Jeff Kennett's comments drawing attention to the shortcomings of the Victorian Liberal Premier are very significant because Ted Baillieu is his erstwhile protege. Baillieu's failure to communicate is not his main problem. It is far more an issue of ideology - Baillieu is a left-of-centre ideologue planted on a conservative party, a round peg floating in a square hole with a great big policy vaccuum around him. For example:
For the first six months in government Ted vetted his ministers' staff and rejected those with conservative credentials, e.g. Kevin Donnelly to be Chief of Staff to the Education Minister. Some of his Ministers still do not have their first pick of staff appointments, so how can they lift their game?
For the first 12 months Ted would not allow any Liberal fund-raising, at a critical time when after ll years of Labor, business groups were keen to meet the Coalition Ministers. This decision cost the Liberal Party an enormous amount of money.
Ted does not appear to be interested in policy development and does not have a set of policy priorities. Prior to entering the Victorian Parliament Ted was Victorian State Director of the Liberal Party. At that time he was not interested in policy but just interested in the administrative side of running the Liberal Party. Other than saying he wants to deliver a small budget surplus, Ted has never articulated his policy priorities. The reason for this is because he is not interested in policy.
Ted takes advice only from a small group, including left-leaning Petro Georgiou who incidentally was also influential in Malcolm Fraser's new incarnation as sweetheart of the Left. In contrast, when Howard was Prime Minister he consulted with a far wider group and lunched regularly with backbenchers thus keeping in touch with the "vibes" around Australia. Many backbenchers lament that the Premier rarely speaks to them nor spends time with them. This is why Ted Baillieu is often described as being aloof.
Ted continues with a number of unpopular Labor policies, e.g. the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. Even though his own four Party representatives on the Inquiry into the Charter voted against it, Ted sided with the three minority Labor representatives.
Ted has not changed the heads of his public service departments who are all Brumby appointees. For example, the Department of Justice briefs left-wing lawyers like Julian Burnside, whilst conservative lawyers get little work from the Baillieu Government.
Ted blocked Matthew Guy’s move to the lower house realising that Matthew was a potential leadership challenger, by offering Ken Smith the role of Speaker as an incentive to not retire.
Ted has declined to amend Sec. 8 of the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 which mandates that doctors who have conscientious objections to performing abortions are compelled to refer women to doctors who will perform them. Ironically, Sec.8 of the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 is contrary to the Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities which Ted has decided to retain against the wishes of almost his entire Party room.
Ted does not have a set of policy priorities. Whether you liked them or loathed them, the public knew what Jeff Kennett and John Brumby stood for.
Ted lacks a narrative because he does not have a set of policy priorities other than delivering a small budget surplus by cutting TAFE funding and building more jails - not a positive message. In contrast the Kennett government delivered the Bolte Bridge, the Burnley Tunnell, City Link, Federation Square, the Melbourne Exhibition Centre and brought the Commonwealth Games to Melbourne.
Furthermore there is Baillieu's failure to amend any of the horrendous provisions of the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 or to even allow discussion of possible Amendments in the Party room.
The Coalition only won the last Victorian elections by one seat because of DLP preferences in East Bentleigh and because Right to Life lobbying defeated Craig Ingram in Gippsland East, a fact acknowledged by Craig Ingram himself. The DLP preferences and those of Australian Christians, Rise Up Australia and Family First who will all be running candidates in the next Victorian elections, may no longer be available to many of the Liberal/National candidates because of Health Minister David Davis' determination to impose abortion services in Bendigo although the local doctors do not wish to be involved in performing abortions.
Minister Davis belongs to the Baillieu faction, a faction whose numbers are rapidly declining as backbenchers in marginal and not-so-marginal seats are confronted by the polls which show the ALP has a decisive lead.
Ted Baillieu is fatally wounded by Matthew Guy's challenge, just as Bob Hawke was wounded by Paul Keating's first unsuccessful challenge. The polls will not improve for the Liberal and National Parties in Victoria although federally the Coalition is riding high - indeed Baillieu's dismal performance may well cost Tony Abbott the keys to the Lodge by the loss of seats in Victoria. It is time the Victorian Liberals put Ted Baillieu out of the misery of his death throes and offered him an graceful retirement. Elba is too far away but perhaps Macquarie Island?
Greg Byrne is a mechanical engineer who was a candidate at the last Victorian state election. His interests are in information technology, economics and politics, and he believes in the benefits of the free market system.