News | 21st Mar, 2010

Few happy as voters’ eyes turn to water works

Sunday, 21 March 2010
The Age

John Brumby has a story to tell voters about water this year. And it goes something like this: several years ago, the fair city of Melbourne faced an unprecedented water crisis. The story's hero, Action Man Brumby, tackled this crisis as treasurer, then as premier, with a steely will and took tough and politically unpopular decisions.

By this year's end, the Brumby narrative goes, it becomes clear to Melburnians that the tough actions of their premier had averted a crisis and we live happily ever after, unshackled by harsh water restrictions. This was the political point underpinning Brumby's announcement last week that the modest easing of restrictions was "responsible" and "sustainable" but would ensure the city would never be on stage 3a or 4 again.

But, it turns out, the story is not that simple. The reaction to last week's water announcement, an easing from stage 3a to 3, reveals voters are following a number of different narratives. The government faces a much more nuanced and difficult political battle on water, which is shaping up as one of the key issues for the November poll, than perhaps it bargained for.

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