Monday, June 21, 2010

Only A Miracle Can Save The New South Wales Government

Perhaps it goes without saying that the New South Wales government is headed for oblivion. The Penrith byelection at the weekend delivered a result which, although it was well anticipated in the opinion polls, must surely have sent shivers through the ranks of the government. Recording a swing of 25.5%, the Liberal candidate Stuart Ayres will now become the youngest member of the State Parliament. The swing sets a new record, exceeding the mark set by another byelection against the same government two years ago when former deputy Premier John Watkins retired. Given the travails of the government over the past three years it can hardly be seen as an unexpected result.

It was reported over the weekend that if the same swing occurred across the state at the general election next March, the Labor Party would not only lose office, but hang on to just a half dozen seats. It was a massive swing, and it’s reasonable to assume that at least some of it was due to the ignominious manner of the departure of the previous member Karen Palluzzano. It’s not likely that the swing across the board next March will be so extreme, but observers are suggesting that the Party might be reduced to holding perhaps two dozen seats out of the 93 in total, with some pessimistic forecasts suggesting even fewer. With numbers like these, even the most optimistic outlook foreshadows a massive defeat for the Labor Government.

But none of this is really news to anyone who has been watching the fortunes of the New South Wales Government for the past three years. Quite aside from the fact that they have been there so long that there will be some voters who weren't even in primary school the last time there was Coalition Government in this state, inspiring an overwhelming “it’s time” feeling, the current term in particular has been a topsy turvy rollercoaster ride up and down the constantly changing policy priorities of a series of Premiers entering and leaving the top office through a revolving door.

Since the 2007 election, there have been three Premiers in three years, each with a different set of policies, promises, and plans for the future. Each time there has been a change of Premier, there has been a change of plan, resulting in the very expensive process of dumping one set of plans and replacing them with another, and then another. As charming and intelligent as Kristina Keneally is, she could have been the Dalai Lama and a significant number of people would still refuse to trust this government because they have already made up their minds.

If Kristina Keneally does manage to salvage some dignity from the wreckage and turn the government’s fortunes around before next March, it would a miracle of such magnitude that she should really consider starting her own religion.

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