NSW State Elections ”“ 2011

By Mallika Ganesan

NSW Parliament has a fixed four year term with the state elections held on the last Saturday of the month of March in the fourth year of the term of the government. The state elections are due this year and will be held in March. The current Labor government has been in power since Bob Carr was elected as Premier in April 1995. Carr resigned as Premier in August 2005 and since then we have had three Premiers, Morris Iemma, Nathan Rees and Kristina Keneally.

The Labor government has been plagued by a number of scandals especially during the time of Nathan Rees and more so during Kristina Keneally’s premiership. This has created such a negative perception of the government that there is strong feeling that this election should see the Liberals in government. The mainstream media seem very certain that the Liberals will win with a thumping majority and that Labor will be reduced to a rump.

In a state election, issues that are of major concern to the electorate are health, transport, transport infrastructure such as roads and rail, law and order and education. In addition to the above issues,    the issues of energy, mainly electricity, energy prices and long term energy security have also become very important.

With the potential impact of carbon pricing on electricity charges and sustainability of coal fired power stations, Morris Iemma as Premier tried to push through the privatization of the coal fired power stations. However he was soundly defeated not least because Barry O’Farrell, the Opposition Leader would not support the bill even though the Liberal Party’s platform supports privatization.

Kristina Keneally has attempted a mish mash of electricity privatization which has resulted in an Upper House inquiry with revelations that the price received for the assets are not that spectacular. In this election, the only policy announced by both Labor and the Liberals is to increase rebates for NSW families to help with energy bills.   Neither of them has a substantial energy policy ”“ only tinkering at the edges.

With road and rail infrastructure, the Liberals do not have an overarching plan for sustainable infrastructure development. What they have instead is a plan to establish Infrastructure NSW which will determine what is needed and where. Labor does not even have this fig leaf. The major piece of infrastructure from the Labor party is the Epping to Parramatta Line whilst the Liberals talk about the South West line and the North West line. With the potential impact of climate change, where is the farsighted policy from either party to encourage public transport by making the prices really cheap and increasing its usage?

Liberals are moving away from the urban consolidation that has been happening in recent years and want to open up land further in the west creating new housing developments which without proper transport will be little islands of poverty.

In health, the Labor government has signed up the federal government’s Health and Hospital initiative which the Liberals oppose. However, if you look at the Liberal’s web site there are not any major policy announcements.

Thankfully in law and order and education there have been no big policy announcements by either party at this time. There is still almost a month to go. However with both parties having already launched their campaigns, it is unlikely there will be any big announcements.

Labor has been in power for sixteen years.  It is healthy in a democracy for power to change hands as this changes personnel, brings new ideas and creates opportunities for new initiatives. In the natural course of events, Labor would have been turfed out and Liberals been voted in at least at the last election.  However, even with all this time in opposition, Liberals are unable to articulate a bold vision for NSW. It appears that their approach is to just fall into office because of the boredom of the electorate with the incumbents.

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