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Progressive intellectuals have poisoned the well for Labor

By Mikayla Novak - posted Monday, 21 March 2011

InThe general consensus is that NSW Labor enjoyed one too many election wins in 2007, with regretful voters longingly wishing to put the governing party out of its misery ever since.

With every political poll and betting market pointing to an electoral apocalypse for Labor at the state election later this week, all signs point to a realisation for voters that, eventually, some dreams do come true.

It is clear that much of the blame for the expected defeat of the Kristina Keneally‑led government, in which even Labor seats with healthy margins are now perceived as 'marginal,' can be sheeted home to a host of state‑own factors.


Since the retirement of the long‑serving Bob Carr in August 2005, NSW has endured the unedifying spectacle of Labor's internal factional warfare directly contributing to a revolving door premiership.

Morris Iemma took over from Carr and, to his credit, won the 2007 election that a tired Labor administration arguably should have lost on an 'it's time' factor alone. Yet any political capital that Iemma built for himself proved to be transitory, with a resounding rejection by the ALP state conference in May 2008 of another electricity privatisation plan signalling the beginning of Iemma's eventual leadership demise.

The political capital of Morris Iemma fully depreciated when the powerful Right faction later refused the Premier's not unreasonable wish to clean out much of the dead wood, including Right factional heavyweights, from Cabinet. With his position made untenable Iemma felt no choice but to resign, the first NSW Labor Premier to do so in 117 years.

With the initial backing of the Labor Right, the left‑leaning Nathan Rees replaced Iemma to become NSW's forty‑first Premier. However this largely forgetful stint only lasted about fifteen months, with Rees earning the undistinguished title as the only Labor Premier not to lead his or her party into a NSW state election.

The Right jumped off the Rees train as swiftly as they boarded, according Keneally the opportunity to successfully challenge for the Labor leadership, and hence the position of state Premier, in December 2009.

Compounding the revolving door of the premier state's political leadership was the seemingly endless litany of scandals afflicting the NSW Labor Caucus. These ranged from the serious, including state political manipulation of local planning and development processes, to the downright salacious with numerous sex scandals revealed over the past few years.


All of these issues reinforced doubts amongst the increasingly restive state voters about the capacity of Labor to manage themselves, let alone govern Australia's most populous state.

The crisis of NSW Labor has also been the product of a sustained period of its own poor policy performance across a range of areas.

Economic growth in the premier state has consistently lagged that of the national economy as a whole since the heady days of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, which in turn has prevented the overall Australian economy from reaching its full potential.

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About the Author

Mikayla Novak is a Research Fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs. She has previously worked for Commonwealth and State public sector agencies, including the Commonwealth Treasury and Productivity Commission. Mikayla was also previously advisor to the Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Her opinion pieces have been published in The Australian, Australian Financial Review, The Age, and The Courier-Mail, on issues ranging from state public finances to social services reform.

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