Victorian State Election Wrap Up: Who’s Who in the Legislative Council

So I got absolutely knocked flat by Christmas last year, with 18 singing engagements in December, in addition to my actual full-time job (which was being particularly trying), and I never did get around to see what Santa had brought us for the Legislative Council.

And then I got knocked flat again by grant applications and helping with Midsumma and getting to know my new Division, so I got halfway through writing this and then ran out of time.

But it’s never too late to amend matters, and besides, it looks like at least one person has crossed the floor since the election already, so maybe waiting to see who was really there was the wisest option…

So I wrote the above in February, along with about half of the profiles below, and then I got totally overwhelmed with running an event at work, and I’m never going to finish this dratted thing and I really need to start working on the Federal Election, since there are more than fifty parties registered already, and I’m about to be flattened by grants again.  So I’m going to put this to bed, even if I have to make my analyses much shorter than I wanted them to be.

The Legislative Assembly

We are only going to take a quick peek at this, since we already knew roughly what was going on here – namely, a walkover for the ALP.  But there are a couple of things worth noting.

  • It turns out it wasn’t the End of All Things for the Greens after all.  I really should stop believing the press when they say this, since they do so after every single election.  They didn’t manage to keep Northcote, but they did, finally, get Brunswick, and they held on to Melbourne and Prahran.  So basically, they broke even in the Lower House.  It may not have been the result they wanted, but it was better than they had feared.
  • We gained a new Independent in the Lower House, joining the two who were there already (Suzanna Sheed in Shepparton, and Russell Northe in Morwell, who was a member of the National Party until August 2017).  Ali Cupper, a young, female, left-leaning Independent won the seat of Mildura from the Peter Crisp, the National Party incumbent.
  • Labor won 55 of the 88 seats, the Liberals won 21, and the Nationals 6.  Essentially, Labor doesn’t need anyone in the Lower House.  The Upper House, however is a different story.

The Legislative Council

Oh, lordy, what a mess.  So, there are 40 seats in the Legislative Council, and alert readers will be aware that after the last election, Labor held 14 of them, the Coalition held 16, the Greens held 5, the Shooters and Fishers held 2, and the Sex Party, the DLP, and Vote 1 Local Jobs held one each.  Then the DLP senator resigned and became an Independent, but basically, Labor needed to get the Greens and Fiona Patten on side to have 50% of the vote, and then had to convince one of the tiny parties to support them in order to get a majority.

After the 2018 election, Labor now has 18 of the 40 seats in the Legislative Council, which means they only need three more votes to pass legislation.   This should theoretically be easier, except for the fact that they don’t really have any blocs that they can negotiate with, because we now have 11 Coalition Senators, 2 Liberal Democrat Senators, 2 Senators from Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, a third Senator, Catherine Cumming, who ran as a Hinch Senator, but quit the party to become an independent, and then one senator each from Sustainable Australia, the Animal Justice Party, Transport Matters, Fiona Patten’s Reason Party, the Greens, and the Shooters and Fishers.

So once again, Labor needs to get the Green (Samantha Ratnam) and Fiona Patten on side, and then convince one of the tiny parties to support them to get a majority.  I suspect that this is good news for those of us who enjoyed the previous Andrews Government, since neither the Greens nor Patten have changed their priorities much, they did both vote with the Government on most legislation in the last government, and they do still look like the easiest parties for Andrews and co to negotiate with for the kind of legislation Andrews likes to put through.  (Also… I’m a bit excited here, because Patten and Ratnam are located in Northern Metropolitan.  Is it too much to hope that they might be able to squeeze some better infrastructure for us northsiders out of the deal?  I mean, we know Andrews likes infrastructure, how hard can it be…?)

But let’s look at this a bit more closely anyway.  First, the Coalition.  With only eleven votes, they really have to get all but one of the non-Labor Senators on side to block legislation, and I don’t think they are going to be able to do that unless Andrews goes completely off the rails.  Their natural allies are the Liberal Democrats and the Shooters and Fishers, and possibly Transport Matters, who really seemed to *hate* Daniel Andrews on a personal level. Hinch’s Justice Party, while left-leaning, might be susceptible to a tough-on-crime approach, but I don’t like their chances with the other parties.  If anything, Animal Justice are likely to view Labor Party legislation as not going far enough to the left, and we already know that the Greens and Patten’s Reason Party are unlikely to vote with the Coalition.

Having dealt with the Coalition, let’s have a closer look at some of the votes the Labor Party might be wooing.

Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

We have two Senators here, Stuart Grimley and Tania Maxwell.

Stuart Grimley is a former school principal and police detective, who has worked as a teacher in remote Aboriginal communities, and as a police officer has worked with victims of abuse and sexual offenses.  He is deeply concerned about the rights of crime victims, and wants tougher sentencing and a better support system for victims of crime, particularly those dealing with the justice system, who are often forced to relive the trauma of the event in court.  He is in favour of a register for child sex offenders, but this shouldn’t include teenagers sexting each other.

Tania Maxwell is a youth support worker and an anti-violence campaigner, and co-founder of the Enough is Enough campaign.  She is passionate about community safety and early intervention, and wants bail and parole reform, but also to find ways to manage our youth justice system more effectively to reduce reoffending.

Both of these senators seem, frankly, to be quite lovely people.  They seem likely to be supportive of any legislation around better ways to prevent domestic violence, but are also likely to be swayed by ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric from the Coalition.  Still, Andrews is not without hope here.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers

Note: I wrote this bit before the Christchurch shootings.  I have to say, my sympathy for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers has dried up a bit since then. But if I go back and re-write this, I will never, ever get this posted.

Jeff Bourman is a former police officer and IT contractor who grew up in the country, shooting rabbits and foxes.  He’s really into recreational shooting – which, you know, that is what the party says it is for, and while I completely disagree with basically everything on his page, you can’t fault his transparency.  He feels strongly that law-abiding gun afficionados are being unfairly attacked and punished for the crimes of others.  His Facebook page suggests that he wants tougher policing, but less of a nanny state when it comes to speed limits.  He is concerned about farmers and bushfires, and against vegan extremists.  (I’m not quite sure how broadly he is defining the latter, to be honest – he shares a lot of articles about vegans kidnapping livestock and sabotaging farms, which I’d agree is quite extreme, but he also seems to have left the chamber for the AJP senator’s opening speech, which is a little petty, and perhaps a missed opportunity.)

I reckon he will vote with the government on legislation involving better infrastructure for regional Victoria, but other than that, I don’t like their chances of getting him on board.

Sustainable Australia

Clifford Hayes has a background in film and television (including editing Mad Max), but got into local council politics in 2005, with the goal of opposing high rise developments.  He feels that population growth is the biggest environmental issue Australia faces, and one can’t address global warming without it.  And he has a point, but reducing immigration by 50% doesn’t actually fix that, because it doesn’t reduce the number of people in the world, just in Australia.  It’s hard to say where he might vote with the Andrews government, but he might be good news for people wanting legislation that gives councils more power to stop developers…

Transport Matters

Rodney Barton is the President of the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Association of Australia, which sounds a lot like a lobby group for the taxi and hire car industry, and operates a chauffeur hire car business. He is very angry about the deregulation of the taxi industry, which evidently caused him personal harm, and he wants to hold the government accountable.

Barton is a big believer in public transport, which he feels is the only solution for easing congestion – but Andrews shouldn’t count on his support there, because his Twitter Account also suggests that he thinks Labor is doing a rubbish job of running our trains.  (Which… were privatised by a Liberal government, so I’m not entirely sure the government can be said to be running them.)  Other than his personal animus against Andrews, his Twitter account indicates fairly left-wing leanings, particularly in the area of industrial relations, and one of his concerns about Uber is that the gig economy treats people poorly.  So… my feeling is that Andrews might be able to win him over on some legislation, but only if he does something about airport parking first.

(Whether the train line to the airport will soften him is an interesting question.)

Independent Catherine Cumming

Catherine Cumming ran and was elected as a member of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, but was disendorsed by the party after losing a leadership vote, and is now sitting as an independent.  (Interestingly, her website says that she ran as an Independent).  She is an acupuncturist and a former medic in the Army Reserve, and she feels that the West of Melbourne has been neglected, which is true.  Her policies look reasonably centrist – she wants to lower taxes, but she also wants more funding for education.  She wants tougher laws for drug dealers, but a medical model for addicts.  She wants more jobs, more infrastructure, and a better health system.  And she is in favour of renewable energy.  Her priorities are reasonably well-aligned with those of the Andrews government, and if Andrews is willing to give a bit more infrastructure to the Western suburbs, he might have a pretty reliable vote here.

Liberal Democrats

Ugh, I can’t believe the LDP got two members into the legislative council.  OK, one thing I’ll say for them is that on their Facebook pages each week, they are telling you what they have done and how they voted, so you don’t have to rely on my (negative) opinion to know what they are up to. You can form your own negative opinions all by yourselves!  It’s probably unfair to note that the week before Christchurch they voted against reclassification of lever action shotguns and against ‘a new offense of “intimidation” which would require no intent or anyone actually feeling intimidated’.  I very much doubt that this is what the legislation actually said.   They are, however, very much against collection of DNA without a warrant, so I’ll give them credit for that.

David Limbrick seems to have decriminalisation of drugs as a priority, so that’s a step in the right direction.  But in the wake of Christchurch he felt the need to post on Facebook about how he rejects identity politics and is ‘saddened by the recent rise of authoritarians on both the left and right’, which is a form of both-sides-ism that I find unpleasant in the current climate.  He is weird on renewables – he’s very into nuclear energy, but against wind turbines and wants to raise questions about toxic e-waste from solar panels (implying at the same time that expanding access to solar panels is a bad idea), and he thinks the Greens are the enemy when it comes to renewable energy.

Tim Quilty just posted about the LDP alternative budget, which is mostly about cutting taxes by reducing spending on health and education, but also about abolishing commonwealth assistance for renewable energy, the arts, etc.  I’ve talked about LDP budgets and dog-eat-dog libertarianism before, you don’t need to hear me do it again.  Also from last week: “What does Australia have in common with North Korea, Yemen, Syria, Honduras and Turkmenistan… banned Airsoft.”  Airsoft, for those of you who didn’t know, is a competitive team shooting sport where people shoot their opponents with plastic projectiles launched by airguns.  So that’s his priority, less than a week after the Christchurch shootings.

Look, I’m very much in favour of gun control, and the LDP annoys me at the best of times, so maybe I’m not being fair here, but as a matter of good taste one might wait just a few weeks after the biggest gun massacre our region of the world has ever experienced before going on about how we need to make it easier for people to play with guns that might technically be toys but can still injure people?

Anyway, I can’t see this lot voting with the Andrews government on anything except possibly legalising medical marijuana.  And that’s OK, because why would anyone want to be beholden to them?

Animal Justice Party

Andy Meddick was elected by the Western Victorian region, which is interesting – I would have thought the AJP vote would be stronger in more urban areas, where there are fewer farmers to become exasperated by their views on dairy farming.  His background is in the construction industry, and he is pro-union.  Looking at his page on the AJP site, he seems to be campaigning on the less contentious of their policies (live exports, factory farming, puppy factories), and also on social issues such as refugees, single-parent benefits, etc.  In fact, judging by his Facebook page, he’s looking pretty close to the Greens on a lot of issues.  If Andrews needs more backing for renewable energy projects, Meddick’s vote should be pretty safe.  Roads that potentially go through wildlife corridors will be more of a problem.

Overall?  It looks to me as though Daniel Andrews will not have much more trouble getting his legislation through this Legislative Council than he did through the previous one, though he might have to pay a little more attention to the Northern and Western suburbs to do so.  From my point of view, that’s a pretty good outcome.  We’ll see how it goes.