In the past few weeks I have not touched at all on the Queensland state election, deferring instead in authority (and proximity!) to folks like Mark Bahnisch and Possum over at Crikey. Since the election result, however, I have found myself wondering a little bit about what it all might mean. On the one hand, at least from where I am sitting well south of the border (with NSW let alone Queensland), Lawrence Springborg seemed a more credible Opposition Leader than Ted Bailileu and certainly a candidate more likely to lead his party to victory than Peter Debnam, the last failed Opposition Leader in New South Wales. Anna Bligh’s government did seem a little vulnerable, and Bligh did not at all times seem comfortable and in control as Premier since Peter Beattie’s resignation.
In any case, here I think are the key outcomes worth pondering:
- Anna Bligh’s victory represents a victory also for Peter Beattie and the matter in which he handled his transition out of state politics. In transitioning to Bligh, I do believe that Beattie has proven himself to have done a better job at managing the transition than Bob Carr in New South Wales. Personally, I thought Beattie still had some juice in the tank when he resigned. One wonders whether he will now turn his eye to federal politics now that his exit from Queensland politics has been vindicated by the voters?
- Phillip Coorey suggests a bit cheekily for SMH that even Nathan Rees should hold out some hope for victory in 2011 after Anna Bligh’s result. Unfortunately it’s only a throwaway line. Queensland and New South Wales are not necessarily on the similar trajectories they might seem to be after the departures of Messrs Beattie and Carr. Rees is currently not commanding the authority he needs to as leader in order to be a real chance at the next poll.
- Was there a “Rudd effect” at play? How many votes is Kevin09 worth at a state level?
- Is the shambling hybrid Liberal National Party, having lost a supposedly unlosable election, ready to fall back apart into its rotting constituent pieces once again?
- Pauline Hanson’s defeat yet again – this time in the seat of Beaudesert – will hopefully signal the end of her political career. In a democratic sense I do think that there might be a need out there for someone with an approximation of her views to be represented, but I don’t think she is the right person, in more ways than one. Her treatment at the hands of the media over the past few weeks should nevertheless serve to further galvanise support for people with anti-elitist, anti-city political views.
- Ronan Lee’s defeat in the seat of Indooroopilly calls into question the value of his defection to the Greens and whether this was tactically the right thing to do for him, based upon his views. Could he have done more for his supporters as a member of the Queensland Labor party room lead by a Premier with a fresh mandate?
- Now that Anna Bligh has stepped out from under Peter Beattie’s shadow, what kind of leader will she be? Will she do better than Morris Iemma did after his post-handover election victory?
Comparisons have already been drawn by some commentators between the elevation of Morris Iemma to the premiership of New South Wales in August 2005 and the unexpected rise of Nathan Rees to the same position this week. If anything though, it is arguable that the rise of Rees has been even less of a rational leadership transition than that of his predecessor. Prior to his gaining the premiership, Morris Iemma did have nearing fifteen years of parliamentary experience behind him, including a relatively high profile stint in the Health portfolio. Rees, by comparison, has served less than two years in parliament and despite the touch of (welcome!) colour in his early job history, he can certainly be regarded as an apparatchik premier. For the majority of the last fifteen years he has worked as a political staffer.
The Murdoch press (as expected) is running a typically unreasonable line about the emergence of Rees which seems to imply that New South Wales will soon explode in a ball of uncontrollable flames. Realistically the only reasonable perspective, of course, is to welcome the departure of Iemma, Costa and Watkins as the breath of fresh air that it represents, and to wait and see if the new leadership team cuts the mustard. Given that they have had only a couple of days in the job, any more aggressive attacks on the Rees/Tebbutt team can be dismissed as the vainglorious acts of political expediency that they are.
Given that I know about as much about Nathan Rees as the average person (e.g. nothing), I thought it might be worth while having a bit of a look through his contributions to the Hansard over the last couple of years to try and get a feel for where he stands. There are a few excerpts and thoughts over the fold.
I am on the other side of the world, but even I can scent a whiff of change in the air for NSW Labor. Setting aside for a moment the disturbing and unacceptable schism between the parliamentary leadership and the rest of the party in relation to electricity privatisation, it would have to be a rare punter indeed who believes that the Iemma Government is doing a stellar job of managing the state. Reiterating this perception, Tim Dick has a frankly unsurprising report in the SMH today noting that a Griffith University study has found that the NSW State Government is the most unpopular government in the country. If that wasn’t enough, Andrew Clenell and Alexandra Smith report that a leadership challenge is imminent, backed by party general secretary Karl Bitar, who has fallen out with Iemma and Treasurer Michael Costa over the electricity privatisation issue.
What I think is important at this juncture is for NSW Labor to do some seriously constructive navel-gazing. It’s all very well to talk about changing leaders, but what is really required is a culture shift in the way the party interacts with the electorate and indeed conducts its affairs. It’s arguable that such a shift can only really happen if the parliamentary leadership changes, and on that basis, in the absence of any serious prospects of improvements otherwise, I would support a change in the leadership at this point. Despite his professed loyalty to the Premier, his factional handicap as a member of the Left and his close association (as Deputy Premier) with the current leadership team, I am inclined to think that John Watkins is the right man to take the party forward.
Let’s put the last fifteen months in perspective. The Iemma Government won a fairly strong election victory in March 2007 over an Opposition that was rendered incredible and unelectable by its then leader, Peter Debnam. Thanks to Debnam’s weak leadership and somewhat flawed personage, the government honestly did not encounter the tough electoral challenge it might have expected after four years of decidedly so-so governance. From what I can gather, Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell has not exactly been blazing the trail in the job since obtaining it a month after the election, but nor has he been doing that badly either. I think most voters would agree with me when I suggest that he is a credible alternative leader, even if he is not doing a very inspiring job. This spells trouble for NSW Labor in 2011 unless people’s impressions of the government change for the better and change fairly rapidly.
As a party member, I do feel that Morris Iemma really has tried his heart out to put things right over the past couple of years, thrown into the lion’s den as he was after Bob Carr’s abrupt resignation. Although I tend to disagree with Michael Costa’s views more frequently than I agree with them, I do believe he wants to do the best he can for the party. However, particularly in light of the electricity privatisation debacle, with the party wrenched apart in a recklessly destructive fashion, I don’t think it has been good enough. For many punters, I am sure it has not even been close to good enough. For the good of the party and indeed the state, I think both Premier Morris Iemma and Treasurer Michael Costa should stand aside and let a new leadership team try and steer the government in a fresh direction.
For a government that sometimes seems to find it hard to deliver coups for the state of New South Wales, the Iemma Government should be well chuffed with itself for managing to entice Richard Branson’s Virgin Blue to set up its base of operations in Sydney. Although one does wonder precisely what sorts of understandings were reached to bring in the deal, there is little doubt that this development is a boon for the state’s economy, which isn’t exactly barrelling along. The deal means more jobs for NSW, more tourist dollars spent in Sydney, and potentially lower airfares for some routes out of Sydney for Australian travelers.
A couple of questions nevertheless spring to mind:
1) What does the deal imply for NSW in relation to any future carbon emissions trading scheme between states? Has this been considered in the context of the deal that has been made?
2) Has any analysis been conducted regarding what the deal, if anything, means for inflation?Am I the only cynical one who thinks that neither of these questions were considered when the deal was reached?