‘Guilty Party’ seeks revenge

Peter Farago
THE Guilty Party is getting its revenge.
The State Government was the first cab off the rank in the 2006 election campaign, running its first series of television advertisements this week.
The first ad features Premier Steve Bracks talking about the job his Government needs to finish: addressing Liberal accusations that the ALP has been a “do-nothing” administration.
However the real campaign started when the ALP introduced its own version of the highly-successful Guilty Party advertisements that kept Labor out of office for eight years.
But Labor has turned the theme on its head.
Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu is the target – over the Kennett Government’s record of cutting police, teachers and nurses’ jobs in the 1990s.
Mr Baillieu’s link to the Coalition’s public sector cuts? He was president of the Victorian Liberal Party when Jeff Kennett was Premier.
It’s a tenuous link but a good one.
The fact Labor has gone for the negative angle first demonstrates a soft underbelly that the Liberals will target as the election campaign grows older.
Labor wants to plant doubt in voters’ minds about the Liberal party’s real intentions.
In Geelong, the Liberals have been on the front foot with popular policy announcements like giving Bellarine Peninsula residents a vote for their own council or changing the final stage of Geelong’s bypass to a route running further west of Waurn Ponds away from residential areas.
This week Michael King also announced a Liberal Government would build a new train station at Grovedale-Waurn Ponds, locking in on plans for a new suburb for 70,000 residents in Geelong’s south.
Going early with these big-ticket items has somewhat stolen the local policy agenda from Labor and will no doubt be used later on to demonstrate the opposition has a plan.
Putting early runs on the board also helps the Liberal party create a positive image of itself after it was wiped from the political landscape at the last election following an insipid local performance.
Labor is holding onto its Geelong policy cards at this stage but has been on a charm offensive with a procession of ministers rolling into town to make major announcements and to get their photos taken.
The Government is holding onto a lot more than just policies, though.
State Government’s contentious Strategic Land Use Plan for the Port of Geelong has gone to the printers.
But voters in North Shore, Norlane and Corio won’t get to see the pages until after the election.
And that’s bad news because the final report, apparently renamed the Port Land Use Strategy so it makes the acronym PLUS instead of the former SLUP, could have some nasty surprises for residents.
But Labor candidate for Lara, upper house MP John Eren told the Independent this week that he didn’t know much about the plan.
He did deny, though, that the Government was hiding it until after the election.
Many would think the opposite could very much be the case.
Other cards are being held close to Labor’s chest, too, like preselection for the federal seat of Corangamite.
Labor doesn’t need a potentially bruising fight for preselection at this point of time, especially considering public opinion on the performance of other local Labor identities in the past year.
But it’s only the start of a month on the election hustings, so there’s plenty of time for both sides to put their case to the Geelong region.
The hardest decision? Who to believe.