overlook the fact that the Greens oppose such a move -- and Ted has demonstrated a curious willingness to placate them. If I'm not mistaken, Ted voted against Bay dredging, not that it did him any good with your Brunswick communards. (If I'm wrong, please correct)

    I almost relish the fact that the link is not being built. Let Bob Brown's admirers suck exhaust fumes. Meanwhile, smart Melbournians swing left at that magnificent eucalypt on the traffic island outside the Parkville Asylum and then scoot down Grattan to Arden Street and on to Dynon Road.

  10. Bugger Ted, I'd like to see the recipe for the "leg of lamb spiked with garlic, secret herbs and diced pancetta (which) emerged from the smoker". The fruit salad drowned in banana liquer also sounds wonderful.

  11. Victoria is now known all over the rest of Australia as The People's Republic of South Murray. Unless Ted behaves as the overwhelming majority of reddish voters in Mexico expect him to he'll be out on his ear anyway.

  12. Balderdash! Us out here in the suburbs are bloody glad that Ted is playing steady as she goes.With a huge inherited Victorian debt and a Federal government that is bound and determined to create havoc on a big scale, we are pretty happy with the hands off routine.You don't hear the voters complaining do you?

  13. To expect Ted to run screaming from packs of Lefties - this is Victoria, after all; they are everywhere - is ridiculous. Moreover, much of the criticism of Ted is that he has done nothing - this is the reaction from people whose memory stretches no further back than eleven years, a period during which Labor people were in the papers every day wearing ridiculous orange vests - giving people of little brain the impression that Labor was 'doing' things - while the State was run down.

  14. Teddy is banking on the electorate thinking the Coalition will be a safe bet in 2014. It's all about safe bets. And look at the second election results over the last 15 years - almost invariably a big win for an incumbent government after a tight first win followed by a first term of supposedly doing nothing.

  15. Here's another who is underwhelmed.

    The bloke has charisma up close but is too left for this conservative.

    So much so that the Libs won't be getting my 2012 subscription as a member.

    Does anyone think he might see too much of his Min L, or has he always been a closet Green left spin meister?

    Mind you I'm still not going to vote Labor or Green
    (UGH! UGH! Know them too well and have NO respect for any of them)
    and I'm still going to vote for Tony Abbott!

  16. As a good culture warrior I would have liked to have seen Ted put a bit more stick about, but one thing I'd give the new government credit for is I do think that they have marginalised some of the green forces that were dictating policy in this state under Labor.

    There might be something in what Anonymous at 4.16pm says - voters might be qute happy with an apolitical government that keeps out of our lives as much as possible.

  17. Red Ted is a disgrace pure amd simple. A rabid multiculturalist who wants this detested policy enshrined into the Commonwealth Constitution, likens refugees to ANZACs, amd takes counsel from the rabid ethnic salami slicing extremist Petro. The sooner the party shafts him the better. His views on social policy are the elites wet dream. Supports the detested Hulls charter of rights and an assortment of leftist social policies. There's plenty of time for the party to get rid of him and his small cabal of supporters won't be able to hold off the inevitable challenge that will come from the true conservatives that represent mainstream voters. Imagine that, Alcorn and Beecher. Standard bearers of the hard extreme loopy left. How pathetic red Ted.

  18. I would suggest a new identification for the Premier - 'The Compassionate Ditherer'

    The election seems to have changed the individual ministers but not the government one iota.

    Instead of a Labor government being protective of the disadvantaged and giving unions every chance of success, the Libs are protective of the disadvantaged and giving property developers every change of success.

    Perhaps we would have been better off if the Brumby government had been simply overthrown by a different faction of the ALP, one that could have owned up and reversed all the mistakes of the Baracks/Brumby era - Myki, desalination plants, establishing an anti-corruption commission...which would be more than Ballieau has done.

  19. Just saw this. So, how disgraceful! On Baillieu's table was John Cain (then-president of the Library Board of Victoria) and Eric Beecher (the chairman of the centre organising the awards)? Outrageous! And... *other* people of *different* political persuasions were in attendance (not at his table)? I don't know how he can hold his head up!