NSW election

Debnam's defeat and the responsibilities of Opposition

Well, the election has come and gone. Election itself turned out to be as anti-climatic as the campaign that preceded it.

The Opposition got a small swing to it of around 2.3%, about a percentage point less than the swing away from the ALP. The Liberals do not seem to have won any seats from the ALP. Interestingly, the swing against the ALP in the upper house is about 7.6% and the swing to the coalition is a shade under 2%.

This is a pathetic result for the Coalition. Iemma claimed on Saturday night that he leads 'a good government', this is a minority view. The Iemma Government is deeply reviled across the board. Both of Sydney's newspapers editorialised strongly against it. So much so that former chief government media manager (aka Premier) Bob Carr has today lashed out at media bias. Yet, there is no denying that the NSW Government is not held in high regard - that is why Iemma acknowledged 'a mandate with a message', just as he acknowledged the depth of the discontent during the campaign by refusing to stand on the Government's dismal record.

One of the tired maxims of politics is that oppositions don't win elections, governments lose them. Saturday's result is a confirmation that this maxim is just part of the story; voters will not vote out the devil they know unless they have some hope that they will get something better.

Debnam and the coalition simply failed to convince the voters that they could provide a better alternative. They failed to demonstrate leadership or a credible set of policies to fix the problems.

The ALP had one strategy and one strategy only in this campaign - make Debnam unelectable -  and they went at it with gusto from start  to finish and it worked. Just as a similar campaign worked for the Libs against Latham a few years ago.

The Opposition is closer to Government today than it was four years ago, but not very close. They will still need a swing in excess of 6% to win  and that's huge in Australian terms. Scaling that mountain will take four years of hard policy and campaigning work.

The world's worst trains

News.com.au Your Say Blog. An amusing and passionate discussion. I think pollies often grossly underestimate how important public transport is to the lives of many people.

Fred Nile on Youtube

Not setting the world on fire, but its interesting that they see it as a useful additional way of getting their message out.

Remembering Riverwood

I get an eerie feeling reading profiles of Morris Iemma as a 'son of Riverwood'. I spent my first 19 years living at 16 Weemala Avenue, Riverwood until my parents moved to Cronulla and I never really went back to Riverwood, though occasionally I drive around to see how the old place is coming along.

Riverwood has an interesting history but not one that people like to boast about:

About 30km south-west of Sydney’s CBD, Riverwood evolved from a market gardening and small farming community into a residential area when the NSW Housing Commission took over 236ac in the 1950s. In 1942, the $1million 118th General Hospital was built for the US Army - the largest military hospital in Australia. There were 490 timber barracks-type buildings know as ’huts’ built at the site, accommodating 1250 patients and 3500 staff in segregated, black and white quarters. Immediately after the war, when the hospital reverted to the NSW Housing Commission, the huts were used to ease the chronic housing shortage.

Easing the shortage, of course, meant dumping lots of the city's social problems in the one area with predictable results:

The name of Riverwood came into use in 1958 to replace the earlier name of Herne Bay, which derived from an 1880s subdivisions on the bank of Salt Pan Creek at Peakhurst.  Herne Bay Railway Station opened in 1931. In the 1950s, local businessmen said that the Housing Settlement had made the name Herne Bay "infamous".

"Infamous", indeed, it was the "Green Valley" or "Macquarie Fields" of its day. If you came from Herne Bay, getting a loan or a job was much more difficult. And here's the wikipedia take on it, a bit more frank then the local government history version above:

The suburb developed an unsavoury reputation for poverty, overcrowding and violence, and its name was later changed to Riverwood in 1957, in large part to remove the stigma associated with living there. This helped to change the reputation of the area. From the 1950s onwards, purpose-built utilitarian public housing apartment blocks and freestanding bungalows replaced most of the former military buildings on the northern side of the railway line, while the southern part of the suburb was mostly privately developed.

Despite actions made to correct this suburb's reputation, negative ideas of this suburb exist. Some may think of Riverwood as a poor, backward, relatively unsafe suburb.

So when I was 4 years old I became a resident of the much more salubrious, Riverwood. Not that many people were fooled of course and it took awhile for the stain of "Herne Bay" to become a memory.

Riverwood was selected to replace it. The wartime buildings were demolished and replaced with permanent buildings in the 1960s.

Panel_hernebay "Permanent buildings" hardly tells the story. They were a group of high rise buildings filled with another influx of the city's socially disadvantaged living on streets with weird names like "Pennsylvania Road, Kentucky Road, Wyoming Place, Idaho Place, Michigan Road, Montana Crescent, Roosevelt Avenue and Truman Avenue".

Despite its less than grand start, Riverwood was an OK place to grow up. My end of Weemala Ave on the southside of the railway line was privately owned and the rest was public housing but freestanding bungalows rather than high-rise. The population was very stable most of the families were there throughout my childhood. Their surnames were Williams, White, Wilson, Roberts, Padman, Freeman, Dransfield, Nagle, Savage and Roach.

In other words, white, english ancestry and mostly Protestant. We had parks to play rugby league and cricket in, plenty of places to ride bikes and a creek down the road to 'explore'. We were the children of blue collar workers and few of us aspired to university; our parents encouraged us to get jobs in places like banks and the public service because employment among the great armies of clerks was thought to be a job for life. We were an insular little community.

Petty crime seemed to be something of a way of life, stolen cigarettes were always availbale for sale at the pub, petrol was siphoned out of parked cars and 'tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree' was popular on the jukebox.

While I was still living there the Italians were only just starting to become evident. They were a strange new breed to us. Women dressed in black and huge empty olive oil cans put out with the garbage were evidence of a life lived differently. They came to Riverwood for the same reason that everyone else did - affordable housing.

My first job (apart from selling newspapers) was at Roselands (where David Marr interviewed Iemma for today's piece) Australia's first shopping mall, in the "Four Corners' food court (again Australia's first). It was pretty limited in its selection of ethnic choices. I worked in the 'Chuck Wagon' which sold american food namely hamburgers and hot dogs. Apparently, the owner was unaware that chuck has a different meaning in Australian slang. Still, this linguistic confusion only seemed to add to the place's appeal. Bizarrely, there was also a place selling english food and another, the Whistling Oyster, selling fish and chips. In fact, hamburgers, fish and chips, and roast beef were the most popular options at the Four Corners food court in those days.

Nevertheless, it was as a 16 year old cutting burger buns at the Chuck Wagon that I got to know some european migrants who laughed loudly when they found out that I had never eaten spaghetti except out of a tin and was not aware that there were other types of pasta. That was 1970, not so long ago really.

Although, Riverwood was a reasonable place to grow up and quickly became an almost inner suburb as Sydney sprawled ever westward, it was always a place my family and I were going to leave when we could afford to. And I've never had any desire to live there again or even to maintain a connection with it.

You almost never hear anything about Riverwood in the media. Its as if the old Herne Bay stain is still there in some unspoken way.

And so, I have to admit, I do feel a little tingle of pride that someone from Riverwood is actually Premier of NSW. I still have to pinch myself.

Debnam 'concedes'

Coalition leader agrees ALP 'will win' | NEWS.com.au. Novel, but hey why wait until the votes are counted?

Commuters not the only victims of 'transport meltdown'

By Benjamin Haslem

As Trev posted below, Sydney's transport system descended into chaos again last night when a train 'broke down' on the city's harbour bridge.

Passengers were stranded for more than two hours and forced to walk along the tracks and through tunnels to adjoining stations.

But commuters weren't the only victims.

The English language was also the loser, as City Rail's spokesman, Philip McCall, invented the word: "de-train".

“There were three passenger trains that weren't at stations and weren't on platforms which meant that we had to de-train the passengers, bring them down the line and take them to the nearest platform,” Mr McCall said.

Both sides hammered: another big day in NSW politics

A train breakdown gave the Government plenty of headaches without helping the Opposition which had abandoned its integrated transport plan the day before because it was too hard. Meanwhile the SMH is speculating about who will lead the Libs after the election in the light of "the growing despair over Peter Debnam’s performance".

The Daily Telegraph leads with 'on thin ice', accusing Iemma of hypocrisy because:

He slammed the Greens as "absurd and disgusting" after The Daily Telegraph yesterday revealed their policy to decriminalise all drugs – including the exceedingly dangerous ice – for personal use.

But he said Labor would still happily do a preference deal with the minor party in almost every seat up for grabs at the state poll.

For good measure, the SMH also accuses the Government of a pollution cover-up:

Toxic chemicals were detected in East Darling Harbour more than two years ago, but the Government has still not informed the wider public.

And so it goes on. How bad can this campaign get?

Another election, another opportunity to demonise the Greens

Greens drug policy 'absurd, disgusting' Their harm minimisation approach may have its own problems but the reaction to it in each campaign is the same - the major parties feign horror and dismay as they vie for the 'tough on drugs' mantle, a policy the Greens point out is presumably not working given that the use of illegal drugs is on the rise. If Labor and the Coalition are really serious about reducing drug abuse they could start by doing something about stopping people from marketing alcoholic drinks, mixers, to people under the age of 18.

Jones v. Rhiannon

Now this is how to do an interview

Debnam only 12 points behind: good news or bad?


If an election were held today, Labor would preserve its eight seat majority and 23 seat advantage over the coalition in the 93 seat lower house.

Some commentators have interpreted today's published poll results as good news for the Debnam led Opposition because it is an improvement on the last lot of figures.

But the reality is that without a dramatic improvement in the last two weeks of the campaign, the Coalition will come out of the election with very little improvement in its electoral position and facing four more years in the wilderness.

Greens are against, and for, a desal plant in Sydney

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Jones picked up on the fact that the Greens have been campaigning against the building of a desalination plant, but will now direct preferences to Labor in two south-western Sydney seats which will be affected by the plant.

No wonder the Greens struggle to climb out of their political ghetto.

Is this one of the worst campaigns ever?

Election campaigns are rarely edifying, but the current NSW campaign seems one of the dullest and weidest on record.
The Government's slogan "More to do but headed in the right direction" is designed to acknowledge the Government's many, and well-documented, flaws and failings. It is a slogan designed to take the sting out of the electorate's anger.
Although the Iemma Government seems deeply unpopular, novice leader of the Libs, Peter Debnam, has been unable to gain any traction with this deeply disenchanted electorate.
Of course, Carr's landslide victories meant that the Opposition really had very little chance of a win and the best it could ever hope for was a credible performance, and even that now seems in doubt.
Debnam's slogan, "Let's fix NSW" also draws on the deeply held conviction of many voters that the Carr / Iemma government has left the state in a mess. Even, Carr's erstwhile colleagues seem to now agree that Bob was pretty hopeless at anything other than daily media management. They are trying to position the Iemma government as 'new' and not the fag-end of an unproductive decade.
Beyond tacitly or overtly acknowledging their own failings, the ALP's strategy is to make Debnam seem even worse than Iemma - rather than run on the Government's record. In implementing this strategy it has put forward a range of deceptive and dubious claims.
Yet, the real failure, lies with Debnam and the Libs. They have simply been unable to articulate a credible way in which they will 'fix' NSW. What would be different, why would Debnam's team succeed where the other lot have not? These questions simply have not been answered.
And Debnam has neither the background, nor the political personality, to suggest he might be able to fix NSW. While the ALP's silly criticisms can be easily dismissed, it is still true that Debnam simply hasn't inspired confidence that he is "Premier material" (and the silly stunts haven't helped). In addition, th Liberal campaign seems to lack strategic direction and to have been poorly managed tacticly (with several stunts backfiring badly).
But, its not all Debnam's fault. His leadership has been burdened from day one by the brutal political assassination of  John Brogden and by the suggestion that his leadership represents a triumph for the party's right-wing christian faction, which is so demonstrably out of touch with the electorate's sympathies.
The Libs now must hope for a good last two weeks and that they can at least go forward and be able to start the next term in a better parliamentary position. They face the nightmare of actually going backwards again.

Erin Brokovich endorses new political group

ABC News Online.

Climate Change Coalition candidate Patrice Newell says it is time to reduce the state's reliance on the coal industry and end government funding of clean coal technology.

"The coal companies should be paying to clean-up the tax problem, not the taxpayers," Ms Newell said.

The green group is not a registered party and is standing 21 Upper House candidates as a block of independents.

Brokovich was interviewed by a very supportive Alan Jones this morning.

Does Debnam still have the support of his own troops?

I saw Graham Annesley, Liberal candidate for Miranda, being interviewed on Sky News channel yesterday afternoon. He declined to comment when asked for his opinion on how his leader Peter Debnam was going in the campaign. Annesley said, several times, that he was focused at the local level not the broader campaign. Not exactly a resounding endorsement.

Debnam's poll plummet holds a sobering message for Federal Labor as well

Two polls (Newspoll, AC Nielson) published today show NSW Opposition leader going backwards despite a relatively flat economy and the widespread dislike (perhaps contempt and exasperation) in which the Iemma government is held in the media and in broad sections of the NSW electorate.

If these polls are anywhere near a true picture, and there's no reason to think that they are not, then the election is basically all over. Debnam was always facing a mountain and that mountain is probably far too high to scale in just three and a half weeks.

There could be many reasons for this: the huge amount the NSW Government has spent on advertising in recent months and the suspicion that right-wing christians are exercising undue influence over the Debnam led Liberals.

But three important reasons are also likely to be working in favour of the incumbents: Debnam is relatively new and unknown, the electorate don't think the Opposition offers a credible alternative and, well, things aren't going too badly really.

These three factors tend to discourage voters from engaging in the  campaign contest and opt instead for the devil they know.

Rudd's energy and enthusiasm for media appearances might help overcome the first of these hurdles and he has a point of policy distinction on Iraq and industrial relations; perhaps also on climate change (Kyoto ratification etc) and maybe the education revolution (though this is still pretty undefined as yet).

Rudd is also doing the right thing by promoting these differences now rather than waiting for the campaign to start - a terrible mistake by some of his predecessors.

It may come down to the last factor - is the economy going along well enough to dissuade enough voters  from engaging and giving the ALP a real shot federally?

Iemma and Debnam are blogging on the Daily Telegraph site

Daily Telegraph Your Say Blog.

Morris Iemma is leaving blog comments

I make my debut in the NSW Election Campaign. Or someone is doing it for him - but interesting that they are monitoring and responding.

Roozendaal drops himself in it

Link: Minister talks a load of ... sewerage - National - smh.com.au.

Roozendaal: "Mr Debnam wants to people of western Sydney to drink recycled sewage, that's a ... "

Alan Jones: "Hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on."

R: " ... that's a fact."

A: "Hang on, sewage? Sewage? Eric, save your reputation by just answering the question honestly. Your leader is telling an untruth. There's no harm for you to say it. No one will drink sewage."

R: "Alan, Peter Debnam's plan to make the people of Sydney drink recycled sewerage [sic] is unacceptable and that's why we're going to re ... "

A: "Recycled what? Recycled what?"

R: "Recycled sewerage [sic]."

A: No, no, no, no. Sewerage are the pipes, Eric. Sewerage, S-E-W-E-R-A-G-E, are the pipes. The stuff in it is called sewage and ... Morris Iemma didn't say they were going to drink recycled sewerage, he said they'd drink sewage.

"Sewage is everything that is in those pipes. That is not going to happen and you know it's not going to happen."

The interview lasted another two minutes but punch drunk Mr Roozendaal was already down for the count. It was Jones in fine pugilistic form, and this is only week one of the election campaign.

One can only hope the Premier has been getting sparring lessons from his media advisers, because Jones is just getting warmed up.

Just warming up indeed.

Debnam stands between Iemma and defeat

Everything seems to be going wrong for the government well lots of stuff anyway but according to Media Monitors' analysis of talkback callers over the past week the leadership issue remains a negative for the Coalition amongst callers with Opposition Leader Peter Debnam receiving some disparaging comparisons to television characters.