10 Feb 2011

NSW Labor Has Done A Great Job

By Kirk McKenzie
Kirk McKenzie steps into the ring to defend NSW Labor against accusations of incompetence and corruption. Yes, you read that correctly and yes, he's a member of the party
"The NSW Labor Government is incompetent and corrupt. Discuss."

This statement, although widely accepted, is actually quite wrong and needs exposing — if only to prevent a one-sided, democratic annihilation at the March election.

OK, let's deal with the allegation of incompetence first.

In April 1995, when Bob Carr's new Labor government was sworn in, it was quick to implement the most important campaign promise made by the premier.

That promise was to reduce NSW government debt, which under the preceding Coalition regime had ballooned to 7.4 per cent of Gross State Product.

Some economists now argue that 7.4 per cent was manageable. However, that was not the view of the business community in the run-up to the 1995 NSW elections when there was a prospect of a new Labor Government.

Distrust of Labor's economic capabilities, particularly by business, was understandable in '95. In October 1992, the Victorian Labor government had been swept from power after it presided over serial economic disasters. These included its state-owned bank becoming effectively insolvent and a major Victorian building society, Pyramid, collapsing, after the government had reassured the public that it was financially solid. The State's finances were left in a mess.

If that was not enough of a problem for Carr, in 1993, the malodorous WA Labor government was defeated after long running problems dating back to Brian Burke's period as premier — which resulted in the WA Inc Royal Commission.

As a result, the Carr Opposition needed, above all, to establish its economic credibility. It therefore guaranteed to reduce state government debt  — and when it was elected (by one seat)  — it commenced to do precisely that.

The State Government's debt is now less than 3 per cent of Gross State Product and Premier Keneally can rightly claim that the NSW government is the only government in NSW history (or perhaps Australian history) that has substantially reduced government debt and maintained the reduction over 16 years.

When this record is mentioned, critics object that the money spent on debt reduction should have been spent on infrastructure. Labor completed its debt reduction task by 2005 at a cost of a modest $10 billion — equivalent to two years of the Commonwealth Bank's profit last year. Bob Carr claimed in a letter to the Australian Financial Review last year that his government had spent $61 billion on infrastructure by 2005 and that at the time Carr retired in that year, his government was spending more on infrastructure in NSW than the Howard government was spending for the whole country, and twice that of New Zealand.

Those infrastructure projects included a ring road system around Sydney that is the equal of any comparable city, the rebuilding of most major public hospitals in the state, the Chatswood-Epping railway, dozens of new public schools, and of course, the enhanced sporting facilities built for the Sydney Olympics.

Through it all, the state has maintained its triple-A credit rating and when the GFC hit two years ago, state revenues were depleted and expenditure increased but no "mountain of debt" was created because debt was low in the first place.

If you accept that economic management is the key component of competence, it is hard to argue that NSW Labor is incompetent in these circumstances.

What about corruption, you ask?

Sixteen years ago, Labor inherited a systemically corrupt NSW Police Force, which had been in that state for most of last century.

This was the incoming government's biggest problem, a seemingly intractable one that previous governments had tried and failed to fix, or in the case of the corrupt Askin Coalition Government of the 1960s and 1970s, actively encouraged.

It is now history that post-1995, Labor implemented the recommendations of the Justice Wood's Police Royal Commission, appointed an outside Police Commissioner, Peter Ryan, who sacked hundreds of police officers known or suspected to be part of the criminal apparatus, and by those means, cleaned up the Force.

The government then set up the Police Integrity Commission, a standing Royal Commission, to ensure the Force was kept clean, and has maintained it to date. (It stands alongside that other Labor-maintained corruption fighter, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, the model for other State equivalents  — not that Victoria even has one, of course.)

But let me come back to my point. The reform of the Police Force is the greatest achievement of this government, but it is more than that. Given the pervasiveness of police corruption previously, it is arguably the greatest single achievement of any NSW government — ever.

Not convinced yet?

Consider this — last year the Keneally Government passed its ground-breaking election-funding legislation, one of the first governments in the world to do so.

In so doing, NSW Labor made a second strike against corruption, almost as important as its police reforms.

By placing a $5,000 annual cap on donations to political parties, increasing the public funding of NSW elections and banning developer, liquor, tobacco and gambling donations altogether, the 150-year history of attempts to buy influence in NSW politics has now drawn to a close.

If Kristina Keneally or any of her three predecessors are or were corrupt, would these reforms ever have occurred?

A government of long-term economic responsibility, that has successfully curbed the most powerful corrupting influences in public life, does not deserve to be annihilated.

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Posted Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 11:32

Well, that's an interesting approach,

All this being the case, how has the current government come to be widely viewed as being corrupt and incompetent? Is it because the reformers appear to have been swept aside?

(From someone who hasn't been following the NSW situation that closely, any more than the average NSWer followed what Kennett got up to)

Posted Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 11:39

We need comment which compares the alternatives before us in NSW on 26 March 2011. So there have been achievements as stated in McKenzie's article, though the list is rather thin. Obviously the opposition cannot lay claim to achievements in government as it has not been so for 16 years. The article is only very slightly assuring that a Labour government in the next term will be good and it does not argue that it will be better than a coalition government. More information is needed!
David T Stewart

David Skidmore
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 13:02

One problem for the NSW Government is it's age. It is perceived as old and tired. No amount of articles such as these can mitigate against that factor. And the relentless propaganda of the Murdoch press is certainly not helpful.

Regardless of the competence of this current government, my problem with a landslide by the Coalition is that they will claim a mandate for every decision they make - even ones we have no idea are coming. And believe me, the Coalition will startle the electorate with policies we don't yet know anything about.

Posted Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 13:16

Hmm! Sounds like the Vic Labor government's problem (To be honest, I think a regular change in government helps spreads a bit of experience about).

It also sounds like you could discover what 'being Jeffed' is all about ("announcing our policies would confuse the electorate (when they have a clear responsibility to vote a basket case govt out, and us in!)")

katherine prince
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 18:27

On Oct 3 2006 J HOWARD brands NSW govt as 'most incompetent' http://new.home.tripod.com
"The NSW government is the most incompetent government in the nation;
of all the state Labour governments, the NSW government was the most complained about. None is more criticised, none is more incompetent and worst in management of the state's economy.
You can talk about any industry sector in NSW, it's starting to have real problems in stark contrast to the rest of Australia. The only big growth industry in NSW is the bureaucracy"
Ah Johny-Boy, I will never understand why didnt you deal with Bob Debus 'on time'

Dallas Beaufort
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 23:17

While milking housing to placate their wannabe's and unions.

David Skidmore
Posted Friday, February 11, 2011 - 07:50

"The only big growth industry in NSW is the bureaucracy". John Howard's gall never ceases to amaze me.

Posted Friday, February 11, 2011 - 12:49

The electorate are not that stupid - they are giving the NSW government the support that they deserve. Competent and successful governments don't win every election they contest but they certainly don't set records for bad polling either.

Posted Friday, February 11, 2011 - 13:28

Lovely piece of spin Kirk, your a poli alright champ. For me the perception of corruption comes from, among issues such as Wollongong council, the musical chairs leadership backstabbing farce. More importantly, I can't see or think of a single contribution from the Labor government that was 'for the people'. Crippling road toll charges (on top of rego, insurance, petrol, running costs) for working class people does come to mind though. Labor NSW is riddled with self serving, self indulging trough feeders ruthlessly contemptuous of working class people. Your doing alright Kirk, your Mother would be proud, but remember your supposed to represent the working class Labor party and people (as revolting as that may seem). Conservatives and capitalists have seduced and bastardised 'Labor' philosophy and values with obnoxious materialism and greed. You absurd and pitiful polispeak claim of 'economic management' merely support the accusation.

Posted Friday, February 11, 2011 - 15:56

Economic competency may be a necessary requirement for a state government but it is not sufficient.

Posted Friday, February 11, 2011 - 16:04

The trouble is because of this emphasis on economic management and a love of markets, these idiots don't think they should put their thinking caps on and plan anything. Once an expansion of the electricity industry could be reasonably planned, now we will have to wait on reluctant private interests to decide when and where to build our next generation of power supply. Umm, what happens if said markets fail? Didn't think of that one. All this spin just covers corruption anyway.

Jane Salmon
Posted Friday, February 11, 2011 - 16:23

Well, it's all relative daaaarrliiing.

We do have some teensy problems. Like failure to deliver and a rightist approach to bloody everything.

But we also have the limbo dance to the bottom with Mr O'Farrell who won't just sell off National Parks but also log them.

And not a credible policy between them.

It's a messy, messy business. Particularly once one factors in the greasy poll (pun) that is Federal politics where the cupboard is bare and priorities slide around with the selfish and short term public opinion which has been so cultivated and encouraged by hip pocket electioneering.

Posted Friday, February 11, 2011 - 18:40

The thing that interests me is that Labor has never won an election at the end when there is no money . Gone . None. Were skint mate.

Would love to see a win for the Labor in NSW .


Posted Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 08:35

Also, Kirk, leave the satire to Ben Pobjie.......

Posted Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 09:58

The right wing thugs of Sussex Street have changed the party. Corruption can be perceived when not proven or technically illegal. The over riding of local planning laws to allow big developers free reign is seen by me to be not 'in the state's interest' but in the interest of vested parties. Also there is a strong whiff of nepotism and cronyism.

David Grayling
Posted Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 11:47

I reckon that Kirk should be awarded the V.C.

Fancy anyone having the bravery (or is it gall) to try to prove Labor's election credentials after 16 failed years.

Mind you, Barry is no knight on a white horse either. More a pimple on a donkey!

Can anyone save NSW?


Posted Monday, February 14, 2011 - 17:28

Dear Brooza and supporters,

You and a few others have, not unexpectedly, pointed out a few deficiencies which I did not raise. They get plenty of media/cyber space and what I was trying to do was to balance the ledger somewhat. As someone who has put in literally thousands of hours into the Labor cause over a long period of time, I am equally unimpressed with most of the issues you mention, particularly where various individuals have let the team down badly.

Nevertheless, the political game is all about choice. I ask you these questions – Between 1988 and 1995 which side of politics closed or downgraded 30 hospitals? Which side sacked 2,500 teachers in the twelve months after being elected in 1988, which side cut 8,000 rail jobs also in the first twelve months?

Which side failed as promised to declare 350,000 hectares of wilderness and which side, most disgracefully, cut 1,000 positions from the DOCS (the child welfare department) and closed one in four community services offices?

This all happened between 1988 and 1995. Can you guess? The Coalition.

And I forgot, which side at the last NSW state elections promised to cut 20,000 public service jobs?

And now, which side has employed 3,000 more teachers, quadrupled the funding for literacy programs and opened 82 new schools in the period since? Which side has doubled the number of national parks to more than 800 since 1995? And which side has re-built most major hospitals in the State in the last 16 years and is delivering 47,000 new disability service places?

Not the Coalition.

I could go on......remember Jeff Kennett.

And Brooza - I do not earn an above-average income.

- and when are you going to tell me where in the article I am wrong.


Kirk McKenzie

Posted Monday, February 14, 2011 - 19:31

Kirk, it's not enough to look to the coalition and point to their failures. Labor has bought into a lot of the coalition's outlook on things and is reflected in your article's obsession with financial outcomes. Bob Carr and Michael Egan have totally buggered the electricity industry for the sake of some supposed self-evident economic truths about 'competition'. This is a really dumb experiment that has caused rising prices and will make it harder to reduce CO2 emissions. Transport planning has also been a disaster.

Most people would be happy to vote Labor if it really was Labor. I would.

Posted Friday, February 18, 2011 - 15:54

Yes if I was carving out a place in history I'd be hankering to be the fella who reduced NSW debt to manageable levels... oh dear me yes.... I'm seeing plaques and statues all over Macquarie Street... rows of them. A cardiganed colonnade.

If you need any more convincing that NSW "Labor" has forgotten what politics is about, write a letter to a minister, any minister. You'll get a reply from someone called "Administrative Officer, Dept of ..." The running of the state, even it's public face, has been handed lock, stock and smoking barrels to public servants. But that's OK most of NSW senior public servants seem to be married to ministers anyway, or their nieces or nephews ... so it all gets sorted one way or another. It's a family business. Snouts and troughs in all directions.

Corrupt, venal, banal and bereft of ideas ... but gee look at that bottom line. Gee can they manage. NSW Labor stands for nothing, believes in nothing and will leave us with nothing.

Good luck on the preselection there Kirk. Stack on. As for me I can't even bring myself to vote this time. Too sad.

Posted Saturday, March 5, 2011 - 03:13

15 or so years of NSW Labor can be nicely summarise
in one sentence, in one link http://new.home.tripod.com
This is our Labor for the last 15 years, and nobody
could 'say it' any better