O’Farrell and The Tele
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.