NSW politics in 2007 and beyond
At the coming election the Coalition will pick up seats, despite and not because of Peter Debnam.
Labor has governed NSW for all but seven of the past thirty years. They should have fixed the transport, policing and water supply problems to one of the state's fastest-growing regions, the Central Coast. They haven't, so voters there will punish them. Twenty years of work by Chris Hartcher and Mick Gallacher will pay off when the Liberals win Gosford, The Entrance and possibly Wyong.
For independent Chris Holstein to throw his lot in with the Liberals is testament to Hartcher and Gallacher, and an indictment on the dozy ALP in that area. The Coast should not only have its own people as candidates but serve as a breeding ground for Labor candidates throughout the state. If any capable people have attended Labor branch meetings on the Coast, the members there have fought them off successfully.
The two Federal seats on the Central Coast, Robertson and Dobell, are both held by the Liberals. Neither are safe from a good campaign by Rudd and some halfway decent Labor candidates - if any.
Surely the Liberals can't lose Camden and Wollondilly. The gentrification of these areas, transport and water supply should knock Labor right out. The much-vaunted ALP member for Campbelltown should be leading a rearguard action against Liberal advances in southwestern Sydney, but he's alright Jack and will probably get a ministry after Iemma is re-elected.
The northern beaches have had enough of independents and the Liberals have picked good candidates despite themselves. Manly and Pittwater will both go Liberal.
Miranda will probably go Liberal and Port Stephens might. The Nats will pick up Murray-Darling thanks to the Federal Government looking busy on water, and also because the Labor MP is not nearly as hungry as he is thirsty.
If Debnam wasn't such a dud you could talk about:
- Penrith (Jackie Kelly won't put herself out for anyone else, and she won't keep her seat in the Federal election)
- Oatley (the Liberals would need an excellent candidate to beat the hard-working Kevin Greene, and they don't have one)
- Ryde (ditto, John Watkins)
- Parramatta (the Liberal Party in that area were besotted with Ross Cameron, and when he came a gutser there was nobody left)
- Kiama (lotsa oldies and middle-class families moving there, same demographics that put Nowra and Bega into the Liberal column)
- Coogee (same thing with the demographics - the renters who have made this seat safe for Labor over the past three decades have been squeezed out by people earning the sort of money you'd need to buy there)
- Heathcote (see above two points)
- Maitland, Cessnock and Charlestown (crusty old working class voters are only going to join their vineyard-owning neighbours in voting Liberal without spectacular plans on education and infrastructure. There isn't - so, as they say in the Hunter, fuck 'em)
- Drummoyne (the demographics are there, the local MP is a non-entity, but while Labor deserve to lose the state doesn't deserve a Debnam government)
... but he is, so you can't. Brogden would've had these seats in the bag by now (and no, neither Collins nor Chika nor anyone else would).
Greens? No. Independents will hold what they have and may pick up a seat in the Hunter.
Iemma will gloat because gloating is a sign that you don't expect to win, and deep down don't deserve to. He'll lose four ministers (Debus and Nori are retiring, McBride will lose his seat, Hatzistergos has done enough to deserve the sack). Nobody, not even Watkins, can handle both Transport and Police in the long term. Debus' portfolios of AG and Environment will have to be separated.
He'll move David Campbell, Cherie Burton and Reba Meagher into frontline roles. Phil Koperberg would have to take on Emergency Services and Linda Burney would probably go into Community Services. That try-hard from the Tweed, Neville Newell, will probably get something like Sport & Rec. Tripodi should be moved to an area where he can't embarrass himself with his spivvy mates. Hickey should also be punted but if there's one area where Labor is faring worse than the Central Coast, it's the Hunter; Hickey is the man to provide political resources under cover of a ministerial office in that region, provided he doesn't get a ministry that requires a lot of thinking or work. McLeay from Heathcote, a Labor Right scion and not the sharpest intellectual tool, will be shunted into some low-level job. Other, more capable MPs like Virginia Judge or Steve Whan or Tanya Gadiel will have to wait.
When Rudd wins later in the year, jaded state government staffers will rush the exits.
Tripodi will embarrass himself. Roozendaal (Labor's answer to Nick Minchin) will deliver some just-put-up-with-it line akin to Keating's recession-we-had-to-have, and that line will come to define latter Iemma. Much will be said about the ambitions of Reba Meagher but she'll botch it. The issue of missing money at Cherie Burton's office will not kill her career but dog it forever.
If Debnam can survive till Christmas he'll shine - like a cold dead fish washed up on the beach. Some of the weaker journos will do reappraisal profiles on him (not because he's improved but because you can't be a press gallery journo without a relationship with an ensconced Opposition Leader).
Debnam, God help him, will think he's done what Nick Greiner did in 1984: not win but set the Coalition up for next time. The speedo thing follows Ted Baillieu's campaign in Victoria, maximum media impact for minimum outlay of campaign funds. The Libs will be saddled with a dud leader who can't win but can't be gotten rid of, at least not for a little while. Greg Smith will land a few blows against the new Attorney-General but will also attract attention from Labor for all the wrong reasons. Prue Goward and Mike Baird will take a while to find their feet but will have powerful, Turnbull-like impacts on the stagnant pond of state politics. Debnam will come to think he's indestructible. Debnam will downplay Clark because Debnam genuinely underestimates him - even while he eats his nominal leader alive. After all that, he'll be sjamboked by Gallacher.
Chris Hartcher has been in Parliament since 1988. The NSW parliamentary super scheme is structured so that it maxes out at 18 years. Hartcher had been a minister and won't become one again; unlike most politicians he has a rich and interesting personal life and will go off and enjoy it, while Mick Gallacher runs for Terrigal en route to becoming leader.
The Libs have lost state election after state election by banging on about Laura Norder and bugger-all else, and Gallacher will pimp the old girl work for all she's worth. He'll try fill the vacuum after Howard, and will have to work within the gaps between expectations and reality created by Rudd. There will be plenty of Howard government veterans only too willing to help Mick in 2011, and he'll have to know which bits which bits are actually helpful and which aren't.
If it comes to 2010 and Iemma doesn't think he can win, he'll go Federal through the all-but-vacant seat of Fowler.
Update 17 April 2007: Serves me right for underestimating the stupidity of the Liberal Party! Gosford, The Entrance, Wyong, Miranda, Camden and Wollondilly would all go Liberal now that Sorry Morry has shown what he's made of, and O'Farrell has shown that you can't keep a good man down. The clowns in the upper house may yet give him another coating of shit and sink him; Gallacher thinks he's the coming man, bless him, and O'Farrell needs to be on his guard through the mid-term doldrums.
Torbay as Speaker is an interesting stunt, but if the polls go against Iemma he'll lash out and put a hack in that job. We haven't heard the last of Burton or McLeay, and all Labor MPs have a right to feel their ambitions are at hand while Hatzistergos, Tripodi and Nathan Rees (who?) clog the front benches.