Contributed by Jim Hayes
The victory by Greens Candidate Linda Thorpe in the Northcote
by-election is important, not so much because the win went to the
Greens, or even by making history with the first indigenous woman
elected into Victorias parliament, as much as because this has
provided a litmus test, for the level of disenchantment that is
rising around Australia.
As well as in the immediate sense, this has longer-term
implications for the whole nation.
Closer to home, Victorias Andrews Labor government faces an
election next year. In Northcote and other inner Melbourne
electorates, Labor has been seeing the erosion of its heartland
over some years. But rather than going to the Coalition, the drift
is mainly towards the Greens.Labour has to contend with this
reality. It is in the inner suburbs, where this is most likely to
be at this time, converted into seats.
As well as the big picture, there are local issues. Sometimes
too much weight is given to gentrification, that is, the coming in
of a more professional, educated and better heeled population.
There is some of this. But changing political attitudes are also
being seen among Labors traditional working class heartland.
The Andrews Government is vulnerable because to its
intention to turn over public housing land to a mix of public,
broader social and private housing, increasingly seen as
privatisation through the back door.
Inner Melbourne faces a housing affordability crisis, where
average homes are now, routinely priced on the wrong side of $1
million. People are hurting. Although there is a promise for more
resources to be committed in this direction, it is not enough to
turn the tide.
Another key local issue is the escalating traffic congestion
that is turning the city into a commuting nightmare. There is more
public transport. The down side is that the growth has not been
meet the pace of increasing demand and trains and trams have
The Coalition parties have nothing to smile about. Their
position is worse. The biggest burden they have in Victoria is the
unpopular Turnbull government in Canberra. Even without this, they
are a non-show in Melbournes inner suburbs.
The disenchanted are turning away from traditional political
institutions and the two party system, although this takes
different forms in different places. Northcote is no exception.
In the century of its existence, the seat has always been held
by Labor. Once by a big margin. In recent years this has dwindled,
and it has now gone.
In the short-term, Labor faces a serious threat in Richmond and
Brunswick and this has the potential of eroding the governments
majority and putting the Greens in a bargaining po...