Let's Make A Deal


Of all the accusations that can be levelled against a government, possibly the most damaging — apart from "being the Labor Party" — is "do-nothing". Above all, we demand our government do things. Unless they do too much, or do the wrong thing, or we are the Institute of Public Affairs, then we’d prefer they just sit quietly in a corner.

But overall, all things being equal, it is seen as a public good for the government to display signs of activity.

This is clearly a philosophy that NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has taken to heart, as shown by his reaction when he found himself unable to do something — in his case, privatise NSW’s electricity generators.

Confronted by a parliament that might stand in the way of his power sale and the prospect of becoming the very epitome of a do-nothing premier, he went about doing things with all possible haste. "This Must Not Stand"

O’Farrell cried, mainly to avoid embarrassment at the Premiers’ Christmas Party, when Campbell Newman would laugh and pants him.

And those things that he did took the form of some slick wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, as this most pro-active and masculine of premiers strode straight into the midst of the Shooters and Fishers Party (Motto: "The Party That Honestly Thought You Were A Deer") and told them straight, with no pussyfooting around, that he would do whatever they wanted.

It is not often that a politician comes along who is so committed to strong, decisive action that he will service the needs of fringe gun-toting lunatics for the greater public good. And as a result, things got done, the power stations will be sold, the Shooters and Fishers will frolic merrily in the National Parks as nature intended, and everyone is happy, except for the usual whingers and malcontents who are too busy weaving dreamcatchers and forming one-world governments to ever experience the simple joy of blasting a duck to hell.

But you can’t make an omelette without pissing off the Greens, as the saying goes. While not everybody will agree with O’Farrell’s action, nobody can deny that it WAS action, and that the people of NSW are finally on the way to freedom from the tyranny and oppression of publicly owned utilities. Not to mention the tyranny and oppression of overpopulated woodlands.

But there is a downside to O’Farrell’s parliamentary heroism: suddenly the rest of our body politic looks downright enfeebled in comparison. Where, for example, are the O’Farrells of the Federal sphere? What Canberra-dwelling caucus-jockey has the sheer breadth of scrotum to stand up to the special-interest groups and say, "What’ll it be, gents?"

For a start, let’s take the "government", as some sections of the media persist in calling it. Now Julia Gillard has had her problems during her prime ministership, and opinion is divided as to whether her incompetence, her immorality, or her uterus is to blame, but that’s beside the point now.

With a bit of the old Barry spirit, she could have made things so much easier for herself. Look at Bob Katter (not too closely). Step One of the Gillard Administration should have been to go to Bob and say, "Look, Bob, I want your vote, and I am prepared to do whatever it takes to get it." A few short weeks of negotiation later, and we would have had a bigger majority, a more stable government, and massive fleets of helicopter gunships soaring over the outback, gunning down camels which would then be turned into cheap meat to feed the thousands of workers building the Daintree-to-Melbourne water pipe, which would deliver fresh parrot-scented water to the South in exchange for Victorians buying all the bananas.

I’m not saying this would be a Utopia, but at least they wouldn’t need Craig Thomson anymore. Gillard wouldn’t have had to stop at Katter. She could have picked off other Abbott allies in the process.

She could have swayed Tony Crook to her side by making Perth the capital of Australia. She could have won over Barnaby Joyce by appointing him Emperor of Queensland, and that wouldn’t have even needed any actual legislation, she could have just bought him a crown and told everyone to call him Milord.

Would this new, camel-shooting, Perth-centred, Barnaby-aristocrated Australia be ideal? Of course not, but at least Gillard would have been doing something, instead of messing around with carbon pricing and mining taxes and other such smokescreens to disguise her total lack of action on the issues that count like white Aborigines winning prizes and hard-working non-rich families having to save up for holidays.

Not that the Opposition escapes criticism on this point. Tony Abbott claims to want to be Prime Minister, but where’s the evidence? He offered a billion dollars for hospitals to Andrew Wilkie, but what else did he offer? A backrub? The post of Minister for Guilt? Mandatory pre-explosion technology in all poker machines? He offered NONE of these things. And yet he alleges that he is "ambitious". A hollow boast, it would seem.

What it comes down to is a lack of conviction in the average politician. They claim to be interested in creating a better future for Australians, but when it comes to the crunch, when we get down to the nitty-gritty, when they are asked whether their principles are worth publicly debasing themselves for … they go missing. Pike out. Pull a heart muscle. Totally and utterly M.I.A.

And not only has Barry O’Farrell proven his predilection for thing-doing and his knack for figurative horse-trading with this canny deal, he has also pulled off the coup that all political leaders dream of: he now has a large group of heavily armed men on his side.

Oh yeah the Greens might complain about the degradation of the environment and the horrific risk to native fauna that allowing gunmen to tramp through National Parks, nostrils twitching for blood — but Barry can always come back with the classic barely veiled threat, "Who’s got the guns?"

What’s more, as the NSW economy continues to stagnate while the resource-rich states boom, O’Farrell, with the Shooters and Fishers on side, is now building what could be an irresistible invasion force. Who’s laughing at Sydney’s transport bottlenecks now?

You see now how clever he was for caving in to the demands of shooters rather than Fred Nile, who would be useless in any sort of fire-fight against heterosexuals.

The point is, fortune favours the bold, and Barry O’Farrell has proven that if he is nothing else — and this is a possibility worth considering — he is bold. He moves forward. He takes steps. He unleashes firearms upon the countryside in enormous numbers, because when he decides he wants something, nothing will stand in his way. And we could use a bit more of that spirit around this whole country.

It’s time to get Australia moving again. Pull up your socks, pollies, and start making those deals. Because if you’re not willing to kowtow to demented single-issue extremists for the sake of the people who voted you in, what’s the point of having a government in the first place?

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.