Kissing another state Labor government goodbye
It will be the political equivalent of a slasher movie, a bloody affair in which the bodies of sitting members pile up as NSW voters go on the rampage against a government which, now in its 16th year, has truly worn out its welcome. The latest polls suggest that NSW Labor, unassailable under the leadership of Bob Carr, could be left with as few as 15 seats in the 93-member Lower House. Some party figures say they might only just crack double figures.
For people not living in NSW, next Saturday’s election will only rate passing notice. It certainly isn’t being fought on federal issues, but looms simply as a plebiscite on the awesome unpopularity of a government which for the past six years has been beset by scandal and plagued by incompetence, so much so that voters don’t even care that the Opposition has a sketchy and unambitious policy agenda.
Despite being the ABL election – Anyone But Labor – there are a number of issues which will come from the result which will have implications for the rest of the nation.
Some of these issues could be massive, as Julia Gillard continues to perform the onerous juggling act that is minority government, and are presented here in order of importance. The last one is just a bit of comic relief. Hopefully.
Big, Bad, Bustling Barry O’Farrell. O’Farrell, who will win in a landslide, has given clear signals that he has little intention of working cooperatively with the Federal Government. As the leader of the most populous state in the federation, the prospect of O’Farrell turning up at COAG meetings as a wrecking ball against the Commonwealth’s policy agenda is the last thing Gillard needs. He has indicated that he’s not prepared to sign up for Gillard’s performance-based health plan. He bizarrely sided with the Greens to oppose school leagues tables, and may stymie similar future education reforms. Ditto for Gillard’s gambling reforms. Ideology aside, O’Farrell’s likely obstinance on these and other issues will be driven by a sense of obligation to his federal leader. Tony Abbott has been rightly derisive towards the NSW Liberal Party for its laughably inept performance at last year’s federal election. The party was so incompetent that it failed to pre-select candidates in key winnable seats until just days from the election being called. Had Tony Abbott won just one more seat, he’d be the PM. Abbott can call in the favours.
Bright red Greens. Greens Leader (and as some would have it, de factor prime minister) Bob Brown looks like a wimpy moderate compared to some of the extremists kicking around in the Greens Party in NSW. The NSW Greens are much more the Burn-down-McDonalds variety than the put on a hessian skivvy and hug a tree brigade. Of their number the most radical is Marrickville Mayor Fiona Byrne, whose inner-west council area is nicknamed The Inner-West Bank over her dreadful proposal to blackban Israeli goods and services in solidarity with the Palestinians. Jewish Labor MP Michael Danby, who has a keen sense of history, drily commented that it would be easier if the Marrickville Council just painted the Star of David on offending businesses. Despite this madness Byrne, who has also canvassed a trade ban with China, is a strong chance of winning a Lower House seat, as is the turbo-charged Nimby, Jamie Parker in Balmain. If these people get in they could become an embarrassment for Brown - and more ominously an even bigger one for Gillard as she maintains a formal coalition with this third party.
Putting a face to the faceless men. One of the key reasons NSW Labor is about to get such a shellacking is that they’ve had three premiers this term. My daughter did the Premier’s Reading Challenge at her K-2 primary school and got a certificate each year – over the past three years it was signed by Morris Iemma, Nathan Rees and Kristina Keneally. This laughable situation has been brought about by factional arrogance, the belief that power is a personal plaything, not something given on trust by the voters. We saw it last year with the Rudd-Gillard switch. And many of the people behind that manoeuvre – such as the recently-rissoled national Labor secretary Karl Bitar – tried the tactic first in NSW. They’ll have their phones off next Saturday.
The power(less) and the passion. As NSW Labor faces life with less seats than a Tarago Van, there are those who say the capable and well-liked Kristina Keneally should stick around and steer the party through the coming years of darkness. Others in her Right Faction want her to go to Canberra. Her state seat of Heffron sits smack bang on top of Peter Garrett’s federal seat of Kingsford Smith, and there’s plenty of right-wingers who’d love to see her knock off the insulation guy.
Momentum. Quite simply, victory for the Libs puts an extra spring in their step. Even though it’s a state-based campaign, stand by for Tony Abbott to declare it a referendum on everything from the carbon tax to the BER to the failure to stop the boats.
Please explain? Yep, Pauline’s running. As Malcolm Farr wrote the other day, every circus needs its clown and the One Nation founder has kindly provided it. Whether it’s a ploy to cash in on returns from the Electoral Commission, or a concerted comeback, is anyone’s guess. She only needs 4.55% of the vote to get into the Upper House, less with preferences. Stranger things have happened. After all, this is the place where just days after his swearing in, the police minister was sacked for dancing in his green jocks at parliamentary drinks.
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