Queensland Premier Anna Bligh called it ``the New South Wales disease’’ where the leadership of the ALP, even in office, became a revolving door decided by faceless factional heavies.
Last Saturday, the NSW branch of the party, the source of that ``disease’’ and the biggest single brick in the Labor wall, crashed to the ground. The 16-year-old government, led defiantly by Kristina Keneally, was not merely defeated, it was humiliated. The backlash was unprecedented in its ferocity with voters dishing out the worst defeat of any government in Australian electoral history.
Facing a state election within a year, Anna Bligh, of course, is desperate to stop the rot at the Tweed River. But she may not be able to hold back the tide. Fear in Labor ranks is now giving way to panic just as conservatives are rubbing their hands. In a world of diminished party loyalty, instant information, social media, and a borderless 24-hour media cycle, Labor’s hardheads worry that the old boundaries between states, and even between levels of government are blurring.
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Arriving at the Randwick Labor Club for Saturday night’s ALP election function, the staff at the desk were joking about having voted Liberal. This was obviously going to be a bad night for the Labor Party.
Like residents waiting for a massive cyclone, the Labor faithful knew when it was coming and where from; the only thing for it now was to buckle down together and wait. Needless to say, it was weird.
One benefit of this particular bunker was the open bar, which was probably the most useful bit of campaign spending the NSW ALP had made in the last six weeks.
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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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There could be some quirky or even downright hostile fellow diners with the Liberals who are now preparing to feast on the ALP carcass at the NSW election.
So many, and so non-mainstream, that perhaps they will ruin Barry O’Farrell’s appetite.
Voters who are keen to dispatch the ALP might also be in a mind to prevent the election of a Coalition Government which for four years could do what it wanted. There has been a bit of this type of electoral insurance taken out in recent polls.
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When voters hit the polling booths in NSW on March 26, many will have no memory of a time before Labor. Such has been the party’s success in the Premier state, that it had come to regard government as its birthright. It’s a conceit that comes from ruling for the last 16 years straight and for all but 18 of the last 70 years.
But now the jig is up.
In fact, it has been up for quite a while but the state’s fixed four-year term has delayed the day of reckoning. Labor fell over the line in 2007, thanks mostly to a hopeless Opposition, but the diseases of hubris, of fatigue, of abuse of trust, had already begun.
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At the heart of the ALP’s election campaign advertising is a single, profound and powerful message: “You wouldn’t hit a girl would you?”
Indeed, it almost seems inhumane to use someone as sweet and appealing as Kristina Keneally as the poster girl for the truly horrible carnage that will be visited upon NSW Labor on March 26.
It’s a bit like lashing a fair maiden to a tree and then sitting around and waiting for the dragon.
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There was significant attention given to Barry O’Farrell when he spoke at the National Press Club yesterday. There will be a whole lot more when Premier Kristina Keneally has her turn on Friday.
Keneally is a political item of particular fascination, and not just because she gets out of bed every morning knowing she is another day closer to getting the tripe kicked out of her government by voters.
O’Farrell is the man who will become the next Premier of the largest state in the Commonwealth. Keneally is the voluntary sacrifice needed to cleanse the Labor name of the grime collected over 16 years of government.
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The season’s latest campaign ads follow the same old tired plot of black and white attack hysteria, gloomy (or comical) music and an authoritative male voiceover reviling the failings of a tired old Government.
The latest from the NSW Liberals opens with a black and white scene of our lead character (the embattled NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally) admitting her failing only to be ear ambushed with a chorus of our ad’s tag line “same old Labor, same old tricks”. But we’re not left wondering for long what the plot is.
Our storyline of the sorry tale of NSW Labor’s leadership’s mistakes and failures becomes glaring apparent with the TV interview vox pops of our supporting characters Morris Iemma and Nathan Rees. And in case we didn’t get the ad’s message, we’re treated to a catchy jingle of “same old Labor, same old failure” on nauseous rhyming repeat.
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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.
The Russell Lea Infants School class of 2010 graduated yesterday and among my daughter’s collection of journals, exercise books and achievement certificates is an unusual piece of political memorabilia.
All the kids at this terrific K2 (kindergarten to grade two) public school have spent the past three years doing the Premiers Reading Challenge, introduced by Bob Carr as a literacy measure a few years ago. It’s a great program in that it introduces a sense of personal competition where the kids read as many books as they can from a set list, and receive a certificate at the end of the year.
The certificates for the past three years show how the NSW Labor Party has reduced the premiership to the status of cheap baseball swap cards, and my daughter has collected the whole set. In 2008 she got a certificate from Morris Iemma, in 2009 she got one from Nathan Rees, and this year she got one from Kristina Keneally, prompting her to ask the very sensible question a few months ago as to whether there was a different premier in NSW every year. The answer to which is obviously yes.
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NSW Premier Kristina Keneally has had enough. According to this morning’s Daily Telegraph: “Ms Keneally yesterday demanded the head of NSW Labor Party boss Bernie Riordan after his union told members to consider backing parties other than Labor at the March election.”
Yesterday Keneally was approached by the Telegraph and asked if she could pose defiantly to help illustrate the story. The Premier reluctantly agreed, shifting her schedule and time with her family to assist the paper. The result? Page one coverage and a lesson for politicians everywhere.
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News this morning that NSW Premier Kristina Keneally will add points NSW residents’ licenses, apparently in a bid to give drivers “a fair go.”
One can’t help but think it’s an attempt to give Kristina Keneally’s Government a fair go, although she may need to do more than add one point to everyone’s license. More exciting bribes will be necessary to save the NSW Government, and perhaps the Victorian Government who faces re-election this weekend can get in a few last minute sweeteners in as well.
Here’s a few suggestions:
- F3 Housing development: The Government will build a new 20,000 home development along the side of the F3 freeway, the home of the nine hour traffic jam. This will allow people to sleep where they now spend most of their time, and allow long standing F3 relationships to blossom into what are becoming known as “F3 families.”
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There is a squeamish message on the Cross City Tunnel website headed “Toll adjustment - 1st October 2010” which is notable for two reasons.
The first is that it reminds us how, in these jargon-addled times, things such as tolls never go up, jump or rise. They simply “adjust”. The second is that it demonstrates how the NSW Labor Government has abrogated much of its responsibility for protecting taxpayers from cost of living increases.
The construction of the Cross City Tunnel, as you may recall, finished behind schedule – but because of the contract between its operators and the NSW Government, where the price of the toll is linked to CPI, the toll actually went up before the road even opened.
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There are more former ministers in the NSW Government than there are ministers. Fourteen of them to be exact.
One of them is in Long Bay for plying youths with heroin and having sex with them in his parliamentary office.
The other 13 aren’t bad people. They’re just guilty of a combination of hubris, sloth, incompetence and stupidity, and stand as examples of what can happen when a government has been in power for so long that it can’t remember what it was originally there for.
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Yet another member of the NSW Government has hit the wall over dodgy behaviour. Ports Minister Paul McLeay, son of the factional hack Leo, has been sacked for whiling away time in his ministerial office looking at pornographic websites.
You can’t really blame the bloke. If you were sitting on a primary vote of 25 per cent and facing imminent electoral death, you’ve got to pass the hours somehow. His appetites didn’t stop at nudie sites, he also had a bit of a thing for online gambling. But the punter has now been punted with Premier Kristina Keneally telling the freakshow also known as the NSW Parliament just now that she had sought and received his resignation.
There’s a great text message doing the rounds in Labor circles this afternoon which reads as follows. “This behaviour is not the stand I expect of a minister,” Ms Keneally said. Why??!!
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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.
The comparisons are obvious. Julia Gillard has been installed by factional powerbrokers as leader of a Labor government in a certain amount of trouble.
She’s yet to be tested by the electorate, oh, and she was born overseas. But while Kristina Keneally’s ascension to the top of the NSW ALP was met (by me included, right here on The Punch) with a cynical roll of the eyes, Australia’s first female Prime Minister is a different story.
Gillard didn’t have to front the media yesterday declaring “I’m nobody’s puppet, I’m nobody’s girl.” And that’s because, unlike Keneally, she’s not.
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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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In any decision to invest, wise investors look at three things – the quality of the management of the company you are investing in, their track record, and the underlying numbers.
I also believe it’s the right way to judge a government on its economic performance. What are the values, culture and philosophy of the team? What is their record of implementation? And how reliable are the assumptions that underpin the forecasts?
The importance of these questions is that a Budget is only as strong as the team that will implement it. I’m sure investment analysts would be very suspicious of any company that have had four CEOs in five years and over 200 changes in its senior management team in the same period. Yet this is the management turnover of the NSW Government.
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The Kristina Keneally flicky haircut craze has made it all the way to Africa and reached the animal kingdom.
The Punch discovered this picture of an African buffalo which looks uncannily like the NSW Premier. It has not been photoshopped or retouched at all, and can be seen in its original form at this website.
As part of our commitment to destroying workplace productivity, we encourage readers to send in any shots they can find of animals which look like politicians - a tapir that looks like Tony Abbott, a fruitbat that looks like Kevin Rudd, an Irish Setter that looks like Julia Gillard, a parakeet that looks like Doug Anthony…you name it.
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Good on you Adrian Piccoli for finally having the guts to say what so many wouldn’t. For too long men in politics have been judged more on their hair cuts and the choice of their ties than on their ability to do their jobs.
Poor Tony Abbott, with just a smattering of lycra to protect him, has had to suffer sexualised appraisals from the commentariat.
Lindsay Tanner has had to carry on those broad shoulders the burden of being known as “thinking woman’s crumpet.” And as if doing a tax review wasn’t enough to deal with, Treasury Boss Ken Henry practically has groupies.
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Updated 7.25am: Sydney’s Daily Telegraph reports it was known inside cabinet for years that Campbell had been visiting gay clubs and saunas. There’s analysis here and you can watch a video report including the Channel 7 footage here.
NSW transport minister David Campbell has just resigned after being sprung using his taxpayer-funded car to visit a gay sex club (funny how it’s always the car that does them in).
Seven News showed footage of the married father, who has actively campaigned as a family man, leaving the club where you pay $22 to spend time with like-minded blokes.
On Tuesday night just gone he’d ditched his driver, and driven himself to the establishment known as Kens at Kensington. The Kens website says: “Ken’s is the spacious, clean and safe place to meet sexy guys. Ken’s has everything you want in a venue — ideal for a short lunch-break, a long hard evening or day, or meeting up with (or finding!) someone special!”
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It is highly possible that the deal signed by Kristina Keneally with Kevin Rudd will provide NSW with more money in the short term and less money in the long term.
We should not forget this Government which has rushed to sign an agreement with the Federal Government has not got a fine record for looking at the fine print.
It is the same Government that signed the Cross City Tunnel contract which is now before the Courts, the Lotteries contract which is being studied by the Auditor General, and the Metro contracts which to date have costed over $500 million.
Is the hairstyle of NSW Premier Kristina Keneally a political force of its own that could help others struggling with their public appeal?
It is an unquestionable hit with the public and today the #KKHairAvatarDay hashtag started trending on Twitter. Earlier this week it was reported her breezy coiffure is being specifically requested by salon patrons, with celebrity hairdresser Joh Bailey saying it was “extremely popular” with customers. “It’s fresh, it’s appropriate to her position, it’s very well-groomed - she’s obviously having it done a lot,” Bailey told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Someone said to me that [her hair] has a lot of movement in it, and that sort of says that she’s doing something.”
Kristina Keneally’s hairstyle is very much part of the NSW Premier’s personal brand which has made her the most popular political leader in the country despite the government she leads being openly loathed by voters. She’s building her leadership credentials - playing a starring role in the negotiations this week’s COAG health summit - but there can be little doubt that her telegenic qualities have given her an edge when it comes to cutting through with the electorate.
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While the world is held ransom by a volcano that looks like its name was invented by a process of fist mashing the keyboard, the future of the country’s health system is being held ransom to a similarly incomprehensible force of nature in Canberra: a meeting between state premiers and the Prime Minister.
In fact, to give volcanos credit they only erupt every 20 years or so, are relatively easy to understand and haven’t inconvenienced anyone on this level for quite a while. There seems to be a COAG meeting every three weeks under Kevin Rudd and this health debate has been the most torturous so far.
To say this is an important issue is an understatement - it is probably the most important policy issue for the Government to get right before the election, because of both the desire for action in the electorate and yet unfulfilled promises for that change.
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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Police officers are called a lot of names, but when the NSW Premier Kristina Keneally this week called us ‘wowsers’ for launching a campaign to close pubs at 3am, we were left scratching our heads.
Maybe something got lost in the translation to ocker for our Premier, but according to my research
the term originally referred to annoying and disruptive people – the sort of people an alcohol lock-out would attempt to manage.
In more recent times, the term evolved to refer to the ‘pious’, a fair description of the hotel lobby who seems to run NSW, who (with a straight face) attempted to argue that thousands of jobs would be lost
if people were told to go home before the sun comes up.
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Kevin Rudd’s much-criticised failure to look NSW Premier Kristina Keneally in the eye ahead of health reform talks last week was a supremely weird moment. Keneally is in the equally bizarre position of leading a party voters say they are going to crush in the polls but also decisively support her as preferred premier ahead of Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell.
Rudd’s gaze-averting and fist-banging had all the hallmarks of a snub but taken with the Premier’s attempts to brand herself as Kristina Keneally and nothing to do with Labor, you have to wonder whether the incident may in fact have suited her strategy of putting distance between herself and the party.
With polls on the two-party preferred measure indicating voters are waiting with baseball bats for the NSW Labor Party in next year’s state election it’s perhaps understandable that they would want the focus to be on personalities rather than the party machines.
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In a state that dumps transport blueprints faster than premiers, it’s little surprise the NSW Government’s announcement of a multi-billion dollar infrastructure bonanza has been met with all the fanfare of Al Gore at a climate skeptics conference.
In what has become almost an annual spectacle for a government that has turned axing infrastructure projects into an art form, the last grand plan, a five billion dollar metro, has been unceremoniously tossed on the scrap-heap, with a new proposal cobbled together with little more than some blue-tac and sticky tape.
Back on the agenda after more comebacks than John Farnham are the north-west and south-west rail links, only now with increased price tags.
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The debate over the abolition of the states is a non-debate. Aside from a few single-issue crazies who want to turn back the rivers to create an inland sea, or as a moot debating point for constitutional law enthusiasts, there is no clamour whatsoever to pursue such a complex and challenging reform.
Perhaps the argument should be recast, with a proposal that if we aren’t prepared to abolish the states, we should at least abolish New South Wales.
Under the baton-passing stewardship of NSW Labor, with the top job having been hand-balled from Morris Iemma to Nathan Rees to Kristina Keneally in just over 12 months, NSW has cemented itself as a failed state, if not a rogue state, on the national stage.
What a great moment in history - NSW now has a woman premier and a woman deputy. How inspiring for the young women of NSW, who last night were told by Kristina Keneally “you can do anything.”
Eight year old girls can now listen to Ms Keneally’s story about how when she was their age she rang a radio station to put the local bishop on the spot about altar servers and think to themselves “wow, girls really can make a difference.”
“I’m a 40-year-old working mum,” Ms Keneally said last night. Oh blah ... I can’t even pretend to be excited about this.
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