Buying votes: all right by us

Peter Farago
Should we be wary of politicians bearing gifts?
Geelong region residents look set to make off like bandits no matter which party wins this month’s election if the current spending spree continues.
Labor has been throwing around taxpayers’ money like it’s going out of fashion in the past few weeks, with many groups cashing in on John Brumby’s massive war chest budget surplus.
And the Liberal party has plenty in store for Geelong, too, if it wins on November 25.
State Government made a raft of announcements leading up to the formal start of the election campaign on Tuesday, delivering hundreds of thousands of dollars to the region.
Among the gifts was a $500,000 study into Geelong’s cultural and civic precinct, a master plan for Geelong Racecourse, Corio bus improvements, extra TAFE places, sponsorship for a women’s event at next year’s Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach and cuts to V/Line and Bellarine Peninsula bus fares.
Geelong’s never been so fortunate.
Only one of those announcements can be directly linked to State Government’s re-election campaign – its decision to match, and better, a Liberal promise to cut public transport fares.
Everything else is guaranteed funding from the Government.
And Labor hasn’t launched its expected Geelong policy for the poll yet, either.
But there will be little complaining from recipients of this largesse immediately before an election.
Especially from Geelong Mayor Peter McMullin who put his name to a State Government media release for a study into the city’s cultural and civic precinct.
The Government didn’t commit to build anything but it was “great news for Geelong”, the Mayor trumpeted.
Of course it was.
Geelong council’s massive bureaucracy is spread over at least four major city centre sites and this plan vaguely provides for relocation of civic accommodation, along with another City goal of a convention and exhibition centre.
But the Mayor hasn’t been so forthcoming on major Liberal promises, like its commitment to redirect the third stage of Geelong’s bypass so it’s more in line with the expectations of local residents – and council.
But the Mayor’s political affiliations aside, a Liberal win would also benefit Geelong residents.
The Liberals, too, have rolled out the barrel for the region, promising to boost the amount of police officers in the region, open Bellarine and Torquay stations for 24 hours a day and build a new police station at Grovedale.
The opposition also promised a new railway station at Grovedale to service Waurn Ponds and a new suburb planned for Armstrong’s Creek as well as redirecting the bypass further west away from existing residential areas at Wandana Heights and traffic lights on Princes Highway at Highton.
If this spending spree continues much further into the campaign, Geelong residents won’t be asked to select between the money and the box.
Because both are putting up plenty of money.