Morris Iemma – Still the One


Seems like criticising the NSW Government is a bit like shooting piñatas in a barrel. It’s so easy, even Miranda Devine is doing it. The turgid tale of Morris Iemma’s Government is an engrossing litany of disasters. Possibly for the first time ever, Sydneysiders aren’t particularly proud of their city. A malfunctioning government and dysfunctional state isn’t just a problem for those living here. The rest of Australia needs a booming "Premier State", but the fact is: Sydney makes the rest of the country look good.

The past few years of Iemma’s Government have been incredible. Many of the crises or poor decisions are so audacious, you couldn’t make them up. Some in the media have been infected by negativity, and suggest that all this is a turn-off for voters. But why insist on looking at the downside? If anything, this could be a golden age, a period political junkies of all persuasions reflect upon as a lesson in What Not To Do, not even in a drunken fit.

Morris Iemma has recently copped all sorts of flack for employing large numbers of ex-journos, particularly from Channel Nine News, to run the Premier’s media. This knee-jerk reaction fails to grasp the genius of Iemma’s move. Rather than see government as a tool for servicing the populace and providing direction, government can now be one big infotainment commercial. I like to think Iemma is acutely aware that now is the time to find out, once and for all, what the limits of NSW state politics really are.

Having watched the Premier conducting media conferences on countless occasions, I’ve been hoping for a daring strategy just like this. Despite golden opportunities for improvisation – like cockroaches in operating theatres, or mates (ministers) not being entirely candid – our plodding Premier would always appear wearing that same bewildered face: you know the one where he looks like a dog that’s just heard a new noise?

Iemma’s staff restructuring could spark radical change, if only he had the guts and imagination to go much further. Why not employ even more experienced staff from the failing broadcaster to be a part of the failing Government? At the very least, it will be an easy transition.

For starters, Nine’s informative A Current Affair has been doing the legwork for the Department of Fair Trading for years – why not formalise the union?

Then there’s Reba Meagher, who doesn’t seem to understand why we supply her with a driver – this is where the producers of Ladette to Lady could really help her out. And that other responsibility of Reba’s – you know, that whole Health Department portfolio thing – imagine if all those producers who work on RPA, actually worked for the Health Department in a real-world setting. They seem to get results on TV – why not pass these expertise on to the sick people of NSW?

Let’s not forget voters in the country, who also have televisions. Most of NSW is still in drought, the strong dollar isn’t helping farm exports, and in the post-state conference confusion of "whose side am I on?", Morris Iemma has been courting the NSW Shooters Party. The most obvious remedy for all of this is to find some solid consultancy work for all the poor folk who have been boned from McLeod’s Daughters. Heck, Iemma seems so keen to increase staff numbers in Macquarie St, the Shooters Party could get an intern from Farmer Wants a Wife.

But the politician really crying out for help is our beloved Treasurer, Michael Costa. As anyone who saw him at state conference this year – or has been called a "f*ckwit" by him since – will tell you, Michael needs all the advice he can get. I’m not suggesting consultancy from Nine’s upcoming hit, The Mentalist but rather something more astute, showman-like and lovable.

Yes, Tony Barber.

Costa is actually responsible for this state’s very own Sale of the Century. The poor old unions think their members will actually have jobs in 15 years time, working on coal powered electricity generators. Not all of us are that stupid but we do all like to be sold ideas, so we can pretend we had a choice and chose wisely. Tony Barber did this for people five nights a week for eleven long years. Costa may not even have eleven weeks, so best get Tony on board pronto.

Since re-election last year, Iemma has announced the cancellation of many capital works projects and apologised for the dog’s breakfast that is Sydney’s city planning. Now Morris is panicking that $140 billion in city development could cause even greater disruption. It seems obvious that if you want a quick and dodgy make-over, who better to assist than the charitable bunch from Backyard Blitz! Imagine new bridges, hospitals and a metro system, all done overnight.

Of course the exchange of talent cuts both ways here. Once you start looking back over the past few years of NSW Labor, you realise the NSW Ministry has had an enormous cast of characters, wasted in boring old politics when they could have been stars on Nine’s guaranteed hit, Wipeout. Instead of the usual media stunts we mostly ignore, why not a few genuine stunts with MPs like Craig Knowles and John Watkins getting clocked by speed cams Grand Theft Auto-style, John Della Bosca on a bicycle, or Joe Tripodi doing … whatever he wants, as long as he is moving. (Has anyone actually seen Mr Tripodi do anything other than sit – apart from when he gets to his feet in Parliament to apologise for something or deny something else?)

Of course the magic of television isn’t the same as the power-plays and daily muggings of ineffective government. The frustrations of people living in NSW can’t be solved with a schmick PR campaign and Little Caesar looking like he knows what he’s doing. But this adventure into the ideas pantry at Channel Nine suggests the Iemma Government will do anything to improve in the polls.

Who knows, maybe Angela Boardman will be the new NSW premier after all? At the very least, we can hope for some re-runs of Rome.

We all know how that ended.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.