The Victorian opposition’s cheap public transport election promise might be good politics, but is it good policy?


Despite all the billions of dollars committed and promised on Victoria’s beleaguered health system this election campaign, it will be cost of living that looms as the major issue for voters when they begin to cast their ballots in 34 days’ time.

Interest rates rises are already hurting household budgets and it is likely another rate hike will be delivered three weeks out from election day.

So, voters will be looking to both sides of politics to see who can deliver them some relief.

Labor has already handed out $250 for people to visit a power price comparison service and Matthew Guy’s opposition entered this discussion over the weekend with an easy-to-understand election pitch to voters of cheap local public transport, followed by a commitment on Tuesday to halve V/Line fares.

It marks a move away from the near-daily focus on the health system, at which both sides of politics have pledged billions of dollars.

The opposition’s promise of $2 daily local public transport fares is likely to provide the biggest cut-through of the Coalition’s campaign, so far.

Their policy is simple, it’s memorable and would be delivered almost straight away (next financial year).

“It’s straightforward, it’s easy. It helps with cost pressures that families are experiencing,” Mr Guy said on Monday during his first day selling the policy in Melbourne’s CBD.

The Victorian opposition’s cheap public transport election promise might be good politics, but is it good policy?
Matthew Guy’s election campaign has mostly been based around health spending.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

Even some of his opponents privately concede that it is a good piece of politics, especially for disengaged voters.

However, delve a little deeper and there are some big questions about how the cheaper tickets will affect Victoria, and whether or not it is a good piece of public policy.

Not much public transport use in outer suburbs

Strategists believe the policy is also unlikely to be a vote shifter in the outer suburbs, where public transport use is less, and where the key battleground electorates are located.

“The people who benefit from the reduction in fares are those where the services are already good quality. That tends to be wealthier households in the inner- and middle-suburbs,” RMIT Professor Jago Dodson says.

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