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O’Farrell and The Tele

August 29, 2011

I’ve been Premier and I can read the significance of a tabloid front page telling me, five months into my government, I’m not delivering. Leading a government “stalled in inertia”. “Bogged down in inquiries”. The Tele front page today is particularly hurtful because of the decisive News support for the Coalition in the last state election and in federal politics.

In conservative circles the headlines,captions and editorial are bound to fix the O’Farrell team with a “do-nothing” image. It will be hard to shift – at least until, after the current judicial inquiry, the government privatizes all the electricity industry including so-called poles and wires. Even then the harmful comparison with Kevin Rudd – government by inquiries – will likely congeal.

O’Farrell will be offended by today’s paper. He will darkly reflect that his treasurer Mike Baird had a hand in it. O’Farrell’s most telling gesture in shaping his cabinet was to strip Baird of most treasurer’s responsibilities and invest them in Finance Minister Greg Pearce. This showed that he saw the youngster as a potential rival. It was a remarkable stripping away of responsibilities given O’Farrell’s status after his electoral uber-triumph.

The fact the government has so little legislation – parliament tied up debating the Libraries Amendment Bill and with less legislation than under any other new government – confirms that in policy terms – the reality of health, education, policing, transport – the state was in good shape. These issues were not mentioned in the election campaign in March. Labor was flung out because of leadership changes, the mess of electricity privatization, the disaster of the Metro and the appearance of improprieties and the reality of too many ministerial “scandals”. Too many of the latter for the public to digest.

For O’Farrell the symbolism of today’s front page is that “do-nothing” will calcify as business conventional wisdom and a media cliche, that is, become the board room zeitgeist and the question thrown up in every interview when more pressing subjects are exhausted.

In a sense it is unfair because O’Farrell always said he was a centrist, a Menzian “forgotten people” Liberal. He didn’t even hint he might be a dashing Thatcherite. Not even a Greiner or a Stockdale.

Today’s rough treatment, though, will stick. It is remarkable, source considered. And it comes early in the political life cycle.

Them’s the breaks.

  1. August 29, 2011 11:45 am

    Part of the problem is the lack of talent and experience in his front bench. This will hinder any “Reforms” because political shenanigans is all they know.

    O’farrel is also wasting valueable political capital on stupid acts like the graffiti license laws, when he needs to stay on the good side of a hostile upper house for any reform agenda he can actually muster.

    Love your work Bob!

  2. Sarah permalink
    August 29, 2011 12:09 pm

    Even as someone supportive of the former Government, I think todays headline is a little harsh.

    This focus on the first 100 days, first 6 months, first year, is not healthy. I would prefer that that BOF Government take its time and introduce well considered legislative amendments rather that rush through hastily drafted pieces of rubbish.

    Having said that, the bigger concern is not the lack of legislation but the lack of ideas. I’m not sure anyone knows what a O’Farrell Goverments stands for. What is their vision for NSW? Feasibility studies and reviews and working parties all indicate the Government is looking for ideas and thats quite concerning. They had 16 years to figure that out.

  3. August 29, 2011 12:20 pm

    O’Farrell’s front bench lacks talent, & his very large back bench is worst than mediocrity. Do nothing is key for them. Maintain the status quo is the most important element for conservative parties.

  4. Tom Round permalink
    August 29, 2011 9:24 pm

    It’s a disadvantage of a landslide that a lot of questionable characters can get vacuumed up into Parliament by the huge swing. One thinks of the Howard backbench (and one Hanson, P) in 1996-98, or Qld Labor 1989-92. Someone who may have put their hand up two years earlier to “show the flag” in a seat they don’t expect to win, ends up an MP. Meanwhile the Opposition is depleted, often decapitated, and resigned to being out of power for another seven or eight years at a minimum.

    Having said that, a razor-thin majority with Ministers unable to attend a ceremony honouring a respected artist because the Opposition Leader might deny them a pair and try to seize piower mid-term isn’t an evident improvement.

  5. August 30, 2011 8:43 am

    Well it must be true Bob, I read it in the Tele’,

  6. August 30, 2011 3:07 pm

    It would be interesting to know how many in New South Wales thought, on 25 March 2011, that, in terms of “health, education, policing, transport – the state was in good shape”.

    • Bob Carr permalink
      August 30, 2011 5:02 pm

      Yet the new government has altered course on none of them.

      • August 30, 2011 8:39 pm

        You may have missed that NSW Health has a new head and that 300 jobs of it’s jobs are to be cut – which may indicate that something may be starting. But yes – the HCCC has been prosecuting less than 1 in every 100 complaints we, the public, send them about health care for years, probably going back to when you were Premier, and there’s no indication that the new government is going to do anything about this yet. But surely you’re not suggesting that this means that this aspect of health, at least, was in “good shape” on 25 March?

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