01 November 2009

Sussex Street Circus

The journosphere has focused on the hapless Nathan Rees as Premier of NSW, how unpopular he and his government are, and how they have a kind of reverse Midas touch where everything they touch turns to dross. This is seen as some sort of contrast to the all-conquering feds. This reflects poor framing of the issue, and poor framing will make it harder for people to understand important features of our political system and what looks likely come from it.

However unwittingly, it is Imre who, like an old-school journalist, parades his contacts while keeping them hidden from outsider view. People who care about NSW Labor politics can guess who Imre's contacts are, I can't be bothered: it's just pathetic that he's the world's only Glenn Milne wannabe.

A SENIOR Labor official in NSW was recently heard to observe that "Nathan Rees is one bad Newspoll away from a crisis".

This could be it.

In all pertinent respects, this poll is as bad as those that were seized upon early last year by party and union bosses at Sussex Street who were bent on fatally damaging Morris Iemma - and ended up inflicting more damage on the Labor brand in NSW than anybody since Jack Lang in the 1930s.

The first three paragraphs of Imre's story tell you the real problem with it. Rather than focus on Rees - who never promised anything more than he has delivered - the real focus here should be on the geniuses who comprise the once-mighty NSW ALP machine. The rest of Imre's article rehashes every other article over the past year, another example of zero-value Murdoch content.

"Whatever you might say about the folks at Sussex Street" - what about that they, rather than Rees, are the real story here? These are the geniuses who thought that too much Bob Carr was barely enough. They are the same people who thought that Iemma was an ideal replacement - and when proven wrong, still think they have the right to pop the bonnet and tinker with the engine while considering changing driver. These are the same geniuses who think there's mileage in taking Imre out for a Chinese meal now and then.

The folks at Sussex Street are clowns. All of them.

If Rees is going to avoid a tap on the shoulder, he needs a big policy win, or a spectacular few weeks in parliament between now and Christmas ...

There are no "policy wins". Anyone who knows anything about State politics knows that, and it does no credit to a parliamentary roundsman to pretend otherwise. Nobody gives a damn about "parliamentary theatre".

This can't help but affect the coming federal election, especially given that it will occur before the next state election. There will be a lot of nonsense about state issues interfering with federal issues, when in reality the NSW ALP will stuff up the most promising political environment for Labor in a generation.

NSW has lost a seat in the redistribution; it's a Labor seat. In the olden days, NSW ALP hard-heads (the sort of people who wouldn't piss on Imre) would sort something out and chuck out some dead wood. Instead, the clowns at head office are being upstaged by a jobsworth with a severe case of born-to-rule syndrome: the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia has had to take time out of her schedule to sort this out.

Mr Ferguson served six years in state politics before joining Federal Parliament. It is highly unlikely he will ever serve in the ministry.

You can understand why they thought of him as political roadkill: but did they not count on the Deputy Prime Minister? What else are these clowns not counting on?

Barry O'Farrell has rebuilt the NSW Liberal state office largely in his own image: he's a former State Director, knows where the bodies are buried. If Turnbull keeps going the way he's going then O'Farrell will basically use the federal poll as a test run for the State Election in 2011. Certainly, the money coming into Liberal head office is predicated on state success, and any money coming to the ALP to curry favour with the federal government will go to national head office rather than Sussex Street.

Going by Antony Green's assessment of the next Federal election, let's look at the NSW seats and see just how badly the Sussex Street clowns could balls this up:
  • Macarthur: had Pat Farmer been re-elected under the traditional Liberal Reverence For Dead Wood rule, Labor would have a real chance at that seat. Russell Mathieson is a serious candidate and all Labor have are the deadshit councillors they always run in that area. Prediction: Labor FAIL

  • Macquarie: Louise Markus will win that, factional squabbling and the Greens will do for Labor. Prediction: Labor FAIL

  • Robertson: Belinda Neal. Need I say more? She'll do enough to sail past preselection with the most unlikely Princess Di act ever, but will run out of puff into the new year as her husband no longer has the heft to pull her out of problems she causes. The Libs will choose a local bloke who wears polyester ties with shortsleeve shirts and a $10 haircut. Neal will court the national media, which Coasties don't give a damn about, doing glossy pics that make her look like a rouged-up front-end loader. Prediction: Labor FAIL

  • Gilmore: Should be there for the taking, but isn't. Prediction: Labor FAIL

  • Paterson: Like Gilmore, except you'll have to pry the seat out of Bob Baldwin's cold dead hands and the Hunter Valley ALP are even more useless than Sussex Street. Besides, anyone who's any good will go after Joel Fitzgibbon rather than Bob. Prediction: Labor FAIL

  • Hughes: Oh come on, the redistribution has given a chunk of southwestern Sydney to Labor and Danna Vale is retiring. Even David Hill could win this seat now. Prediction: Labor could still stuff this up.

  • Cowper: Held by the Nats, but demographics favour Labor if the economy stays on an even keel. Prediction: Labor could still stuff this up.

  • Calare: Held by the Nats, a strong local candidate backed by a well-regarded state government could tip this into Labor's column: but where would they get some of that? Prediction: Labor FAIL

  • Lindsay: Might be interesting if Whimpering Troy Craig stays out of it, otherwise it might not be. Prediction: Labor could still stuff this up.

  • Bennelong and Eden-Monaro: Will be quarantined from Sussex Street influence. Libs will run no-hopers. Prediction: Labor will not stuff these up.

  • Wentworth: Nah. Doesn't swing. Labor's next candidate is likely to be a hack rather than a McKew-style game-changer. Prediction: Labor FAIL

Labor will go backwards in NSW at the 2010 election: you read it here first. Like Andrew Peacock in 1984 it is possible that Turnbull could perform creditably against a first-term Labor government - but only within NSW, apparently.


  1. Hi Andrew,

    I am a fan of your blog and appreciate your knowledgeable comments about NSW and Oz Politics.

    In regard to the gluttonous coterie of nest-feathers not even pretending to be the NSW Govt. I was wondering if you could help answer the question: "How did it come to this ?"

    In detail, how did Tripodi get to run NSW ? Where and how were the alliances made ?

    What was Bob Carr's role in the development of this festering mess ?

    How closely is/was Mark Arbib involved ? Why did he move to Federal Politics ?

    What can we expect from a Rudd govt. with Arbib in the background keeping the bodies buried ?

    Here's my latest post on NSW Inc. , now hopefully in the process of being dismantled by Nathan Rees. More power to him.

    All The Best,


  2. Baraholka, I don't know how you can ask "How did it come to this" and then praise the useless, self-negating Rees.

    Tripodi and Carr got into and stayed in office because of Liberal failures. Carr mentored Tripodi, amongst other acts of timidity and neglect.

    Arbib went to Federal politics once he realised the magnitude of the disaster that he had helped bring about, but was not strong enough to change. Rudd offered him a wider stage but he does not appear to have returned the favour by being an effective minister. As I've said, NSW will be a disaster for Labor and I think this will blow back on Arbib to some extent.

  3. Andrew,

    I praise Rees for kicking Tripodi out of Cabinet and in fact from sacking Tripodi as de-facto Premier. For this Rees deserves mounuments erected in his honour if not the creation of a NSW Public Holiday for services to basic decency.

    Rees has also taken on the NSW factions head on which is an act of considerable guts.

    For these things alone Rees ranks well above useless and I don't think he can be fairly called self-negating either as the de-Tripodization of Cabinet is also designed to protect Rees's tenure as Premier.

    Are you saying Carr actively mentored Tripodi or just turned a blind eye to him ?

  4. Basic decency should be just that, Baraholka - basic. A Liberal government will closer the door to Tripodi so I expect you'll go right off then.

    Carr mentored Tripodi in Young Labor and made him a minister. That's pretty active support I reckon.

    As to Rees - the whole problem is that he's a big man in the Labor back rooms but the rest of us can't see the appeal. Policy is too hard so he's retreated to what for him is solid ground. Protecting Rees' tenure as Premier is not a big priority for me or anyone else in NSW outside the ALP.