Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ was triumphant in November last year, winning a second four year term with an increased majority. But this summer has seen his government’s weak points exposed once again, and back under scrutiny.
Last week as the Victorian summer heat went above temperatures of 40C 200,000 homes and businesses lost power, leaving people without electricity, air conditioning and refrigeration.
Suburbs in Melbourne and Geelong last Friday were forced into what are termed “rotating brownouts”. The power grid had been pushed to its limits as several units at the Yallourn and Loy Yang coal-fired power stations failed, meaning 20% of Victoria’s power supply was offline. Victoria was importing 10% of its power from other states during this period.
Victoria’s Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the blackouts occurred because “demand continued to increase to unanticipated levels” and that “most of that was as a result of failed infrastructure from our coal and gas units, in particular coal” and admitted that “We have a 20th century energy system for a 21st century climate”.
Many highlighted that Victoria’s deteriorating energy infrastructure is due to the Andrews Government’s own energy policies. It has committed to a 25% renewable energy target by 2020 and a 40% renewable energy target by 2025. Its tripling of brown coal royalties in 2016 was largely blamed for the closure of one the state’s largest coal fired power stations at Hazelwood in the Latrobe Valley which supplied 25% of Victoria’s energy needs.
Under these energy policies why would the operators of Victoria’s remaining coal fired power stations invest in upgrading their infrastructure? Despite the fact that all the energy incentives are geared towards renewable energy, at the time of the blackouts wind farms were only operating at 25% capacity. Even while the energy supply was faltering Victorian consumers were still paying the maximum wholesale price of $14,500 a megawatt-hour.
The other public policy issue that Andrews Government has struggled with is law and order, specifically African youth gang crime. After becoming an issue of public alarm last summer the crime wave has returned again this year. Local beaches became the crime hotspot, with St Kilda Beach being the most noticeable which was the location of a Political Meeting held by local nationalist groups on January 5th this year.
Politicians and media dismissed the nationalists who gathered at St Kilda to discuss the African crime crisis as racists and Nazis, and urged us to focus our energy on better fostering our multicultural diversity.
But now another major violent incident involving youths of African appearance has occurred, thrusting the crime crisis back into the spotlight.
On Sunday night two boys, aged 14 and 17 were bashed and robbed at Wyndham Vale train station (another crime hotspot) in Melbourne’s West by a group of 20 youths. One of the boys’ father has claimed that two Protective Services Officers (PSOs) tasked with ensuring public safety at railway stations, were nearby but “just watched”.
Anger boiled over the next day at the train station when a group of white youths patrolled the areas with baseball bats and confronted people of African appearance. No physical confrontations occurred and the patrolling youths eventually left when police arrived.
This alarming, and many would say reckless display of vigilantism prompted Daniel Andrews to urge people not to take the law into their own hands “I can understand that they’re obviously particularly frustrated. I think that members of Victoria Police are frustrated — we’re all frustrated that some in our community choose to behave badly”.
He maintained that Victorian Police were best equipped to investigate, prosecute and prevent violent crimes “Having said that, though, I would urge people if you believe a crime has been committed ring Triple Zero. That’s for your own safety and to make sure that people are caught and get the justice they richly deserve”.
Victoria Police reacted by deploying increased numbers at Wyndham Vale train station with police spokeswoman saying “Additional police resources are patrolling and engaging with youth in the area and the investigation remains ongoing”.
They also strongly condemned the patrolling youths “Victoria Police reminds the community that any behaviour that encourages violence and hatred against others will not be tolerated and is illegal. Every Victorian has the right to feel safe and secure in the community.
Certainly when members of the community feel frustrated enough to take the law into their own hands, that is when governments are compelled to act. To the Andrews Government’s credit they have been deploying extra police resources to crime hotspots this summer, and incidents at beaches have subsided.
But being a progressive-left government it still does neither have the will or ability to call it an African crime problem, for fear of being seen as racist and losing the migrant vote.
Another crisis the Andrews Government is dealing with (as is its New South Wales counterpart) is deaths and hospitalization at music festivals due to drug consumption. There is pressure from the Victorian cross-bench to introduce pill-testing at music festivals to save lives, but the government has so far resisted this pressure, so it is in a state of policy limbo, continuing what is turning out to be a tragic status quo.
The euphoria from its sweeping election victory would appear to have evaporated this summer. And although it does not have to worry about facing the voters again until November 2022, and is still up against a divided Liberal Opposition, these key areas of government responsibility: energy and law order, left unresolved will fester into greater problems, generating greater public anger, which can spill over in unpredictable ways. There is still plenty to fix in Victoria, and the public has a long memory.