Friday, August 15, 2008

The Minister For Closing Things Down

The New South Wales government has apparently embarked upon a charm offensive. The idea was to take advantage of the Olympic lull in political activity and send members and ministers into the community to improve the Government’s P.R. Unfortunately, when Treasurer Michael Costa got the memo he missed the “charm” part.

Confronted with angry firefighters in Wollongong, the Treasurer insisted that New South Wales firefighters are the highest paid in the nation. The ten year old daughter of one of the Union representatives politely pointed out that even she knew it was a lie. Some reports suggest that Mr. Costa sneered at the young girl as he replied “That’s a good line your father has taught you.”

Whether he sneered or not, the Fire Brigade Employees Union insist that New South Wales firefighters are in fact the fifth best paid in Australia. Firefighters have every right to be angry with the Treasurer’s decision to restrict their pay increase to 2.5%, well below inflation. As a former union official himself you might expect Mr. Costa to have some sympathy for the firefighters. But no, apparently not, with suggestions this week that fire stations could be closed down, and staff numbers cut back.

It’s never good form to attack the man rather than attack the policies, but in my view there is a pattern here. Throughout Michael Costa’s ministerial career it has become evident that he is a destroyer not a creator. As Transport Minister he closed down rail services. As Police Minister he left suburban police stations unmanned. As Treasurer he has found it necessary to impose cost cuts across the board, which ultimately translate into reductions in services.

Many politicians are remembered with plaques commemorating the opening of bridges or buildings… Michael Costa will be remembered as the Minister For Closing Things Down.

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