covering statewide issues

Victorian voters can put the ‘preference whisperers’ out of business

By Brian Costar. Victorian voters can lock micro parties out of parliament and counter the tricks of ‘preference whisperers’ by taking advantage of the state’s optional preferential voting system in the parliament’s upper house. The number of political parties contesting this month’s Victorian state election has jumped to 21 – nearly double the number in 2010 – so the scene is set for a repeat of the federal deal-making that resulted in several micro parties, such as the Motoring Enthusiasts, gaining seats in the Senate at last year’s federal election. Many of the parties in the Victorian election have never been heard of before, and once again ‘preference whisperers’ are reported to be arranging complex agreements. In federal elections for the Senate, 95 per cent of voters choose to vote ‘above the line’ rather than trying to correctly rank dozens of candidates ‘below the line’ and risk an informal vote. What these voters need to know is that by just voting 1 above the line they are accepting that party’s full allocation of preferences, which means they might help elect someone they heartily disapprove of. In other words, voters aren’t allocating their preferences, party managers are doing it for them. Victoria’s Legislative Council is elected on essentially the same system as the Senate, but with one major variation. Those who vote below the line only need to correctly rank five candidates – that is, the number of places to be filled. If they wish, they can rank more, but five is enough to record a formal vote. By doing this voters retain control of where their preferences go. And... read more

Prahran’s mentally ill suffer the unkindest cuts

By Michael Ryan. A Melbourne University professor has lashed out at the Napthine Government’s cuts to mental-health funding, blamed for August’s closure of a Prahran drop-in centre for the mentally ill. Professor Tony Jorm – a fellow in the university’s School of Population and Global Health – has told UniPollWatch that this state ‘has a crisis-based system’ and added: ‘There is no rational mental health planning in Victoria.’ Professor Jorm is a colleague of Professor Pat McGorry, the 2010 Australian of the Year, who last month called for a radical overhaul of Victoria’s mental health services. Dr McGorry has continued his public campaign over the past few days, speaking out on a community survey finding that mental health was now the number one concern for Victorian voters. This was despite heavy media emphasis on public transport, the economy and education, to the comparative neglect of mental health as an election issue. Professor Jorm – who has written more than 20 books and monographs, and had more than 480 articles published in academic journals – called on the Government to adopt the national mental health planning framework. Under this framework, he said, the Government would revive its support for community mental health services such as the Prahran Mission’s drop-in centre, which was forced to close because of 2014-15 state budget cuts. It would also support early intervention to prevent mental illness developing in the first place, he said. A member of the National Health and Medical Research Council, Dr Jorm has made mental health literacy his own research specialisation, defining it as ‘public understanding of, and attitudes to, mental illnesses’.... read more

Grabbing marginal’s green wedge for amusement park

By Caitlin Caldwell, Catherine Brennan and Jared Brown. A 43-hectare amusement park is being considered by Chinese developers on land zoned “green wedge” near Dandenong, according to the local mayor, sparking concerns about development of the environmentally sensitive land. The $5.3 million purchase of the site in August by Meixin Australia has alarmed environmentalists, who want to turn development of Melbourne’s “green wedges” – land put aside in 1971 by premier Sir Rupert Hamer for farming and open space – into a state election issue. Meixin Australia, registered by two Chinese-born residents in July just before the land purchase was made, could not be reached for comment. But Dandenong mayor Jim Memeti, who was among those on a recent council trade trip to China, has indicated the company planned to turn the land into a theme park. Cr Memeti did not return calls, but was quoted last month in a local paper floating the idea. Fellow councillor Roz Blades said the council was expecting a report on the proposal soon. But opponents of the green wedge land being used for a theme park or other uses warned it set a dangerous precedent. “The green wedge is being sold to the development wolves,” claimed Alex Breskin, a Greens candidate for the seat of the Mordialloc, which requires a 1.5 per cent swing to Labor to unseat the Liberal Party’s Lorraine Wreford. Local residents and campaigners have called on all parties to reinforce their commitment to protecting the south-eastern green wedge, which covers about 93 square kilometres across the four marginal electorates of Frankston, Carrum, Mordialloc and Cranbourne. Julia Hamer, daughter... read more

Managing the Murray

The Murray Darling Basin Plan attempts to balance the interests of irrigation for farming and water conservation. The plan is now in place after years of acrimonious debate but its ongoing implementation remains contested – especially in several seats across the north of the state. In this report, Swinburne’s Thomas Spottiswood asks who should be trusted with implementing the scheme that manages these vital river... read more

Richmond reveals tensions of an inner city seat

Richmond is an inner city, Labor-held seat with a diverse population of recent arrivals and traditional, working class, long-term residents. But the area is undergoing rapid gentrification and re-development. This is a key issue for many electors. The proposed East West link is sharply controversial in the Richmond electorate. Some candidates see this election as a battle for the “soul” and character of these suburbs. Tom Stayner and former resident, Elias Clure, from RMIT University examine some of the political cross-currents in Richmond and surrounding districts in a contest that offers a real chance for the Greens to snatch the seat from the Labor Party. This podcast was recorded before the recent declaration by the Liberal Party that Weiran Lu is their candidate for the seat of... read more

Labor vs Greens: Melbourne candidates speak

Labor vs Greens: Melbourne candidates speak The Melbourne electorate, melding the CBD with inner city suburbs, has a very young population. The average age is under 30. There is a wide field of candidates standing for Melbourne, but the seat’s history shows the real contest will be left of Centre – between the Greens and Labor. The East West Link controversy is pertinent alongside the vagaries of public transport. Perhaps because of the younger profile of the electorate and its many student residents, bigger picture issues such as climate change and other “values” oriented policies clearly come into play. Emily Umstad and Nathan Stanogias from the city campus of RMIT University ask the Labor and Greens candidates to square... read more

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