Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wait till your father gets home

I couldn't help notice some cynicism in reactions to Steve Bracks's news that he was resigning as Victoria's Premier because he wanted to spend more time with his family. It was almost as if punters couldn't believe that after his success in politics that he would go so quietly and 'gracefully' for such a mundane reason as wanting to be a more attentive and present husband and father.

Although many people were sympathetic to his desire to be a family man who could be home and available more, some radio talk-balk callers and commentators speculated over what other motivations he may have – was he perhaps trying to avoid an impending scandal that was about to break, or a political shit-fight he no longer had the stomach for?

Can we blame him? Barista said in response to the news:
I think high political office in this day and age is a bit like being a jetty in a storm. The waves just keep coming at you until something breaks inside. Then you go or buckle. If you don’t, you wake up one morning to discover you are old, sun-bleached and covered in barnacles.
Perhaps because Bracks was so honest about his reasons –
including citing the fact that his son's drink-driving incident tipped the decision for him, and admitting that he could no longer put '100 per cent' into the job and so thought he should go – that he won most most people over. In fact, it struck many as a typically endearing Bracks quality that he should leave for his family. In the end, the more common reactions were positive, compared to the hurtful disbelief that another Labor leader, Mark Latham, copped when he announced he was leaving politics because he couldn't stand to be away from his wife and children.

Unfortunately, it descended into a schmaltz that kind of defused some of the very valid criticisms of Bracks's time in power in Victoria. But not all got the wool pulled over their eyes. As Barista said:
The Bracks government is said to be boring, staid and conservative. I am no supporter of its attitude to the S11 demonstrations, or its policies on old growth forests, or its inability to articulate a long term policy about water.

But my partner Susie was in the The Alfred Hospital today for some physio, and she says the staff were shocked and despondent. One staff member said it was as if someone had died. That reminds me that the Bracks government has been about the slow, unspectacular provision of decent services to Victorians.

As Susie said - she stood in the new wing of The Alfred and thought “This is not a casino.”
Barista's post and the conversation there got me thinking – aloud, and I thought I'd repeated it here. The statement “This is not a casino,” pretty much sums it up for me, and people I know have said good things about the redeveloped Austin in the Northern suburbs too. But, we’ve had money woes in the Women’s, which spilled into the Children’s, and hospital waiting lists are still too long.

And while we didn’t see the grand splurging on a central casino under Bracks, nearly every corner pub, RSL and bowls club in some suburbs is a casino, with no signs of the state govt taking its finger out of the pie.

This is indeed a government of contradictions – how do you measure up the brilliance of establishing marine parks with the ongoing channel deepening fiasco, or the strong measures to encourage households to save water but the poor commitment to long-term water policy?

How do you puzzle through the bastardry where they promised us, at the last election, recylced grey-water for industry use and lambasted the Liberal’s desalination push, but now turn around and push desalination onto us?

And we still can't get around the fact that the public transport system in Victoria, especially railways, is still heaving under pressure that many put down to ageing infrastructure – something the government was still responsible for under the Kennett created privatised system.

Phil of Veni Vidi Blogi suggested that Bracks 'seemed preferable in most ways to our local man for all seasons, Peter Beattie', but I wasn't convinced.

If the bright side to Bracks compared to Beattie is that he hasn’t foistered a dam onto us, or spun pipedreams out of pumping water from the tropical north to the scorched south, I could agree with you.

But many a times I wonder…

Lavartus Prodeo also has a good roundup of the achievements and failures of the Bracks era.

[Image from the ABC's 2006 Victorian election blog]

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