Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Electoral carnage a sure sign of community pain

By Col Harrington - posted Tuesday, 29 March 2011

For most of Australia’s post war political history, the rule of thumb come election time was that the Australian Labor Party could count on around 40% of the electorate and the conservative Liberal Party could count on 40% with 20% of swinging voters deciding the election based on who they thought best served their interests this time around.

For some time now the Labor Party’s 40% has been steadily eroding while the Conservatives 40% remains fairly solid.  It is testimony to the implementation of some obviously good government and even better politicking, over many years that saw Labor dominate State politics across Australia even with a deteriorating voter base.  But for the NSW Labor Government to lose the 2011 election with less than 26% of the primary vote sends a chilling message to progressives in society.  This means that there are less people to count on through thick and thin and that the progressive message itself, which is always more than just “what’s in it for me?” will be harder to sell when people are obviously hurting the way they are.

Few voters around the world judge their elected representatives as harshly as Australians.  This is the most robust democracy in the world.  Come election time our system of compulsory voting forces us to engage in the process and voters take their duty seriously.  Yet the very size of the flogging of the NSW Labor government predicted since just after the 2007 election has some worrying trends attached to it.  The Kenneally government was not, contrary to popular belief the worst government in NSW history and though far from perfect, there are some obvious successes to go along with the inevitable failures and scandals either hyped or credible depending on your point of view.


In terms of economic management, when Labor first came to power in 1995 under Bob Carr, NSW government debt was 7.4% of Gross State Product.  Now it’s less than 3% and they’ve maintained their triple A credit rating even throughout the GFC.

Corruption allegations can be defended by the success over sixteen years of rooting out entrenched police corruption, through the Wood Royal Commission and the sacking of hundreds of crooked cops and latterly the establishment of a cap on political donations annually and the banning of donations from developers and from those with interests in the liquor, tobacco and gambling industries.  So it wasn’t a brown paper bag government but there were some questionably close links between the State government and developers. 

People have been extremely unhappy to see local Councils say no to a developer and the State Government’s Land and Environment Court overturn the decision.  Particularly when it means they see their suburbs dramatically transformed by what they consider to be inappropriate development. 

All State governments are struggling with on the one hand, the increased demands on service delivery and infrastructure – and on the other - keeping charges for basic services as low as possible, regardless of the increasing cost of providing water, electricity, public transport, health services and education. 

State Governments are in a particularly uncomfortable bind.  The money they’re given from the Federal Government’s GST (and their own State taxes) and the pressure to stretch the revenue dollar and make it go further without increasing charges is immense.

In Sydney the huge population rises over two decades with Federal governments of both persuasions supporting increasing immigration, has posed real problems.  There’s only so much land to go around between the mountains and the Sea but such is the love affair between Aussies and the house and land package that they will willingly travel hours on overcrowded roads and trains to realise the fast diminishing great Australian dream of home ownership.  Frustration with the authorities for not building bigger wider faster roads and bigger faster public transport to get them between work and home quicker (without overcharging them with tolls and fares) is a self perpetuating grievance.  The longer the trip takes and the more it costs, the crankier they become and the more determined they are to vent their spleen come election time. 


Stories of overcrowded hospitals and growing waiting lists are standard fare for criticism of State Governments of all persuasions.  Against their contemporaries the Kenneally government has fared reasonably well and in world terms all Australians are well catered for no matter how much we hear otherwise. 

So it shouldn’t take too long for Labor to pore over the entrails of this humiliating thrashing of the NSW Government to find evidence at the crime scene that there was a reason that even rusted on voters deserted them with determination and voted Conservative for the first time.  The evidence should cause them to revisit the party’s founding principles of a better and more decent way of life for all.  Ditching the “pragmatism” of too many alleged party hard heads who‘ve lost the courage and fight to stand up to the big end of town would win back a substantial chunk of their voter base.  Instead of running from the fight (like the mining tax for instance) Labor has to find the courage to break the bad news to wealthier and more powerful Australians that they’ve not been paying their fair share and it’s time they did in the interests of the community as a whole.  The Australian’s who are natural born Tories don’t need a strong Labor government, the rest do and as they’ve shown they’re willing to desert Labor, if Labor deserts them.  Being “all things to all people” only works for so long.  In the words of war time Labor party Prime Minister John Curtin “Labor has more resilience, more decency and dignity and the best of human qualities than any other political movement”.  Only by re-engaging with this ethos against the powerful forces forever ranged against them can the Australian Labor Party keep what’s left of its diminishing support base and bring their natural constituents back into the fold.  If it can’t do that, all Australians will be the poorer for it.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

2 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Col Harrington is a Brisbane writer and member of the BLF and the ALP. He is employed as a Workplace Health and Safety Officer.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Col Harrington

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

Article Tools
Comment 2 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy