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Liberals making Labor look good

By Mike Carey - posted Wednesday, 25 May 2011


The Liberal Party has begun to make a sick Labor Party look good. The contempt shown for voters in Tony Abbott's Budget-in-Reply speech which was neither a reply nor about the budget , Barry O'Farrell's retrospective laws to reduce the solar feed in tariff in New South Wales and the West Australian Liberal's mining royalties heist is a trifecta of mismanagement and cynicism.

At one level, Labor should feel pleased with itself but partisan media coverage from the Murdoch Empire, parts of the ABC and the right wing, radio talk barrackers and barkers will ensure there is no space for that.

The last few weeks have demonstrated the dangerous debasement of political discourse and the win power at all costs game being played in Canberra and the state capitals. It's an esoteric game divorced from the needs of voters and the problems faced by the country overall.

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The post WA Budget press conference by the West Australian Premier Colin Barnett is a breathtaking example of lack of self awareness. I realize he is playing to his parochial audience, and there's nothing more insular than a WA crowd, but did you hear what this political pygmy from Perth said when announcing his 2 billion dollar iron ore royalty increase as a direct challenge to the federal government? He strode to the microphone smiling like a smarmy school prefect, "It's raining, it's a good day, I'm happy, you're happy, Wayne Swan is unhappy. Bad luck."

For the Premier it's obviously some sort of game to channel Joh Bjelke-Petersen and unseat the Gillard government, never a thought for the national interest or good governance in WA. Australia has innumerable problems, everything from our lack of response to climate change, to a massive infrastructure shortfall and just what this country will do when the boom is over? There was nothing in his budget to help answer those questions. Is he doing the bidding of the mining mafia or the Federal Coalition? Probably the Coalition, the miners particularly the small companies, don't want a royalty system because the tax is based on all mineral production even when the mine is not making a profit.

Now we can expect a faux battle over State's rights and who are the best economic managers, it's just so much blah blah blah while the ship of state glides quietly towards the heavily mineralized rocks. Do the politicians realize how ridiculous some of this claptrap sounds to Australians who don't live and work in a claustrophobic echo chamber somewhere underground in New Parliament House?

Mind you, Labor facilitated this mess by not backing the Mining Resources Rent Tax mark1, in the first place, and then unseating the Ruddster. If the Minister for Multinational Mining Companies, Martin Ferguson and the Member for Woodside, Gary Gray (along with the rest of the conspirators) had seen the original rent tax as a real effort to share this country's bounty with future generations not the reason to get rid of a sitting prime minister, then there might be smooth sailing now.

They must feel double-crossed by the miners whom they bent over backwards to placate with a watered down mining tax mark II. Still that's what you have to expect when you're Labor in name only! I often think about old Jack Ferguson, Martin's father and Neville Wran's Deputy Premier. Jack was an old style Labor man, a lefty and he must be spinning in his grave so fast we could produce electricity if we could only connect him to the grid.

But I digress! Barry O'Farrell (or O'Foolhardy as a guy at work has taken to calling him) what were you thinking? The New South Wales Liberal Premier, still rosy in the afterglow of a splendid victory has trashed the brand with one decision to reduce retrospectively the contractually affirmed, solar electricity feed in tariff. I know he's discussing, negotiating, looking at the figures again and generally backtracking but this is wrong in every possible way and Barry should have known that! It's not just re-writing the rules retrospectively, although for a Liberal Government that's pretty fundamental, but drawing up legislation to specifically prevent thousands of solar panel owners from taking their grievances to the courts is suicidal. And politically it's, well, foolhardy!

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In the election campaign the state Liberal party assured voters that the feed in tariff would be maintained, it was sacrosanct. As if to demonstrate a special, blue-blooded form of contempt for the voters so early in his term, that policy remained on Barry's website until just a few days ago.

It's amazing how they forget the people once they get over the line. The solar panel program has been incredibly successful and many have borrowed to do their bit and reduce greenhouse gas production.

Again, it's a case of ignoring the bigger picture. NSW and Australia have to address climate change and renewable energy production is an essential plank in that policy. Instead of winding it back, closing it down or having it in your policy just to get a few green votes, when are we going to have a government which willingly embraces the generation of renewable energy, or better still, makes it a priority?

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About the Author

Mike Carey was Executive producer of SBS 's Dateline from 1999 to 2007, a foreign correspondent in Brazil and South East Asia and now a freelance TV producer.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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