Since the election is now only a few days away, and since I am being a bit hampered by a cyst on my wrist, I am skipping ahead for the next couple of posts to look at two brand new parties that I’ve never written about before. That way, the early voters among you are covered, and if my wrist really does go on strike between now and Saturday, there will at least be posts from previous years for you to look at.
Vote 1 Local Jobs is new both to me and to politics generally, and since I haven’t so much as glanced at their website yet, I can approach them with a refreshing lack of prejudice.
I think we all know how long that is likely to last…
Vote 1 Local Jobs is indeed quite local, and they are in fact on the ticket in only two electorates – Western Victoria and my home electorate of Northern Metropolitan. (Did I mention that we northerners get more candidates and parties than any other region? We are so lucky! It almost makes up for living in such a safe Labor seat that the Liberals barely bother to letterbox us.)
The slogan on their website is ‘Working for Western Victoria’. This is something of a relief to me, because I was half expecting it to be ‘Local jobs for local people‘.
On the front page of their website, they enquire whether I will vote for local employment on 29 November. Then they explain their cunning plan:
Vote 1 Local Jobs is an exciting new political party created expressly for the benefit of Victoria’s Western District region.
Vote 1 Local Jobs does not plan to change the government or defeat your sitting member; but Vote 1 Local Jobs does intend to be elected in the Upper House at the 2014 State Election.
Vote 1 Local Jobs has been created by Moyne Shire Mayor Cr James Purcell, who stood at the last state election as an independent and attracted more than 11% of the vote – the most successful outcome by an independent in Western Victoria’s history.
Due to our voting system, quota allocations and preferences, the fifth Upper House is up for grabs in the Western District region.
This is the spot Vote 1 Local Jobs is targeting.
With your support, Vote 1 Local Jobs will be elected, will vote on all legislation relevant to Victoria and the region where you choose to live and work, will fight for better outcomes for Western Victoria and will be a direct line of communication between you and Parliament.
Their plan is sheer elegance in its simplicity. And no, I don’t know what’s with all the pop culture references, either. Maybe I’m channelling my husband?
Quite seriously, this is not at all a foolish ambition for a small party, and I think it’s one that a lot of the other tiny parties I’ve looked at so far tend to share, though they are less up-front about it. This isn’t about forming government – this is about having the balance of power, and using it for one’s electorate, just like the Independents did in the Gillard Government. Of course, this means that you also get one particular electorate’s priorities potentially choosing the direction of the entire Government, which is dodgy for democracy, but probably quite refreshing if you live in the West, where everyone knows it’s safe Labor and doesn’t bother courting you with infrastructure…
(Of course, this strategy, taken to its logical conclusion, could lead to some pretty weird governments. I mean, if people start noticing that electorates represented by Independents or microparties get more goodies, they might vote for more Independents and microparties, which would, of course, dilute the individual power of said microparties and Independents, but would also dilute the power of the major parties. This could get us some very interesting combinations and coalitions while it lasted. I wonder if this could eventually be the downfall of the two-party system? Or would the big parties get wise? Or would we just get two new big parties?)
Because Vote 1 Local Jobs is a Local Party for Local People, they are only campaigning in two electorates – Western Victoria, and Northern Metropolitan. Western Victoria is where they think they can get a seat, and it’s also where they seem to be directing their policies, so I’m not too sure why Northern Metropolitan is also running a candidate. Perhaps because everyone else is running in Northern Metropolitan, and they didn’t want to be left out?
In the west, they are preferencing the Democratic Labour Party, the Country Alliance, Shooters and Fishers, Family First, and the Voice for the West. The bottom of their ticket is reserved for the Greens, with Liberal and then Labor directly above them. One senses that this is not a group with a high opinion of the major parties. Animal Justice and Rise Up Australia are also in the naughty corner.
In Northern Metropolitan, they preference Family First, the DLP, The Country Alliance, and the Group N Independents. The bottom of their ticket is the same as the Western Victoria one, but Palmer United is now down there with the Animal Justice Party.
This looks to me, then, like a fairly conservative, rural-friendly party, that likes shooting things.
Vote 1 Local Jobs – who prefer the abbreviation LJP, much to the ire of the Liberal Party, apparently – has three tabs underneath their introduction on the front page – Our Jobs Plan, Our Policies, and Become Involved. But really, it’s all about the jobs. The local jobs. For local people. (Sorry, I can’t help myself…)
They have an eight-point jobs plan, but first they want to remind us that this is a party by Western Victorians for Western Victorians and that we city types are stealing all their taxes (or rather, are getting more than our fair share of the infrastructure – and this is almost certainly the case). Having told us this, they then roll out quite an intelligent set of policies to bring business to regional Victoria.
Incentives for investing in regional areas
LJP wants to remove payroll tax from country businesses (and making up any shortfall by increasing it by 1% for metropolitan businesses), to make it cheaper to operate in regional areas. This is not a bad idea, but will meet with screaming from small businesses in metropolitan areas.
They also want to improve roads and rail in regional areas to make it more attractive for businesses to invest. The money from this would come from the money currently spent on the Grand Prix. I think this is a much better use of the money, frankly!
Creating New Jobs in Regional Areas
The LJP would start by actually moving jobs to regional areas, starting with a further 5% of government departments. I think the idea here is that not only does this bring government jobs to regional areas, but the flow of people to these areas for government jobs will create yet more jobs. This would also support their concerns about people in Melbourne making decisions that affect regional areas:
…it’s wrong that major parties based in Melbourne and Canberra are making decisions that impact on our home towns. They simply don’t have the knowledge, experience or care to make decisions that can take away our district’s livelihood.
Moving more government departments into rural areas would probably help with this.
They also have plans to require a $10 entrance fee to see the 12 Apostles, with the takings funding 50 new park rangers in national parks, as well as improvements to tourism in the area. This sounds like an excellent idea, with no real down-side, so I hope that whoever gets into government considers it.
The LJP is also in favour of wind farms, which would generate both electricity and employment opportunities, making them doubly efficient.
Providing better opportunities for young people
LJP wants to increase funding to Universities, TAFEs and technical colleges, particularly in regional areas, and “establish online training in small towns to overcome distance and travel”. As a graduate of a very good distance education program through Charles Sturt University, I’m absolutely in favour of this – online and distance education can be done very well, and in a country like ours, with so many very, very remote towns, we should do more of it.
They would also like to create a ‘first farm-owners grant’, to stop the rural drain to Melbourne, and to help people who want to make a go of running a farm. They will fund this by raising stamp duty on foreign investors in farming to 50%. The LJP are big into preventing foreign ownership of farmland and saying no to free trade agreements – like many of the country-oriented parties, they prefer a protectionist policy.
Again, this sounds like quite a good idea – we already have a problem with the residential housing market being priced upward by investment properties (a good portion of which are owned by foreign investors). We really don’t want to do the same to farms.
Helping regional businesses to compete in the market place
LJP wants to require government departments to ‘buy local’ when the difference in cost is within 5% of what they could get elsewhere, thus further channelling government money into regional areas.
Helping existing workers
The LJP would like to lower the driving age to 17 for apprentices during working hours. This also comes under opportunities for young people, of course, and probably also making businesses competitive, as apprentices tend to be cheaper to employ.
The LJP supports jumps racing. Apparently, this industry supports around 2,500 local jobs in Western Victoria. This figure sounds extremely high to me, and I’m pretty dubious about jumps racing generally, but we now have an answer as to why the AJP and the Greens are in the naughty corner.
They are, however, absolutely opposed to coal seam gas, due to the damage it does to ground water.
Finally, they would like to overhaul the child care system to support working parents. I’m in two minds about this policy. It sounds like a good deal for the parents, with greater flexibility in childcare hours, and making it easier to create half-day bookings, but I do worry that when they talk about removing red tape and encouraging more home-based childcare, they may be losing some safeguards that are actually needed.
And that’s about it. LJP is, in essence, a single-issue party, but it’s an important issue, and they have some very well-thought-out policies about it. I wish them the best of luck, even though I’m still not sure why they are campaigning in my region!