Flat White

Andrews’ weakness is his conceit, but can the Liberals take down Goliath?

7 September 2021

1:11 PM

7 September 2021

1:11 PM

Good polls come and go. Bad polls linger for longer than most would like, but only rarely do leaders grow as conceited as Daniel Andrews.  

His Covid policy is in tatters, the state budget is blown, and the internal leaking has begun. Yet despite these warning signs of political frailty, Andrews continues to strut the political stage with the confidence of a Soviet First Secretary, something he would no doubt be proud of.

His confidence is not entirely misplaced. Buoyed by stratospheric approval ratings, unprecedented political power and a Twitterati love affair most find sickening, it would be hard not to feel he can’t put a foot wrong. But those with long memories know better. And so should he. For his current behaviour closely parallels those final few months of Jeffrey Gibb Kennett, a great man who misread the mood in what would become the twilight of his political career.  

It is within this Victorian case of history repeating itself that new state Liberal leader has the opportunity to turn the tables on his stronger political foe.  

There are three areas where Andrews’ misplaced bravado lends itself to a targeted guerrilla campaign. 

First, the Suburban Rail Loop, perhaps better referred to as Labor’s Plan for High-rise in Suburban Streets, is a transport mega project which has the capacity to badly backfire in marginal seats across middle ring Melbourne. For Victorians familiar with the metro systems of Europe and East Asia, the SRL is a mass transit fantasy come true. Capable of hosting 430,000 passengers per day, the SRL seeks to redefine how Australia’s second-largest city operates. However, buried deep within its cost benefit analysis is the real price the community will pay for this project – a dramatic escalation of high-rise development in the suburbs. 

According to the report, neighbourhoods along the rail corridor can expect as much as a 285 per cent increase in their population density. What this means in layman’s terms is high-rise development is coming to a street near you. And make no mistake, this is not the modest two-storey eight-pack development of old. These are the towers like those proposed at the Rosanna Train Station which block the midday sun, kill backyard lawns and ensure rooftop solar generates more bird poo than energy. Thanks to the CBA, the community now knows what this Government has planned for local streets. Do Labor MPs along the SRL route really support high rise development in suburban streets? This grassroots campaign almost sells itself. 

The second opening is the government’s ambivalence towards the plight of small business owners. What kind of government taxes businesses which cannot trade? The answer, a heartless one. To reasonable people, flogging a lame horse is an unethical and unproductive exercise. Yet to Victorian Labor, it is their tax policy. While Victoria’s beleaguered Treasurer will insist the revenue is essential for maintaining essential community services, the truth is, his government is draining Victoria’s entrepreneurial class dry.  

If ever there was a point of difference to be made about how the Liberals treat small business, then surely this is it. Do they have the back of these long-suffering people? Or are they in agreement with Labor that no social contract exists between the tax collector and the taxpayer? This financially broken political constituency is now ripe for the taking. The state Liberals should be bold and go after the lot. 

The final front of attack is the leader of the government himself, Premier Dan Andrews. Political assaults on his arrogance, stubbornness and indifference to the consequences of his government’s policies must continue and if possible, intensify. As the face of every decision to erode personal freedoms, ministerial responsibility and parliamentary accountability, the government’s longevity lives and dies upon Andrews’ approval ratings. Therefore, it is vital that his pivotal role in degrading Victorian democracy is properly accounted for and exposed.  

Contrary to the belief that Teflon-man cannot be politically wounded, he can. The Victorian Liberals simply need to fire up the sandblaster and get sanding. 

Taking down Victoria’s political Goliath will not be easy. Changing government never is. But the Opposition needs to remember that you don’t need an army to bring down a giant. You simply need a few Davids and some slings.  

Asher Judah was the Liberal Party’s 2018 election candidate in Bentleigh. He tweets at @asherjudah.

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