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O’Farrell’s Standing: Popular and Criticised

June 8, 2011

When it was elected I made two predictions about the public perception of the coalition government in NSW. One was that the first polls would show very buoyant levels of approval for both the government and Premier Barry O’Farrell. The second was that editorials would quickly begin to criticise the government for not pursuing bold economic reforms.

The second has come to pass before the first. The new Premier early last month announced he would retrospectively cut the 60 cent solar rebate tariff to 40 cents. There was fierce criticism from the 100 000 people who’d signed contracts at 60 cents for five years. The government then said it would consider “hardship payments.”

Yesterday the government gave up the fight and said because they wouldn’t win in the upper house, they would not proceed.

On the issue the government has gone from being Thatcherite stern to being hand wringingly consultative. As The Australian put it, “Before shirking the issue, surely he could have forced a vote in the upper house…. The double backflip has been completed all too easily. Given the Premier’s massive mandate, voters might have welcomed a bit more of a splash.”

There is a similar echo about the government’s retreat from restricting public sector pay rises for police. Nurses, teachers, and fire fighters are not going to accept that they can live with pay increases half those going to police. This backflip will only inflame public sector unions – fire fighters particularly – over the issue of “comparative wage justice’, always a neuralgic argument in Australian industrial relations.

Conservative-leaning commentators will soon congeal around the verdict that O’Farrell is no Stockdale, nor even a Greiner. This only confirms that he inherited a state with a AAA rating and a low level of debt. Voters do not believe they warrant savage treatment. In any case, Barry O’Farrell is by instinct cautious and centrist.

  1. Anthony Porter permalink
    June 8, 2011 12:07 pm

    Prior to the last election Gerald Henderson lauded O’Farrell as being a policy expert in Canberra. All we have seen so far, is policy being formulated like an old motor being started on a frost morning. Splut, splut. This is understandable in that O’Ferrell was the policy expert in formulating Peacock’s failed health privatisation policy in the 1980s.

  2. Tony Booth permalink
    June 8, 2011 12:13 pm

    Yes, I am currently installing solar power on my garage roof (since the front yard has a huge gum tree shadowing the house) and just had the asbestos removed yesterday and a new roof installed. In discussion with the various companies and contractors everyone remarked to me no matter what your politics etc to consider retrospective legislation is certain political death. I am amazed that he seriously considered this approach. One may consider that the previous scheme was way too generous and distorted the market. Currently I will be looking at a net feed in tariff with the ability to sell the REC’s at a future price once the market recovers.

    Does anyone remember another occasion when retrospective legislation was passed? I know power sell off was controversial but a new policy e.g. carbon price etc is needed for people to invest for the next 15/20 years.

    The transport portfolio continues to be fun, just over a year ago I bumped into Mr Watkins and he joked his new job was a pleasure compared to trying to run a crumbling railway system as a commuter from the Illawarra we have long memories!!

    I see my man Herman Cain is everywhere and sitting very well in the polls, with unemployment at 9.1% it seems likes a lead weight, there seems to be plenty of money with the banks but no inclination to borrow and invest. Anyone any links for some perspective on economic policy?

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