The Labor Party never stop spinning. The Greens and the Nationals candidates stormed past Pauline Hanson on Tuesday to fill the last two seats in the NSW upper house. But Labor is now trying to take credit for stopping Pauline Hanson spreading her divisive politics for the next eight years.
The major stars of the ‘stop Pauline Hanson show’ were the large number of Greens voters. A record 453,125 people voted Greens in NSW on March 26. That’s four and a half times as many people as the 98,043 who voted for Pauline Hanson.
The Greens did gain an extra 3,738 votes from Labor preferences.
Yesterday, Pauline Hanson’s umpteenth attempt to climb out of the political grave ended in failure. But only just.
If NSW Labor had not extended Legislative Council preferences to the Greens Party, Hanson would be sitting on red leather for all of the next eight years, availing herself of parliamentary privilege to once again inject her poison into the Australian body politic.
The fact is, Labor preferences elected a Greens Party candidate over the top of Pauline Hanson.
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I was shocked to learn this week that infighting had broken out amongst the Greens, largely because I was under the impression they were pacifists.
But yet again I was wrong. The Greens have apparently had an internal falling out over their poor showing in the NSW election result. I didn’t believe it myself until I unearthed this secret recording of the Greens’ first ever full-blown factional war….
CONVENOR: Okay, is everybody here? There are still a few empty seats.
The Greens are taking The Punch to the Press Council over my column of last Friday accusing them of pushing Pauline Hanson ahead of the ALP by refusing a preference swap with Labor at last weekend’s NSW election.
If the Press Council rules against us we will happily publish its ruling on the site, as we have done in the past.
Advertiser political editor Mark Kenny used the same terminology as I did on Saturday to describe the Greens’ position, but re-worded it after the party complained to avoid an ongoing stoush. I’m happy to let the stoush continue.
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It’s a telling reflection on the Greens’ woeful campaign at last Saturday’s NSW election that the one politician they may have helped elect is the founder of the One Nation Party, Pauline Hanson.
The Greens were meant to cruise into office in the Lower House in New South Wales in at least two seats. Given how badly the former Labor Government had been going, and how strongly the Greens’ primary vote had been standing up in the polls, they could and should have been expected to return more than just a couple of MPs.
Instead, their campaign crashed and burned. And it did so in a way which may have caused enduring acrimony with the Labor Party. Needless to say, with federal Labor having the most precarious grasp on power courtesy of a formal coalition with the Greens, these tensions in our biggest State have the potential to strain this arrangement.
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The man most likely to lead the NSW Labor Opposition is the man least equipped to bring the party together after the richly-deserved caning it endured on Saturday.
Former sparky John Robertson is a likeable knockabout who comes across as the embodiment of old-style Labor values. The fact that he is a decent person does not alter the fact that he’s been pivotal in some of the most politically indecent acts the state of News South Wales has ever seen, starting with the unprecedented dumping of a party leader, shortly after he’d been returned by the voters in a gutsy and unlikely election victory.
Whatever old-style Labor values he claims to represent were rendered transparent by this act of bastardry and the subsequent chaos it unleashed.
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On Saturday NSW Labor suffered the heaviest defeat in our 120-year history.
Losing an election after 16 years in office is part of the natural cycle of politics. Receiving our lowest vote since 1904, and winning our lowest number of seats since 1898, is anything but cyclical.
The voters expressed their fury at the way Labor has run this state for at least the last four years. One in three voters who expressly identify themselves as Labor did not vote Labor on Saturday.
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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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The staggering rise in electricity prices over the past few years has been the single-biggest cost of living issue for average families trying to bring up kids and get into the housing market. The impact of these price rises, and the anger they have generated, has been seriously underestimated both by governments trying to remain in power and oppositions trying to win office.
The trickle-down effect of this explosion in the cost of living has not yet been fully examined. As one example, there were figures out on the weekend showing that the rate of home ownership in Australia had fallen from 71.4 per cent to 69.5 per cent, in defiance of trends across the OECD. You could validly speculate as to how many Australians who would love to shift from renting to owning are so tied up paying inflated bills that they simply can’t get a deposit together.
State governments have tried to quarantine themselves from any responsibility for the spiral, arguing that price rises are out of their hands and the result of external factors. Oppositions have been sluggish to make governments own the problem.
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 NSW election was limping along with numbing predictability, like a circus missing one of its three rings, when the most persistent name in politics emerged to make the spectacle complete.
Pauline Hanson has decided not to emigrate to Britain as she declared last year, to not abandon bids for election as she had vowed several times.
She has decided instead to ignore her total absence from political debate in NSW and run with a bunch of buddies for the State Upper House.
Pauline is back, and finally that missing clown ring has been restored to the campaign circus.
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It will be one of the greatest carve-ups the country has ever seen – an election which is nothing other than a plebiscite on the uselessness of a government which even its own members find embarrassing. The polls don’t suggest NSW Labor is in trouble. They suggest NSW is in so much trouble that it might lose seats which don’t even exist yet.
The galvanising effect of this seething dislike for NSW Labor is that third parties such as the Greens will be an irrelevance in the result. There will be no hung parliament after March 26. Even if people still don’t know much about Barry O’Farrell or his policies, they will vote in their droves for the Libs. This election is purely about knocking off the ALP.
There are just two seats where the Greens are expected to trouble Labor or triumph over Labor. They’re Marrickville, held by deputy premier and health minister Carmel Tebbutt, and Balmain, held by education minister Verity Firth.
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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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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 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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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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This month the NSW Nationals decided to trial a new system that would allow the general public and not just party members to select its parliamentary candidates.
The system, termed community pre-selections, will be trialled on 31 July next year in the northern NSW seat of Tamworth, now held by independent Peter Draper.
The Nats say it is about getting rid of the disconnect between the people who decide the candidate – often a handful of men – and the people who decide who becomes the Member of Parliament.
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You have to hand it to the Labor spin machine.
While it runs around the Federal press gallery highlighting various views among the Coalition on climate change, it is preparing a desperate bid for re-election in NSW by dividing itself.
According to a weekend news report, the Liberal Party is preparing for a re-election campaign in which local ALP members of Parliament actually turn on the Government.
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