Labor’s NSW disease will be fatal if it doesn’t act now
This week the Gillard Government was given a glimpse into its political future in Sydney and it’s as grim as it gets. But it was an image that has been quarantined from public debate because of the equally bleak outlook for the Government’s perfidious bed-fellows, the Greens.
Deluded Labor MPs and their cheer squads have been out celebrating the diminishing fortunes of the minority party. All to divert attention away from the real problem.
The bigger story behind the NSW council elections last weekend seems to have been buried under a Maoist suppression order within the Gillard Government. The only bloke brave enough to challenge it so far, ironic considering he is from the Left, has been the outspoken Senator Doug Cameron.
He summed the situation up in typically eloquent style when describing his experience last Saturday while manning a Labor booth in western Sydney. “It really is a problem for Labor when you’ve got blue collar workers with the arse out of their pants taking Liberal how-to-vote cards and voting Liberal.”
The election results were only marginally better than the State election results last year, which were the worst in history, until the Queensland elections. Some see that as a positive, despite the loss of just about every Labor council in western Sydney and beyond. Liverpool, of all places, now has its first ever Liberal mayor - who three years ago was a member of the ALP.
Yet the only discussion about this political apocalypse has been in whispers behind hands in the corridors of Parliament.
There is now a body of evidence from the experiences at two levels of Government - council and State - which cant be ignored by the Federal leadership and cannot be dismissed as being isolated to local and State issues.
Most of the Liberal and conservative independent candidates were campaigning against the carbon tax and Gillard herself.
When Chris Hayes dared raised it with the Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan on Tuesday in caucus, he may as well have been talking about tuberculosis. No one wanted to know about it.
Hayes is the Federal member for the western Sydney seat of Fowler. He is generally regarded as a pretty good bloke.
And that’s about all Hayes wants the voters of Cecil Hills, Bonnyrigg, Cabramatta and Liverpool to know about him these days.
Nowhere on Hayes’ official website does the word Labor appear. It has been completely airbrushed out of his profile, his press releases, and every other digital crevice he could find.
And for good reason.
Fowler had been ultra-safe Labor since it was created in 1984.
At the last election, when Hayes was forced into the seat by Julia Gillard, to make way for left wing union leader Laurie Ferguson into Hayes old seat of Werriwa, it suffered a 15 per cent swing.
A swing of only half that size at the next Federal election and Hayes will be looking closely at his superannuation account.
Hayes has, rightly, tried to impress upon Swan and his colleagues that unless they somehow managed to turn things around in western Sydney, and quickly, the Government was dead.
Smarter people in the Government on higher pay grades than him better start taking notice.
Swan probably gave the only response he could, regardless of whether he actually believed it himself when he suggested the vote would come back.
But Hayes was dead right to bring it up, because there are those in the Prime Minister’s office and in Cabinet, captured by the Victorian intelligentsia, who obviously don’t get whats going on in NSW.
Either that or they have decided they would simply prefer to live out the rest of their political lives as characters in a CS Lewis fantasy novel.
The only glimmer of hope for Gillard in Sydney was provided this week by Barry O’Farrell and his budget cuts to education. Finally, the Federal Labor Government had a campaign for NSW.
Even then they embraced it reluctantly.
Education Minister Peter Garrett reportedly told caucus that he would refuse to attack O’Farrell over the cuts because he didn’t want to upset him while they were in negotiations over the Gonski reforms.
One NSW Right MP joked that Garrett was at risk of needing to take out an AVO against his own colleagues, so palpable was the anger within the caucus. Although he didn’t sound like he was joking.
Things are clearly that bad - and that directionless in the top ranks of the Government - that it was left to the NSW Party Secretary Sam Dastyari to fly down to Canberra on Wednesday night, call all the NSW MPs together for a meeting the following morning, and spell it out to them.
They had to get out there and start campaigning against the O’Farrell’s cuts. Don’t mention the war.
Dastyari knows, as do the NSW Federal Labor MPs, that the council results were the second wake up alarm for Labor in NSW in the last 18 months. There won’t be another one until the Sunday after the next election and it will be the sound of defeat ringing in their ears if they don’t collectively get their act together now and try to retake Sydney.
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