Daniel Andrews needs to turn things around and quickly

The Victorian Government led by Premier Daniel Andrews is starting to look like another one-term government.

Just over two years ago, the Premier was able to topple a one-term government, something which had not been done in Victoria since 1955. The ALP rode in on a wave of voter discontent for the Bailieu-Napthine government which was seen as not delivering for most Victorians and doing little to improve the state.

Now many voters are feeling the same way about the current government which seems to find itself going from one disaster to the next, often self-inflicted.

The latest round of politician entitlement rorting is a perfect example. In February, The Age reported how Labor’s Don Nardella and former speaker Telmo Languiller were both claiming a second residence allowance designed for country MPs, by moving their homes to outside of their electorate.

A few problems here.

First, is the obvious about claiming an allowance they more than likely shouldn’t have. But also the fact a sitting MP would move outside of their own electorate just seems ludicrous. These are not the only politicians who do this in Victoria, other state parliaments and even federally, but surely voters have an expectation their MP would actually live in their own electorate on a daily basis. It is highly unlikely this would pass the often prescribed ‘pub test’.

While we all might hope this will be the last entitlement rorting scandal in this term of parliament, it would be naïve to think it actually will be. The unfortunate thing for the Premier is this was not of his making but he has to deal with the consequences and the voter anger about it.

A second problem for the Andrews Government is the ongoing issues with youth justice and the detention centre rioting. Several riots have occurred in youth detention facilities in Victoria in the last 12 months. Each time the government has come out strong against the rioters and has planned to move some offenders into adult prisons and has also provided funding for the training of hundreds more police officers.

A few problems here too.

Firstly it’s pretty clear through the continual rioting, the government does not have a handle on the youth detention system. The ‘being tough on criminals’ response is effective to some parts of the community, but putting prisoners under the age of 18 into an adult prison runs against all human right principles for youth detention. For a government that prides itself on its human rights achievements, particularly in women’s and the gay community’s rights, this decision does not reconcile with the governments human rights agenda, which also causes confusion to voters who vote on such issues.

And while more money for more police might sound like a good idea to some, for others it raises the obvious issue that it does nothing to help with the day to day safety on the streets as the training of new officers will likely take years. Further to this, sections of the society who think we are moving more and more towards a police state, will now feel vindicated in their beliefs. This same anti-police state narrative was what fuelled so many Victorians to take to the streets in 2015 in Melbourne when the Australian Border Force unveiled their plans to ask for people’s identity papers as part of Operation Fortitude.

Bottom line is, the community wants to feel safe and protected and a continual theme of the Andrews government has been issues with crime and their inability to provide a workable solution here the community does feel safe. Crafting the correct response to appease all sections in the community will be difficult, but needs to be done ahead of next year’s state election.

The government’s final problem is now with negative opinion polls showing the opposition in the lead for the first time since the last election and the eternal leadership speculation which seems to curse all Australian governments state and federal from time-to-time. The recent poll, taken just after the entitlements scandal, reflected how on the nose the government was in Victoria. Now leadership speculation has started with former Minister Jane Garrett not ruling out wanting to be leader one day.

A grain of salt should be thrown in here, in the interview she said she wanted to become leader of the party one day in a wide ranging general conversation about her future after her return to Parliament from breast cancer treatment last year. It seems a pretty loose thread to tie to her wanting to topple Daniel Andrews from the premiership. But faced with the damaging issues the government has recently been facing and the fact they are struggling to get any news out about what they are doing to improve the state, leadership speculation between now and the next election will only ramp up, unless he can turn things around within the next six months.

One thing the recent spate of leadership challenges and changeovers has shown is it does not save a bad government that the people have turned away from. Good policy, a strong united team working together and policies which are making an impact and bettering the lives of voters is what keeps governments in power for longer then one term.

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