Allan Takes Aim Blog

The possible aftermath of the NSW election

Posted on: 22 March 2011

First posted to Online Opinion on Tuesday 22 March, 2011 

Looking at the coming New South Wales election with an unjaundiced eye, I came to the conclusion that the result could have the same effect on Australia as the American and French revolutions had on their respective polities and no less than the effect of the various revolutions that have taken place in countries under the hegemony of the former USSR.

I recall the Hungarian, Polish and Balkans revolutions in which the people took control of their countries and permanently despatched members of the royal or political regimes to meet their maker. Fortunately, if NSW voters revolt and inflict the humiliating defeat that even their staunchest supporters think likely, their despatch will be conducted in a more orderly fashion although many people will think their punishment light.

And if the defeat is as humiliating as is being suggested and Labor is left with minimal political representation the effect might not be confined to NSW; there is every chance it will affect Labor nationally. In fact it could well lead to the delaboring of Australia.

However, the Liberal – National Coalition has an important question to answer if they win: will they attract young people as members? The question needs to be asked because the young people attending university today in increasing numbers will not be put off with party hacks or people who treat them like children in kindergarten.

They will be attracted to people with both vision and talent who also have a green view that many younger people now think necessary for a politician. However, having a green view does not mean them becoming hair shirt martyrs, or Green evangelists who say the best way to salvation is to halt progress yet, like many other well-known green evangelists, accept the benefits conferred on them by progress.

In political terms the Greens are Luddites who despite high-flown rhetoric to the contrary, have stayed firmly anchored in the past. As to whether or not they have the staying power necessary in politics remains to be seen. I suspect not, because, over time the more sensible of their beliefs will be adopted by other parties as a matter of political necessity.

However, perhaps a huge success will be the biggest problem facing a new Liberal – National Coalition government in NSW. The problem: keeping a unified Coalition. This will not be easy because new members will, like many first termers at school face a difficult time. Some will rise to the occasion some won’t, while others will fail, not from want of trying, but because they tried too hard or lacked the necessary ability. Nevertheless, all will feel when the next election comes that they deserve a second bite of the parliamentary cherry.

This desire will put Barry O’Farrell’s leadership of the Liberal-National Coalition to the test. Will he recognise the failures and if so what will he do about it? Will he try to bluff it out like Labor’s Kristina Keneally and her two failed predecessors Morris Iemma and Nathan Rees, or will he stick to his promise of delivering honest and competent government? If he does the former, he will risk the wrath of voters who believed his promises and also risk being a one-term Premier.

The risk of being a one-term Premier is real. And Barry O’Farrell knows it. He also knows that, in part, his success is due to the long list of Members in the last Labor Government whom Premier Keneally forced to resign for breaching the code of parliamentary conduct that MP’s are expected to observe, or resigned before she could force their resignation. The fact also, is that many of the offences committed by MPs were in the serious category: corruption, fraud, sexual, paedophilia et al. Indeed a cynic remarked to me that on a per capita basis the NSW Labor had more criminals than even the criminal profession.

Indeed had Kristina Keneally and the woeful parade of Premiers before her the guts to take action when needed instead of allowing Labor Party factions and the party executive to dictate which of these criminals should stay or go, the slim possibility (very slim) existed that Labor would have been returned to Government for another four years.

By following the orders of the party executive, Premiers Iemma, Rees and Keneally reigned over a succession of motley Governments and Cabinets that voters came to believe made decisions for the benefit of mates and ultimately their own benefit. (Unsurprisingly many of them found good jobs in both the public and private sector after leaving Government). Little wonder then that NSW voters seem decided that Labor lacked the integrity needed for good governance.

But it wasn’t only the blatantly corrupt behaviour of colleagues that put the final nail in the coffin for Labor. Another word that begins with ‘C’ played a large part. That word is Complacency. When corruption and complacency go hand in had disaster follows.

In any case Labor’s complacency was misplaced based as it was on the premise that it would always have enough rusted on followers to ensure electoral victory. Unfortunately for Labor, it had forgotten the aphorism attributed to Lincoln about fooling the people all of the time something it tried to do when it should have been trying to persuade voters it represented the quality represented by a word that also begins ‘C,’ Competency.

 It would be easy to feel sympathy for Keneally as a Premier who tried hard but didn’t have the support of a good team. That sympathy would be misplaced and though compared to O’Farrell she is a pretty pollie what people want is a practical pollie.

Unfortunately for Keneally, on becoming Premier she inherited the blunders committed by some of her departed colleagues and colleagues who remained in Parliament. The blunders existed in many areas, for example: planning, health, roads and transport to name but a few. These blunders caused severe financial problems for voters not only in the Sydney Metropolitan area but also in suburban and rural areas and also helped give the lie to Government claims that it was a good economic manager.

  • Planning.

The common perception is that planners are in thrall to developers and while that might not be totally true, the call for affordable housing has becoming the shibboleth of every group looking to buy or rent a house. And they have every reason to cry out when they see developers continuing to develop large luxury housing estates but little affordable housing. It also raised the question in their minds as to whether the stories of corruption in planning were true. That aside Labor made a big mistake by not listening intently enough to what, arguably, represents the largest group of voters.

  • Health

For months both the press and electronic media almost daily carried horrendous stories of mismanagement in hospitals and hospital services. Stories of pregnant women who couldn’t get attended to and people who attended at casualty but were sent home due to shortage of staff or misdiagnosis of their problem who then died a short time later. And this happened in both rural and urban electorates. When Labor then used spin-doctors to try and sugar coat its bad management, both metropolitan and rural voters said enough is enough.

  • Roads

Researching this subject in the rural Eden Monaro area of NSW, I found total dis-satisfaction with Labor because of its failure over many years to improve the arterial Monaro Highway on which the areas rural industry relies, as does its tourism industry. And in rural Northern and SE NSW I found a similar situation not to mention that even Sydneysiders had major complaints about poor road planning and maintenance. These complaints are too many to detail.

While O’Farrell must avoid repeating these blunders, what other dangers will he face? One need not look far to find them. Not only could the Liberal-National Coalition get so swept up in their success that they become arrogant they could also be seduced by the idea that they can do no wrong.

They would be naive to think so. While Politics can be a seductive mistress, many a politician has found to their cost, that it can also be a destructive mistress. Importantly, however, a humiliating defeat of Labor could transform Australia’s political landscape.

 And should an O’Farrell Government demonstrate good political and economic skills the effect could resonate in every State and lead to successful Liberal – National Coalition results in Queensland, The Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and, if the age of miracles has not passed, perhaps even in the ACT, unlikely as that might be. At the same time the West Australian and Victorian Governments might also enjoy greater success and more important still, it could also affect elections to Federal Parliament.

If only to bolster their belief that things are not changing Federal politicians will still claim that people vote differently in State and Territory elections. This is codswallop. Things have changed whether or not they like it. If a policy implemented in one State is unsuccessful, in other states it could influence voters’ perception of the party that introduced it and also affect politics at Federal level.

 What has caused the change? In a word the internet. It has made voters more aware. Effectively it has become the soap-box of the smarter politicians with Facebook and Twitter serving as the hecklers in the crowd. It is also becoming the voice, particularly of young people, who use these social networks to talk to each other and exchange views on a whole range of subjects including politics.

The result is that these days, young people less and less slavishly tread the same political path as their parents. Indeed as they talk to each other, those interested in politics will discuss and absorb some of policies being discussed. Politicians who fail to keep up with this changing world, or don’t want to, should consider looking for another job.

If the NSW Liberal-National Coalition wins a landslide victory they will become the flag bearers of a rejuvenated Liberal – National Coalition. Whether or not they become successful flag bearers remains to be seen because a landslide victory will also deprive voters of an Opposition and, unless they manage Government well, possibly lead to an unintended consequence.

It may lead to voters hoping for hung parliaments because they think four years too long for one group of politicians to make all the decisions that affect their lives. Indeed they may end up demanding a parliamentary system that includes a very wide range of political ideas.

I know many people who would like to see this happen because they feel it might eventually lead to the situation of getting the democracy that politicians keep talking about.


1 Response to "The possible aftermath of the NSW election"

I have been searching for information on this topic for awhile now. So, really appreciate you taking the time to write about it. Truly was difficult to find, so I wanted to post my first comment out of gratitude 🙂
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