23 September 2009

Blow that whistle, ref

68 years have elapsed since 1941. In that time, Labor has governed NSW for 50 of those years and the Coalition for 18. Major infrastructure problems can largely be sheeted home to NSW Labor, with its penny-ante perspective known as "laborism" guaranteeing that public sector wages will increase inversely to clear expectations of those jobs, while regarding infrastructure and education as the sort of thing only "the bosses" worry about.

Labor talks about "born-to-rule" a lot. It accuses the Liberals of having this attitude, but frankly those supposedly born to rule have little example of actually governing. Victorian Labor used to grouse about the Liberals in similar fashion, but when you consider how much of a lock the Victorian Liberals had on that state's government until the last quarter century.

Reba Meagher and Morris Iemma were prime examples of the "born-to-rule" attitude of NSW Labor, and now we see it plainly in Kristina Keneally.
With a display of arrogance far belying her two and a half years of ministerial experience, Planning Minister Kristina Keneally surely put paid last week to any dreams or perceptions some have of her being a future leader of the NSW parliamentary Labor party.

Hardly. Neville Wran did not take kindly to interrogation, and nor did Iemma or Roozendaal behave well when questioned over the various tunnel scams they perpetrated on Sydney.
Indeed, she behaved as if the opposition was breaching some sort of moral standard for even asking questions.

She's always behaved like that, though. If you were a NSW press gallery journalist, you'd know that, and if you were a real journalist then you'd have shared this with us long before now (and made other arrangements to get your informaton). This sense of entitlement and blockage of information whose supply is in the public interest is the essence of "born to rule" attitude. You can see why people were reluctant to get rid of Deirdre Grusovin to make way for her, and not just because the old duck wanted one last turn around the ballroom.
Keneally showed a lack of political maturity and showed her lack of experience with the estimates process, and ... shows, at best, a complete abrogation of her responsibility as a minister.

What possible control can the minister have over the planning department if she does not know who her number one public servant is being lobbied by? A real case of "see no evil, hear no evil".

Hopefully this casts light on any future announcements about things which she has supposedly initiated. It probably won't, though, as "the news cycle" will consign this issue to the bin and future announcements will be treated as though they matter.
Beside Keneally's accusations against the Sydney Morning Herald at the committee which have now been well reported that it is pursuing the McGurk story solely because it wants to stop declining sales, she twice accused a Liberal MP of being a slow learner by saying she had to speak slowly for him.

Kristina Keneally's judgment abut people and situations is crap, which means her political judgment is no good, which casts rather a poor light on those who've been talking her up (including Rees, who has put her in over her head). She is also a former disability services minister; everyone who dealt with her in that capacity and thought she was serious about those issues must now realise that she learned nothing from the experience and was never serious about issues that deeply affect many people.
Witness the following [exchange at the hearing of] the committee:

Liberal MP Don Harwin: You have not met with Mr McGurk or either Mr Roy or Ron Medich, have you ever met or had a discussion by telephone with Graham Richardson?

Keneally: No.

Harwin: No, never?

Keneally: No, never, ever, ever. Do you want me to pinkie-swear on it too, Mr Harwin?

Harwin probably knows Richardson better than Keneally does. After he fell out with Keating in 1994, Richardson began offering advice to the then moderates who ran the NSW Young Liberals at the time, including Harwin. They paid to pump him full of food and booze and he'd tell salacious but ultimately insubstantial tales. It was soon after this that the moderates lost control of the NSW Young Liberals, but don't let that get in the way of Keneally and the once-mighty NSW Labor Right who are to blame for her.
The talk is that it was Ms Keneally's husband, Ben Keneally, who was earmarked to take over from Deirdre Grusovin in the seat of Heffron by Labor's head office in 2003 but because of Labor's affirmative action policy we got Kristina Keneally instead.

Leaving aside the grass-is-greener perception of Benny boy, can you imagine KK as a political wife? She'd make Jeanette Howard or Belinda Neal look like the Governor-General for tact and decorum.
But last month Keneally got the sort of boost which could articially inflate any young minister's ego - an erroneous call from Channel Nine reporter Kevin Wilde that she was to be made premier "on Monday".

The challenge for Ms Keneally now is to get over her big head, get over her attitude that she should not be open to scrutiny and ... she should resist behaving like a pork chop.

She's already out of her depth and is being covere up for over this matter. She spoke to the Liberals to their faces in the way Labor hacks speak about them behind their backs. At a time when the constant narrative on the NSW State Government is one of arrogance, being out-of-touch an failing utterly on service delivery and longterm planning, Keneally reinforced all of those perceptions so much that it almost looks like some practical joke in cahoots with Harwin, O'Farrell's staff, and everyone else who's keen to see the back of these turkeys. If she had any sense the prospect of becoming Premier - on Monday or any other time - would appal her, as it apparently does Carmel Tebutt.

This does not, apparently, include Imre Salusinszky, a former communist who's used to churning out fawning propaganda about doomed regimes, and a News Limited employee used to eating shit while telling the few and dwindling numbers of those who care that it tastes like chocolate. News bag Fairfax all the time and Fairfax rarely respond, but when they do (as Andrew Clenell did at the end of his piece) it is telling.
THINK "NSW Right" and the image that comes to mind is of a pasty-faced, overweight male who is rarely seen in daylight, except when scurrying between one of his tribe's preferred Chinatown nosheries and Labor's nearby Sussex Street, Sydney, headquarters.

Actually, that's the picture that comes to mind about Imre.

He doesn't quite say about Keneally that "I did but see her passing by ...", because he interviewed her and if you look at the exchange you can see more than either intended to reveal about themselves.
And yet, despite the anomalies, the NSW Planning Minister has emerged as a rare, bright future prospect for the Right -- and for Labor -- in NSW.

Anomalies. Yairs. Ace reporting there Imre.
... few doubt she is a potential leader, perhaps as early as 2011, when Labor seems fated to begin a stint of rebuilding in opposition.

What about a stint of floundering, yelling at staff and colleagues and generally not getting it? That's what you'd have to expect from KK, Imre, providing the Greens don't get their at together. Have you learned nothing from your sucky portrait of Michael Costa?
No matter how scrupulous the incumbent, there is no portfolio that raises more powerfully the spectre of insider deals and special favours for Labor mates.

I didn't quote that stuff about a "shining aura" because I just couldn't bear it.

As for a scrupulous NSW Labor Planning Minister, I couldn't think of one - Imre is not so much setting up a straw man as a nothing against which to compare Keneally, in order that he might claim that nothing compares to her.
"I don't believe there is any credible basis on which to say there is some kind of underworld culture in Sydney property development".

And let that be her epitaph. She's Planning Minister of New South Wales, and she doesn't believe there is any kind of underworld culture in Sydney property development.

Imre, the woman's a liar or a fool; and so are you for not rolling around the floor laughing at the very notion.
... for the multimillion-dollar projects, [Keneally's predecessor Frank Sartor] introduced independent expert panels. The aim was to take the politics, state and local, out of planning and end the stench of a donations-for-decisions culture that had become pervasive after the Wollongong council bribery scandal last year.

In Sartor's original plan, this independent assessment would have included the bulk of the decisions at present taken by the state planning minister under the so-called Part 3A provisions, which were introduced by Knowles to allow state-significant projects to proceed apace. But Keneally has tweaked the intended function of the Planning Assessment Commission, limiting it to cases where the developer has made a political donation or there is a demonstrable conflict of interest for the minister.

The effect of this was the Augean effect of diverting rivers of cash that once flowed into Wollongong Council and other non-entities straight into Labor head office, and to make planning decisions arbitrary and opaque. Imre is so dazzled by Keneally that he has forgotten to be a journalist. No wonder Kate McClymont gets all the stories Imre, she doesn't dump on sources.
Some have claimed these changes reflect Keneally's closer links to the development industry via her factional ally and friend, Ports Minister Joe Tripodi (a sworn enemy of Sartor). She says it has been more a matter of moving from a long phase of reform, which looks towards the past, to a phase of vision, which looks to the future.

"The government has had a continuous program of improvement and modernisation of the planning system," she says, describing the reforms of Knowles and Sartor as being about certainty, efficiency and transparency.

In other words, Knowles and Sartor set the environment for Labor and all Keneally had to do was run it. She couldn't even manage that. This idea of "continuous improvement" contradicts the claim of breaking with the past and looking toward the future, doesn't it Imre.
Any rugby league analogy, it must be said, rings oddly in Keneally's accent, which sounds as if it set off from California and, at some indeterminate point over the Pacific Ocean, met Greg Norman's accent coming the other way. It is difficult to describe Keneally's pronunciation to those who haven't heard it: suffice it to say that, in parliament, "Mr Speaker" emerges as "Mr Spayka", and that she has never seen a terminal "g" that she did not make a valiant attempt to drop.

It is Keneally's American upbringing, and fears of how that accent will play in western Sydney, that have left some Sussex Street heavies unconvinced she is the great white hope for Labor in NSW.

NSW is used to people from other countries. Greiner from Hungary and Iemma from Calabria were elected no worries. Keneally lacks the confidence to project herself as she is. Nobody from Ohio need apologise for that and Keneally should be comfortable enough to speak with her own voice, as she claims unconvincingly at the end. She's trying too hard to be someone she's not, and that's what grates with everyone from the western suburbs, from Menindee to Maroubra and Tumut to Tweed Heads. Droppin' terminals and pronouncing "Spayka" like some bogan from Bankstown (or a would-be from Woollahra) is patronising and ingratiating at the same time. "Picking up the ball and running with it" is a cliché the English-speaking world over, Keneally had no right to be taken at face value on that.
"She is able to silence whole rooms of CEOs with one flick of her hair," says one industry source.

See, now we know that's bullshit. Keneally has a helmet of hair like the equally insecure (and alliterative) Bronwyn Bishop, but with an odd twist as though she suddenly jumped up from one of those old-fashioned hair-drying machines in 1960s hairdressing salons. When a horse flicks its head it shows it is being nervous and dismissive of people, and so it is with Keneally. Imre's source is as charmed as he is, but one can only conclude that neither of them have much experience with women or can get over the fact that one of them holds a position of responsiblity.
One area where relations have definitely improved for the government, under Keneally, is with the Urban Taskforce, a lobby group for large property developers that engaged in some legendary stoushes with Sartor.

That would be the lobby group run by a former Obeid staffer, and the brother of a Tripodi loyalist. Was McGurk a member of the UTF, Imre, or the Medich brothers? Find out before Kate McClymont does. Casts a whole lot of light on why Tripodi's been pushing her, or it least it would if you were a journalist. How important is the UTF to the State generally, Imre, or wouldn't you know?
"She has a very different style (to Sartor)," says Gadiel. "She makes a lot of effort to sit down with everyone and explain her decisions. You don't wake up and read her decisions for the first time in a newspaper.

Everyone has a different style to Sartor, Aaron, that's why NSW hasn't invaded Poland. Some lobbyist you are - your job is to influence the minister, not gain sneak previews to decisions that she would have made had you never been born.
"What impresses people is that she's extremely articulate and her thoughts are very organised."

Her thoughts are organised for her, by the sort of people who organise Aaron Gadiel's for him; impressive isn't the word I'd use unless I agreed with it, and could point out something other than a rendition of policy and personal disasters to demonstrate why.


  1. Andrew Elder says:

    Labor talks about "born-to-rule" a lot. It accuses the Liberals of having this attitude, but frankly those supposedly born to rule have little example of actually governing. Victorian Labor used to grouse about the Liberals in similar fashion, but when you consider how much of a lock the Victorian Liberals had on that state's government until the last quarter century.

    Frankly, the ALP's lock on office would frighten me if were not so full of obvious time-servers and underwhelming political pygmies.

    I have argued on numerous occasions that the AUS polity is evolving towards a one-party state with the ALP becoming the Natural Party of Government. Largely due to demographic changes: cohort (Baby Boomers replacing Depression-War Gloomers), gender (single mother households) and race (NESB immigrants).

    BTW, This is a damn good blog and deserves more patronage.

    Also, what is your email for forwarding items of interest? <no homo> NTTAWWT

  2. Jack, you clearly didn't read my post on LP. Baby boomers are not a lock for Labor, and nor are NESB migrants. All that's happened is that the historical aberration of the Cold War has passed, and that they have stood up on other issues where they used to be easybeats (e.g. law & order).

    Start a blog to post your articles of interest.

  3. Andrew Elder says:

    Jack, you clearly didn't read my post on LP. Baby boomers are not a lock for Labor, and nor are NESB migrants. All that's happened is that the historical aberration of the Cold War has passed, and that they have stood up on other issues where they used to be easybeats (e.g. law & order).


    I did read it. Just dont think it is true.

    You clearly didnt follow the links I posted on this blog. The Watson study is pretty convincing evidence of a major demographic shift underlying the ALP's dominance at both state and federal levels of government since 1983. My own observation is that year was, not coincidentally, the year the last of the Baby Boomer cohort (1946-65) attained their majority for voting rights.

    The evidence for a systematic pro-ALP amongst NESB's is incontrovertible. See Birrell's work on this subject, Labor's shrinking constituency (he was talking about ESB working class workers.)

    Single mothers are another somewhat more controversial demographic. I dont have conclusive evidence, merely an anecdotal hunch plus suggestive evidence.

    The Cold War ceased to be a decisive political factor in AUS partisan alignment with the decline of the DLP, which occurred in the mid-seventies, not the mid-eighties. You may remember that AUS politics of the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties was dominated by a rangy fellow who was the anti-thesis and nemesis of the ALP.

    The Baby Boomers political shift to the ALP is based on a bias in psephological partisanship rather than fevered ideological commitment. The "for-ever young" cohort simply cannot bring the better part of themselves to vote for the parties identified with older, white, straight, Christian, monarchist, males. That does not imply their antipathy to the Right-wing policies of those parties. (Hence the extraordinary support for the ultra conservative Kevin (mini-me-too) Rudd.)

    No one doubts that, since the mid-seventies, single mothers and NESB's have become a large and growing part of AUS's demographic structure. They are also congenitally biased (ie "rusted on") towards the ALP. There are no obvious pro-L/NP demographics available for comparable political exploitation.

    I am not, and have never, argued that Baby Boomers are "Left-wing" (ie want to empower lower-status) on most policy issues. Quite the opposite, I have argued the Baby Boomers are quite Right-wing on economics, they will let very little stand in their way in the pursuit of material self-interest. And they have shifted to the Right on cultural policy, under the weight of overwhelming evidence, in order to protect property values and one point six trophy children.

    This explains their general support for hard-nosed "tough on crime" and mutual obligation social policies.

    So I predict we will continue to see a strong tendency towards ALP governments being re-elected at the state level. And the Rudd administration will most likely enjoy three terms in office.

  4. You might be right, but for the wrong reasons.

    The DLP were always overestimated, and your point about the decline of the DLP in the '70s undermines your own argument. Your thesis needs to have the Liberals as less flexible than the ALP, so we'll see.