We can turn to the recent past for guidance on the times ahead.
Daniel Andrews and his team have taken heed of the shortcomings of the Baillieu Government – particularly its tone-setting first 12 months – for a guide on what not to do.
Ted Baillieu had a very clear sense of how he thought government should behave. He gave the sense that he thought people wanted to hear less about the theatre of politics, at a time when the Rudd federal government was filling the front pages of newspapers around the country with political drama every day.
So he withdrew from engaging with the media, often giving no more than one interview per week, and limiting the media’s access to Government ministers.
He thought Victorians were tired of the Bracks and Brumby Government’s excessive spin – its spruiking of the state, its projects and its prospects, often in the form of ‘plans’: Restoring Democracy, the Transport Plan, a Water Plan, a Plan for Regional Victoria (Growing the Regions), A Fairer Victoria, Securing jobs for your future – skills for Victoria and so on.
In response, Premier Baillieu virtually outlawed government communications campaigns and eschewed talking in anything beyond the most modest language about his Government’s priorities and outlook. Fixing Labor’s mess was as animated and political as it got under Mr Baillieu with little focus on how, to what end, and what else he was doing.
The perception this generated amongst some Victorians – which may have matched the reality – was that the Baillieu Government was doing relatively little and had no clear vision for where it wanted to take the state or how it would tackle its problems.
Denis Napthine brought a far more conventional approach to government when he ascended to the role of Premier in March 2013, however flatlining opinion polls and the ALP’s victory at last week’s state election, suggest that, at least in part, the die had been cast in those early days of the Coalition Government.
The Andrews Government will look to give a sense that it has a very clear plan of attack. It will make machinery of government changes to reflect its focus and priorities – on creating jobs and on ‘putting people first’. It will look to start delivering on its promises. It will want to show that it will use all endeavours open to it to attract and generate jobs.
It plans to recall Parliament and the first bill it will introduce – with much symbolism – is the Back To Work Act.
“The Back To Work Act will establish a $100 million fund for payroll tax relief to companies who hire unemployed young people, the long-term unemployed and retrenched workers. The fund will provide payroll tax relief of up to $1,000 per employee. The legislation will be introduced in the first sitting of Parliament after the State Election. The plan will help create up to 100,000 new jobs in Victoria over the next two years. Costs eligible for relief include training, uniforms, transport and tools. Employers and workers will need to prove costs and eligibility. Payments will be made as payroll tax rebates (or by cheque, for those employers below the threshold) after workers complete a three-month probation. Commencing July 1, 2015, 50,000 payments will be available per year, for two years. Employers with poor workplace safety records will not be eligible to participate.”
Source: Back To Work: Labor’s Plan for 100,000 Jobs
Other pieces of legislation Labor has promised to introduce include:
Over the last four years, Victoria’s unemployment rate has grown to 6.8 per cent – 0.6 per cent above the national average and an increase of 1.9 per cent during the last term of government.
In the frame of addressing Victoria’s burgeoning unemployment rate, the Andrews Government will seek to generate a stream of jobs through implementing a program of capital works and infrastructure projects that are ‘shovel-ready’.
Labor policy documents identify the following projects as high priority, and in many cases, capable of commencement in the near term. Expect to hear more about some of these in the coming months:
A flurry of activity will be generated by the Andrews Government delivering on promises to set up a range of new agencies, commissions, and inquiries, many of which it will want to make a start on in its first 100 days.Furthering the jobs focus, the Andrews Government will also use the upcoming summer’s program of international sporting events, the cricket, the Australian Open, the Asian Cup as ‘Reverse Super Trade Missions’ to attract inbound investment to Victoria and foster relationships to grow trade opportunities for Victorian businesses.
The real challenge for the government is not just ticking off a list of promises but building a convincing narrative around its campaign theme of ‘putting people first’ and tackling Victoria’s rising unemployment problem.Whilst there is some natural cynicism about new governments launching a string of inquiries, they can give a sense of purpose and priority to a government and lead to an action agenda through implementation of suggested reforms. The Bracks Government was criticised for ‘looking into everything’ early in its first term of government, but was able to demonstrate it had taken action in response to its inquiries. Bracks. Listens. Acts. was the slogan for the Bracks Government’s highly successful re-election campaign at the end of its first term in 2002.
Some of the employment-generating initiatives that can be implemented in the short term will need to be complemented by a longer term strategy to combat the impending fallout and knock-on effects from the anticipated closure of auto manufacturers Ford in 2016 and Toyota in 2017, and the possible closure of the Portland Alcoa Aluminium smelter if the public subsidisation of its electricity supply doesn’t continue beyond 2016.
This will take some fancy political footwork and a commitment to staying a course that jars with the frenetic 24-hour news cycle that makes most Governments adopt a reactive approach as they try to manage multiple issues.