Gloves are off and the two fierce pugilists of Victorian politics – Premier Daniel Andrews and the Opposition leader Matthew Guy- have already begun wrestling. They have been in that ‘silent election’ mode for months.
Both know pandemic and its handling will be a topic in this year’s election. While the Labor gurus will get Premier Daniel Andrews to say – there were lot of unknowns and they did their best under the circumstances, the Opposition on the other hand seems convinced, ‘health’ or ‘ill-health’ of the health system will get them votes. Whether enough to deliver enough seats to wrest government off Daniel Andrews, is something they are working hard on.
Numbers look a little daunting for the Opposition. But the leader Matthew Guy is doing his best to overcome the odds.
Fixing the healthcare health crisis will be my absolute priority he told Bharat Times in an exclusive pre-election interview.
Victorians have had a gutful when it comes to crisis in the state health system – be it elective surgery waiting lists – Triple Zero failures, COVID deaths and so on with hospitals bursting at seams and the health professionals having burn outs. Although how much of that can be attributed to mismanagement (and vote winner) or COVID is arguable, the state Opposition has categorically stated fixing it as their priority.
Thus, it was unsurprising for Matthew Guy to say what he did when asked – what are your strengths to appeal to voters to win the number of seats that you need to win?
We want to fix Victoria’s health crisis, we want to take all the money that government’s putting into the Cheltenham to Box Hill railway loop, and put that entirely into fixing the health crisis. I want Victorians, to be able to call triple zero – and it’s answered, to be able to dispatch an ambulance because there’s one on there, and to take him to hospital and there’s a bed waiting for them. I’ve seen too many examples of where people are missing out on getting an ambulance or having to drive themselves or get an Uber. From our point of view, the biggest issue is solving the healthcare health crisis. And that will be my absolute priority.”
He will get foreign health workers back into our health system very quickly. To allure more qualified health professionals into Victoria, he is advocating a change in visa classification, to enable professionals to also bring their families and loved ones along with them like other developed countries so that Australia (Victoria) does not lose them to other attractive places.
He will also commence construction on a number of hospitals that are planned like Melton and Mildura. He will also fast track training of nurses to get them into the system quickly.
How soon will you make that happen – in the first six months, a year?
No, no, no, no, six months, within the first month or two.
When asked why does he think voters would like to look at alternatives, other than Daniel Andrews, he suggests ‘fatigue’ and non-delivery of promises made.
“They’ve been there a long time. The health system is genuinely a mess. They’ve had a long time to fix it. And they haven’t. There’s a lot of promises, promises that never amount to anything. The Indian community was promised a Community Center, never delivered… they seem to fulfill the pet projects of the premier, but not much else. And I think after eight years, people are aware of that and very tired of that.”
When asked what if the voters look for independents, Matthew Guy is absolutely clear, that, that will be a disaster.
“I think independents full stop are a real threat, because voting independent is just a vote for the government, a vote for the Labor Party.”
Fully cognizant of the job on hand, he says they need to convince people not to look elsewhere but at them as the only real and workable alternative.
“Well, we have to spend the next 100 days to convince people if they want to change the way the state is going, they need to vote Liberal, because if they vote for an independent, they’re going to get the government returned, and you’ll have more of the same.”
“So, if you want to fix the health crisis, if you want to keep your kids at school, if you want to employ 2000 more mental health workers, you have to vote Liberal to change the government, otherwise nothing will change. Labor will get back with the support of independence.”
For those still interested, he is committed to repealing Labor’s pandemic legislation.
Also read: Matthew Guy forces Tim Smith out
He will also amend the Victorian constitution to restrict the State Emergency Powers.
He will also establish a Royal Commission into COVID-19 pandemic.
He admits it will cost more than $10 million.
But, is it necessary?
And the answer is unequivocally yes.
Matthew Guy is also committed to halving the elective surgery waitlist and says it will take a term in office to achieve that.
“We will put the infrastructure in place, the staffing policy in place, and the processes, so to work with the private sector and private hospitals as well. So it’ll be a three stage approach if you’d like to make that happen.”
But he will deliver a new infectious disease response centre.
And above all, there will be NO NEW Taxes under a Matthew Guy government in Victoria.
“Our commitment is to lower some and particularly tradesmen is registration fees. It’s small, but it’s very significant cost increase on small families in the suburbs. So we’ve committed to reducing that.”
If he wins government on November 26, he will order audit of 31 projects which have had costs blow outs of $28 billion.
For him, the hardest job perhaps will be to arrest the drift towards independents. Time will tell.