Barry O Farrell
I was standing in my significant other’s kitchen, doing what I usually do: eating her food, creating a mess and accidentally knocking things over.
She was letting me do my thing while she read her electricity bill. She slapped it down on the bench. “Jeeeeeeez. Thanks bloody Julia Gillard.”
It was a whopper - like most of them nowadays. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released yesterday, the most significant consumer price rises in the September quarter were for electricity, up more than 15 per cent.
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Tony Abbott is the 13th man to lead the Liberal Party since it was founded by Sir Robert Menzies. Six of his predecessors have been prime minister. Six have not.
Abbott confided to a private meeting of Coalition MPs this week that he wakes up every morning feeling a great weight of responsibility on his shoulders. He does not want to let down the people who hope he can get rid of the Gillard Government and add his name to the list of Liberal winners.
While Abbott knows opinion polls show he would have won any election held in the past 18 months in a landslide, he has not fallen into the trap of believing he is a shoo-in when polling day actually arrives. Having failed in his desperate quest to force an early poll, there’s probably still another year until the moment of truth.
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It is not Julia Gillard’s job to solve trolling. Nor is it Nicola Roxon’s, nor Barry O’Farrell or any other government entity. But sites like Twitter and Facebook need to react more quickly when users are bullied.
It’s pretty contradictory that a time when we are concerned about government encroaching into the online space, that we are also demanding they solve this so-called “trolling problem” overnight.
Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah has demanded Julia Gillard enforce tougher laws for online bullying after receiving an offensive tweet about his mum.
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There were four shootings in Western Sydney the night before last. Actually, no, make that five. Bullets fired at one home narrowly missed two young children who were playing computer games. It’s a quiet night if only one bullet goes through the front window lately.
So it’s a little disconcerting at first to note that one of the two parties holding the balance of power in the NSW Upper House is the Shooters and Fishers Party (the other being Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats). The O’Farrell government has to deal with them to get its legislative agenda passed over the objections of Labor and the Greens.
Obviously, the Shooters find the recent spate of gun crime in western Sydney abhorrent. They’ve proposed legislation that would make it a separate offence for someone to possess a firearm while committing a crime. It sounds sensible - having a firearm while committing a crime is only an aggravating offence under the current law. But as recently as last year the Shooters were arguing that all kids should be able to perform shooting as a school sport, as students at some private schools are currently allowed.
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If you were to choose one place which symbolised the challenges facing the city of Sydney, it would be hard to go past the permanent disaster area that is the Kingsford Smith Airport.
With a continuing argument about whether the damn thing should even be there at all, Sydney Airport, like the city itself, is a disorganised work in progress, the subject of upgrades which no sooner finish than another one begins. It’s a stressful place. It’s expensive. It consistently ranks last in surveys of national airports, principally because it has been designed and redesigned without its human users in mind.
It is six months since NSW Labor was deservedly pummelled at the ballot box ushering in what was billed as a new era of accountability and renewal under the Coalition Government of Premier Barry O’Farrell. The one thing which has changed is an end to the constant procession of low-rent ministerial scandals which made the tail end of Labor’s rule seem like the last days of Rome. But in terms of the more pressing policy challenge of getting some life and direction into the place, it has been a bleakly disappointing start.
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Last night I thanked Manly for an unbelievable result and for the incredible privilege of serving them in the next Parliament.
The opportunity to represent my community weighs on me heavily. But I said we have to remember the trial of any government is not how they go in times of triumph but in times of challenge that lay ahead.
Our challenge starts now and there is a massive task ahead.
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To adapt the slogan of the NRA: Labor voters don’t elect Greens; Liberals elect Greens.
The Green ambitions in the NSW election were massively frustrated last night because the Liberals did not direct their second-choice votes to them.
Without that vital second tier support from their unlikely ballot buddies the Liberals, the Greens did worse than they hoped in the vulnerable inner-city Labor seats of Marrickville and Balmain.
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The fallout from the destruction of the Labor Party in NSW today will be almost nuclear. The once-mighty ALP has been smashed to bits in what was regarded as its home state, the place where it had held power for 52 of the past 70 years, the place from whence the NSW Right had dominated the party’s national factional landscape, making and breaking both premiers and prime ministers.
Both the party and the faction have now been reduced almost to the status of a marginal fringe organisation.
The faction which gave the country pragmatic hard men such as Graham Richardson and Paul Keating is now likely to be headed by a largely unknown figure called Noreen Hay, whose only real flirtation with fame involved her unwitting presence at the downfall of former NSW police minister Matt Brown, sacked just three days into his tenure for dancing in his green underpants at a party at Parliament House, during which he jokingly pretended to mount Ms Hay’s chest.
Ms Hay has been fighting for her political life this past month in - of all places - the Illawarra. The region is home to the gritty towns of Port Kembla, Dapto and Wollongong – places which have never voted anything other than Labor in their life.
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A small tap of the space key can make a world of difference.
Case in point - mandate: “the authority granted by a constituency to act as its representative”; as opposed to man date: “two men doing something that would be your standard date, eg going to a film, out for a meal.”
Now, Unions NSW has been working constructively with governments of all stripes for 130 years. But with all due respect, if Barry O’Farrell becomes premier after Saturday’s election, I won’t be lining up for a man date.
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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.
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“Some day someone will write the full story of Australian roguery, from the rum racketeers of the First Fleet to the beer racketeers of the Second World War, from land swindlers to mine swindlers…the dramatis personae will be well assorted – red-coated English officers and wide-hatted Australian squatters, Tories and Socialists, knights and nobodies, politicians, policemen, aldermen; racing men and brewers; and every State will provide a scene or two, though, unquestionably, New South Wales will steal the show.”
This is the introduction from Cyril Pearl’s Wild Men of Sydney, the rollicking account of late 19th century NSW politics through the lives of Upper House MPs John Norton, Patrick Crick and William Willis, three men who were drunk on power and often just plain drunk. It’s one of those enduring books which helps tell the story of a city. It was written in 1958 about events from the 1880s and 1890s.
To this day, it captures the language of Sydney, the culture of government and business, the sense of entitlement which colours the conduct of so many MPs in this State. The fact that we have an American woman as Premier has done nothing to change this culture.
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The basic thrust of the strategy for Labor to escape the March 26 NSW election with a respectable loss is to put the focus on the Opposition and away from the Government.
Well, that’s coming along nicely, isn’t it?
On the day that MLC Tony Catanzariti revealed he would be the 22nd Labor MP to quit at the coming poll, and news reports rehashed charges against a senior public servant and minister’s husband for allegedly buying an illegal drug, it remained an academic exercise.
There is little doubt the people of NSW want change at the March State Election.
But recent polls and by-election results reveals that voters know that, to achieve real change, needs a decisive change of government. Only a strong government, with a decisive majority, can start to turn this State around.
The Federal election result provided two lessons: that a vote for The Greens or an Independent can be a vote for Labor and that a hung Parliament leads to instability, inaction and indecision.
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Never work with children, animals or the NSW Government. Nicola Roxon should consider adopting this updated truism of showbiz, as it might shield her from embarrassment the next time she’s tempted to hit the hustings with a member of the outfit which recorded a 25 per cent primary vote in a once-safe State Labor seat last month.
The federal Health Minister went to western Sydney this week, along with NSW Deputy Premier Carmel Tebbutt, and paid a visit to Westmead Hospital where she announced that the Gillard Government would spend $11.3 million to provide 44 new acute, sub-acute and intensive care beds.
A noble initiative but one which was overshadowed by a well-mannered woman who politely inquired as to whether her bed-ridden elderly father could perhaps be given a room with a toilet during his convalescence at Westmead.
You might think NSW Premier Kristina Keneally and Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell have a lot on their plates - like trying to come up with ways to get NSW out of the infrastructure black hole we’ve fallen into. After all, this week was Budget week in NSW.
But our two political leaders have developed a new hobby - taking pointless potshots at each other on Twitter. Is it dignified? No. Entertaining? Not really.
O’Farrell, whose Tweets you can see here, has taken to referring to his counterpart as KKK (geddit!). And Keneally, whose Tweets you can see here, uses it to flog dead political horses, like her assertion completing the Kokoda Track is no biggie.
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The Punch is today forwarding a copy of Malcolm Turnbull’s CV to the NSW Liberal Party urging his immediate elevation to the leadership.
If anyone can smash his way through the paralysis which grips NSW politics it is Turnbull.
In the absence of a mercy rule, NSW voters currently face a battle between the legally blonde and the legally bland.
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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.
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