How NSW Went Septic


Who isn’t excited about the NSW election in just over 12 months time? It’s hard to believe there isn’t a countdown clock somewhere in the Sydney CBD, or a raging debate on where to hold the "Party Like It’s 1988" event on election night. But if you thought that the ALP would be miserable when they are wiped out on election day, you’d be wrong. As many Guinness Book of Records attempters will tell you, "You can’t stay on a rollercoaster forever."

The NSW ALP has outdone itself, digging deeper into a hole which will take multiple elections to climb out of. For many in the state and elsewhere, the thought of a NSW Labor wipeout has engendered a wonderful, satisfying feeling until now. But what if, as in the previous election, they actually remained in office?

Perhaps I shouldn’t be concerned, as the most recent Newspoll has the NSW Liberal/National Party two-party preferred at 57/43 and the most accurate gauge of the likely result on 26 March 2011 is of course Centrebet, with the NSW Coalition at $1.15 to win and the ALP back at $4.90.

But as any long-term politician will tell you, never underestimate the stupidity of the electorate and, in the interests of the state, I’m here to remind you of why NSW needs to leave Labor stranded like a CityRail customer.

Simply put, NSW Labor is a lot like golden staph. A particularly aggressive bacteria, golden staph is infamous for being largely drug-resistant and despite the long list of controversies, ministerial sackings and changes of leadership, the ALP in NSW rolls on.

As you may know, 20 per cent of the population carries the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria long-term — much like rusted-on Labor voters and union members. Golden staph is particularly virulent in closed areas such as hospitals. In many ways, this is similar to the concentration of Labor hacks in locations such as the NSW ALP head office in Sussex Street, Governor Macquarie Tower and the offices of Hawker Britton.

These three addresses essentially run the state, with the Parliament little more than a staging area for the circus that is the NSW Government. The influence of fellow tenants at Sussex Street, Unions NSW, is obvious, but less so is the strategic role of Hawker Britton in driving the spin which has led NSW from Bob Carr’s victory in 1995 to where we are now. This influence has infected every major development, non-decision and failure which has seen NSW and Sydney in particular, lurch along to a state of immobility.

It is, in fact, so hard to get your head around just how badly Labor has performed that it’s worth a very quick recap. Their record in transport, for example defies belief. Take the gross mistake which was the Cross City Tunnel. This highly anticipated public-private partnership misjudged traffic uptake, necessity and contractual arrangements. Opening in August 2005, it was insolvent by the end of 2006. Another political pus-ball is the Parramatta to Chatswood Rail Link which was launched with great fanfare but was soon revised to become the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link. As if avoiding Parramatta — Sydney’s geographic centre with its own large CBD — wasn’t bad enough, RailCorp managed to build tunnels that were too steep and had excessive noise. The incomplete rail project went from an initial cost of $1.4 billion to $2.3 billion.

Another example of a festering boil which won’t be addressed is the long proposed development of Green Square. Despite countless plans and announcements for the area to become an integrated business, housing, eco-sustainable, uber-hub of urban renewal, the area remains a miserable wasteland. No project in the state has done more for the "artist’s impression" industry than Green Square.

Finally the most recent unannouncement is the cancellation of the CBD Metro, a project which will cost taxpayers more than $330 million to not build.

It’s important to keep in mind that infection control is very difficult when you have carriers in constant transit between different locations. A good example of how the pathogen spreads is that presented by Walt Secord’s movements. Macquarie Street’s favourite Canuck who spent a considerable amount of time in Bob Carr’s office, then worked for Hawker Britton, had a short-lived stint with Kevin’07, then back to Macquarie Street with the esteemed Treasurer Eric Roozendaal, now finds himself with the job of a lifetime: chief of staff to the Tracy Flick of NSW politics, Premier Kristina Keneally.

Another equally terrifying example is the mercurial Sam Dastyari. A former President of Young Labor, Dastyari also worked for Hawker Britton before moving into ALP head office in Sussex Street. Soon enough though, with the office of Nathan Rees becoming reminiscent of Black Hawk Down, Dastyari was dropped in uninvited to "help" the premier (at considerable cost to taxpayers). But things don’t end there. In a post-Rees knuckle-fight at Sussex Street, general secretary Matt Thistlethwaite has walked into a possible Senate seat, with the hapless would-be powerbroker Luke Foley remaining assistant secretary and our man Sam becoming general secretary of NSW Labor at 27 years of age.

Of course the newish Premier is herself a centre of this kind of contamination. Since her preselection Keneally has had to endure serious questions regarding her dealings with a range of politicians, developers and public servants. Not immune to temper tantrums, the Premier’s ability to obfuscate is best outlined in an article by Andrew Clennell last year while she was planning minister. If nothing else, the next 12 months will be a time of photo ops, stage managed promises and a timely reminder of why country music is unpleasant.

The long-term effects of NSW Labor on public transport, government transparency, economic and sustainable development have been the equivalent of toxic shock. Compared to every other state in Australia, NSW is going backwards, led from the rear by a lacklustre cabinet with too few members of any real ability or talent for anything apart from factional warring and self-advancement. It’s now so bad that Kevin Rudd is worried NSW could turn electorally septic for Labor at the federal level too.

The factional backroom you’ve-got-no-idea-but-we’ve-worked-on-heaps-of campaigns-together-so-here’s-a-job mentality is epitomised by NSW Labor. Managing Government business is always difficult, but the absurd vaudeville of Macquarie Street can’t end soon enough. Labor just aren’t up to the task. Of course the prospect of a Liberal/National Party government in NSW isn’t much to get excited about, but comparatively, it’s a benign tumour.

The best way to prevent golden staph is to wash your hands. Let’s hope NSW voters do just that as soon as they are given the opportunity.

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.