Honeymoon period will end: Economou

The State Government will lose any political traction gained from the $27 billion infrastructure splurge announced in last Tuesday’s budget when the Federal budget is delivered tomorrow, a leading political scientist has predicted.

In a post-budget analysis, Monash University senior political lecturer Dr Nick Economou has agreed with the Labor opposition’s critique of the Napthine Government budget as ‘city-centric’, noting the $73 million Latrobe Regional Hospital expansion as a stand-out regional spend.

“The Latrobe Valley did well to get that expansion because very few other regional areas seem to have gotten anything,” Dr Economou said.

While Dr Economou acknowledged the Hazelwood mine fire smoke crisis may have helped shortlist LRH as a major funding recipient, he said the decision was still most likely about rewarding the Morwell electorate for swinging to the Nationals after existing for decades as a Labor stronghold.

Commenting more broadly on the budget, which he labelled the hallmark of “a government in trouble”, Dr Economou took particular aim at the government’s $11 billion Melbourne Rail Link, which he said had been pinched from the Labor party out of election year desperation.

“This was a rail policy pushed by Labor over the last three or four years, which was very unlikely to see the light of day under the Coalition, however now they have to give the impression they are prepared to provide real public transport infrastructure,” he said.

“Because they had nothing else to run with, they’ve just rehashed Labor’s Melbourne Metro plan, but this is just going to put more public transport resources into an affluent and transport-rich part of the state – inner Melbourne – which is politically misguided in that it hasn’t really gone out of its way to appease people living in marginal electorates, half of which live in regional cities.”

Disputing initial commentary the $27 billion infrastructure spend would be a match-winner for the Coalition in November, Dr Economou said any political traction gained would end with the delivery of the federal budget.

“The State Coalition may find they will be overwhelmed by what is going to happen in the federal budget, in that (Victoria is) spruiking this huge surplus, which is in total disjunction with the federal message,” he said.

“After this the attention will go back to Victorian Coalition’s competence to govern, and that’s going to be a real issue for them.”

“In this term the Coalition has changed leader, has been held to ransom by an independent by the name of Geoff Shaw, and they are only holding onto power by a minority – these are all the hallmarks of an ill-disciplined and disorganised government.”

“Victoria is not in an economic crisis, it’s got a political crisis – and the challenge for them to overcome that is going to be huge.”