Australia needs Turnbull to be elected ... as Premier
Like a used nappy, is it time to toss out Blocker and Liberal Lite?
In another era, Malcolm Turnbull would have been Liberal premier of NSW. He would have been a good one, very possibly exceptional. He would have combined the reforming zeal of the last decent premier, Nick Greiner, with a studied expertise around complex urban issues which successive Labor premiers have so spectacularly failed to grasp.
Anyone who has heard Turnbull speak passionately and with vision about the future of Sydney will understand that Australia’s only global city and the country’s economic engine room demands knowledge and leadership of that quality.
Instead, Malcolm’s in the middle of the federal Liberal party muddle that has contrived to comprehensively stuff up what should have been an orderly transition to Peter Costello. Turnbull has quickly been found wanting in Canberra, his flaws and foibles stripped bare by Utegate.
So back at Macquarie Street we have the unprincipled Barry “Blocker” O’Farrell and his brand of Liberal Lite.
No-one seems to know what that brand stands for, given O’Farrell is happy to side with the Labor left and unions (power sell-off), and even the Greens (school rankings, lotteries’ sale) purely for political expediency.
State Liberal MPs, aptly dubbed the Other Mob by Janet Albrechtsen of The Australian, must wonder which Barry is going to turn up for work week by week. Even former Prime Minister John Howard seems to think Blocker has lost the plot.
The reason Turnbull would have made a good premier is that the job these days essentially requires a manager not a politician; a CEO rather than a premier.
State governments deliver front-line services, not ideology.
It’s Turnbull’s political nous which so badly lets him down, but that is not as relevant or harmful at state level.
Voters in NSW largely regard the parliamentary bear pit and its infrequent gatherings as a joke and I suspect they would readily trade a great parliamentary performer for a sound economic manager (Costello combined the two wonderfully).
But Blocker shows all the signs of failing on both fronts. He is relatively weak and ineffective taking the argument to the government (not a sacking offence), but his rejection of Labor’s attempt to privatise the electricity industry stands as an act of economic vandalism and tells us all we need to know about the would-be manager.
State Labor should have been turfed out at the last election. When Bob Carr shifted into cruise control half-way through his premiership and gave up the fight against the left and its union power base, Labor began the slide towards the C team that now mis-governs NSW.
The few competent ministers of Carr’s era headed for the exit one by one, making way for a conga line of jumped-up mayors and councillors, spiv-like networkers taking care of their mates, party hacks and union puppets.
And then there’s the Other Mob, just as mediocre (with a few exceptions, notably the promising Manly MP Mike Baird.)
State politics on both sides has become a low-rent, low-horizon occupation in which those prepared to navigate the banality of the branch system have fallen on to the vacant front benches, armed only with a modicum of talent and delusions of adequacy.
Clearly the gene pool is small and as David Penberthy pointed out in his Punch column in The Weekend Australian, things are made worse by fixed terms which reward self-interest and incompetence.
But that does at least give the Liberals until March 2011 to get their house in order (and yes, the election is still there to be lost by the Coalition). Blocker O’Farrell may be a “hard-nosed political operator,” as Imre Salusinszky of The Australian described him, but NSW needs much more than just another opportunist, given the immense rebuilding task ahead. For this reason, he may yet go the way of South Australian Liberal leader Martin Hamilton-Smith before the next poll.
As someone once said: politicians are like nappies – they need changing regularly and for the same reason.
So if things don’t work out in Canberra, Malcolm…….
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