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NSW Elections.

March 26, 2011

Labor could have won. Seriously, another term was achievable after its big 2007 victory. It has taken a lot of effort to produce a result this bad. A lot of effort – spread over four years.

First, the privatization conference where a government was mauled by its own people and the party looked like a convocation of madmen, shrieking at one another. Its poll standing never recovered.

Protesters against electricty privatisation

Second, the pursuit of a metro from Sydney’s CBD to the northwestern suburbs enabled it to be fitted with the tag of incompetence, especially when the unaffordable plan had to be dropped. There was a perfectly sensible transport plan. It was the plan for a northwest and a southwest heavy rail link that I presented at my last party conference in June 2005 and which is the transport plan of the new Premier.

Third, three Premiers in three years. Speaks for itself. Fourth – and probably flowing from this diminution of the Premier’s standing – a cluster of ministerial scandals that made the public despair.

What should have been a swing-of-the-pendulum defeat became something else, a disaster.

All those seats gone, seats I and colleagues worked hard to win over seven years in Opposition and over another 10 in government, with good policies and good politics.

No, it took a lot of work to fling it all away. Four years of lamentable politics even while the state kept its Triple A through the Global Financial Crisis, kept its lead in school standards, achieved low crime figures with a reformed, corruption-resistant police force and good on-time running on the rail network which carries a bigger proportion of the population than that of any other Australian capital. It achieved wins for nature conservation which, as the Colong Foundation for Wilderness says, are unlikely to be repeated.

The cycle turns but it should have been nothing like this.

In the meantime Bob Ellis says that there’s a transitory quality about the people elected tonight -the seats will be reclaimed in four years. There will be some real cranks in the Liberal army. Maybe another Hanson.

One bit of good news : the opportunist Green Party has failed to take out lower house seats, again. As in the Victorian election. Carmel Tebutt and Verity Firth were too good for them. Bravo.

14 Comments
  1. Giovanni F permalink
    March 26, 2011 8:58 pm

    Hi Bob, a staunch Young Lib and proud owner of a copy of My Reading Life here!
    Please don’t feel too sad about tonight’s results. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Labor to renew itself, bring in new talent and rediscover its roots – and in the long run, that can only be a healthy thing for the broader body politic.
    My lot have been on the end of quite a few ‘shellackings’ at the polling booths, and after every election, I find it helps to take a deep breath and say to myself, ‘The People are always right.”

    • Bob Carr permalink
      March 26, 2011 9:11 pm

      Congratulations to you and your side. To Barry O’Farrell and those long-term troopers on his front bench. I respect many of them and they now have their chance to prove themselves.

      I have never wavered in my view the people are always right. And you are right about my side having an obligation to renew.

      Glad you have my book.

      • Darren O permalink
        March 26, 2011 10:28 pm

        Given KK has stood down and the spotlight is on Robertson, should the party look to Keating’s letter as a reason not to elect him as leader?

        I do hope the ALP rebuilds itself, as a democracy is only as good as its opposition. Barry O’Farrell and the Coalition must be held to account to ensure they run the state for all. Only a strong opposition can that.

  2. March 26, 2011 9:33 pm

    Quite right Bob. KK did a good job of conceding tonight, but now there are a lot of hard yards ahead for the ALP. One thing it all seemed to underline to me, though, was how little ideology or philosophy or real policy difference seems to matter any more. That’s a big problem for the ALP, but it will haunt the other side too before many years go by.
    I wonder if the ALP will want a review like that commissioned by Federal Labor? You could do a good job of it, if they would let you.

  3. Alex permalink
    March 26, 2011 10:04 pm

    Mr Carr, please return to politics. That is all.

  4. Jess L permalink
    March 26, 2011 11:35 pm

    Hello Bob,
    It was very disheartening to see traditional Labor voters dealing punishment on the joke of a government after your time. I however agree with the above comment – Labor needs time to find itself again. Maybe it’s all well for those who stayed – such as my local member for Liverpool, Paul Lynch – to actually do something and not get complacent. Fingers crossed they will learn.

  5. Grant D permalink
    March 27, 2011 12:08 am

    Have to heartily agree that the best news was the failure of the Greens to make inroads into the lower house , it wasn’t so much a failure as an endorsement of the overall commonsense of the NSW voter not to reward a minor party with fringe policies .

  6. Liam permalink
    March 27, 2011 12:24 am

    Bob, great read.

    I don’t think the party could have won because of the “it’s time” factor, but it could have been very, very close indeed. Had the Party players, and people like Robertson’s union not have opposed the Electricity Privatization the party would be a lot better today. The irony is, Robertson is going to be rewarded with the Opposition Leader position. Hopefully Tebbutt steps up to the job, because she is one hell of a woman who was worth every cent that Labor gave to her electorate.

    Now is the best time to reform the party’s strategies, and factions. I appreciated Luke Foley’s openness about a party needing to transform. I’m guessing you and a few others will be playing a role in the party restructure which is inevitable.

    I like Green’s policies, but I choose to vote Labor because I know they can act, and not just play cheap pretend politics, yet they (GREENS) will never be in any position to be a successful government.

    The next 10 years for NSW Labor will be hard, interesting and also hurtful. O’Farrell’s mandate to “reform” *cough* slash the Public Service will be interesting.

    Best of luck, thanks for the read Bob.

  7. Ian Robertson permalink
    March 27, 2011 10:35 am

    The rot started in the head office with Graham Richardson and Stephen Loosley continuing down to Eric Roosendaal, Mark Arbib and Karl Bitar. A policy vacuum, other than anything it takes, short term fixes. Today is a very sad day for us all.

  8. Watson permalink
    March 27, 2011 11:06 am

    Tony Abbott says it best. The Federal Government is on notice. The people of NSW have spoken. Global Warming will now cease and we can all get back to life as normal.

  9. Peter Pando permalink
    March 27, 2011 12:37 pm

    Dear Mr Carr,

    I think this shows a few natural elements:
    The halo Labor enjoyed from the Olympics’ immense success has been wholly extinguished (it mostly departed along with yourself from the Premiership).
    The boom in construction started with the Olympics is over (imposed development might perpetuate it, but society will resist imposed expansion).
    Those who came of voting age in the last few years, who’ve only ever known Labor in NSW State power, responded in the same way they did to the longevity of the Federal Liberals in 2007. Given the Rudd and Gillard dramas, this probably had extra strength.
    A decent democratic people are naturally disgusted by criminal sexual behaviour, infuriated by dictatorial-minded economic activities, outraged by careless moral behaviour and corruption, resentful of being told through the media that they have no choice but to follow people who accept such things, and will not tolerate such behaviours and attitudes in their political representatives for any longer than is democratically necessary.
    For a while now the Labor Party has implicitly equated its hold on power with the good of the State (indeed the nation) in its pronouncements, and still has a tendency to, despite the vocal disagreement of many voters, communicators, and commentators. It may express confidence, but it also implies that there can be only one party that can do good and the rest are extreme, or marginal, or evil, or incompetent or some other pejorative. In a democratic free-speaking, educated population, wanting to debate issues, it’s an absurd line to take.
    Good luck with the rebuild.

  10. Michael Bedward permalink
    March 27, 2011 12:58 pm

    “A lot of effort – spread over four years.”

    With resepct, don’t you think that the years prior to that also saw quite a bit of that effort ?

    During your term you were blessed with an astoundingly dysfunctional opposition and I think that made for lazy government as well as encouraging the ‘mate-ocracy’ in the ALP. I voted Labor yesterday because I didn’t want to see my local member, who is generally good and hard working, lose her seat. But I think the state as a whole, as well as the ALP itself, would have benefited from a change much earlier.

  11. Concerned Insider permalink
    March 27, 2011 8:35 pm

    Bob, I think as much as anything, the government lost the election. Barry O’Farrel certainly did not show much of an effort in winning government, did he? Barry O’Farrell has a few troopers around him, but appears lazy and reluctant to take a position on anything.

    And as for taking the time to win seats, that’s great and well done to you, but you should remember that they were and are not the Labor parties to begin with. I began to witness an arrogance of my local Labor members’ wife who seemed to think that they both were entitled to the seat, and couldn’t for a minute stomach the fact that they were going to lose ‘their’ seat, and everything that came with it, including a job for her in the Premier’s office. The Labor Party must remember that they are not there to serve themselves.

    And as for Kristina Keneally… well, what can I say? She needed to stop trying to copy you in her presentation to the media. I saw her numerous times trying to mimic you. One such moment was when her bus broke down, and she said “I should have taken a State Transit Bus instead”, and she sounded ridiculous and stupid by attempting to copy you. Who was advising her to do that? Morris Iemma also tried to copy your style, and he also too couldn’t pull it off. Nathan Rees had his own style, and thankfully, didn’t copy you.

    And as for people copying other people. Julia Gillard recently tried to mimic the charismatic style of the legend, Bob Hawke after the Queensland floods. She looked fake, unbelievable and came across as if she was acting, rather than being herself. This is the problem with most people these days who enter politics. They seem to think they have to copy a leader and not develop their own style, which you did very successfully, without any over-arching influence, am I right?

    And on the topic of people not being themselves when it matters, I thought Kristina Keneally gave the most natural speech from the heart in her concession speech, than she did at any other time in the whole campaign. Sad when you think about it, not least because of the fact that she’s probably a very good person, but also because she has a lot of talent there somewhere.

    I disagree with Hawker’s assessment however that he thought she should have replaced you. I disagree, as she wasn’t even being considered then, and as you know you can’t change the course of history. I think Morris Iemma was OK perhaps a bit beyond his time. You should have really promoted Michael Costa and groomed him to take over. He not only had the brains, but appeared to be someone who had a genuine ability. Morris I think had to try hard to be something he wasn’t in public, and that as a result perhaps distracted him from the other challenges, ie the trade union movement in the electricity showdown. This was probably the biggest problem, too much spin, not enough action, as you rightly say, the straw that broke the camels back began with what many people are calling the electricity showdown. I can’t seem to work out why Morris was that weak when dealing with the trade union movement? And to even think that a few factional bosses could decide what was in the states best interest, and not the Premier… extraordinary! And to fight tooth-and-nail not on principle, but on ideology… when ideology played no interest in what was good for the state at the time, but rather what was good for a few union wheelers and dealers and their associates because of their long-held, out-of-touch, out-of-date ideological opposition to electricity privatisation.

    And so this is what the Labor Party needs to remember when fighting campaigns in the future. The State should never be governed in the interests of sectional interests. If Labor wants to be taken seriously as a modern party, then they need to disassociate themselves with the anarchic and out-of-touch union leaders who are really onyl damaging, and not helping them publicly.

    I also believe that one such trade union character is doing great damage to the federal Labor Party at the minute, and would frankly be better focusing on his job, rather than interfering every second moment in the federal governments affairs. This bloke could perhaps resign his position and take on a position within the ALP organisation if he’s that mad-keen to contribute. But even then, I seriously doubt too many people would welcome him with open arms given his track record. And given his rebel-rousing character profile, egging on for a fight at a moments notice, and again deciding what’s in his own interest, and not of the country, it’s not hard to understand why! He is the bull at the door of a fine china shop.

    And can someone please tell me why Wayne Swan is accommodating him, and taking him on delegations to finance conferences in Europe? This after his disrespectful comments on Craig Emerson and others in the government. What planet is Wayne Swan on? This is not a good look at all. It must stop, and Wayne Swan, no matter what his intentions, should be warned to take a bit more distance between him and this character. This character has done more damage to Labor’s ability to govern successfully at a federal level. Playing a direct role in the demise of Kevin Rudd, and even appearing on TV the night of the knifing, and showing who was really in charge. It was a PR disaster, and it has done immense damage to the Labor brand federally. Julia Gillard is perceived as a back-stabbing woman. Can you imagine how you would have reacted if a union boss appeared on TV to announce your impending retirement on a national TV program?

    This loose cannon needs to be shown the same mercy he showed the elected PM of our country. He is also calculatingly smart, having kept his nose out of the state campaign. I wonder why?

    Why didn’t someone invite this union bloke to take Sam Dasyari’s job? Would have saved a lot of time and angst in having to deal with him in the future.

  12. Ian Wright permalink
    March 28, 2011 2:19 pm

    As a once bolted-on Labor supporter in Victoria who has switched to the Greens I find your comment about the Greens as opportunist, both patronising and indicative of how so many in the Labor movement just “don’t get it”. We saw Vic State Labor attempt to demonise the Greens prior to the last election, the same again Federally. This is pretty rich given that the Green’s increased support has come from disaffected Labor voters fed up with lousy policy and disappointment in Labor.

    The very reason I’ve switched is because I’ve seen a party become so inwardly focused and machine driven that it’s quite simply become a cesspit of self-interest, seemingly obsessed with survival and with very few policies of conviction. The arrogance of the Victorian Govt prior to their defeat was on a par with any of the worst conservative governments of recent times (possibly excepting Qld under Bjelke Petersen).

    Clearly those of us who have switched to the Greens lack the intellectual capacity to make rational decisions – unlike those geniuses at Sussex Street or Trades Hall in Vic.

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