01 June 2008

O'Farrell steps up



If someone leading the NSW State Parliamentary Liberal Party really wants to be Premier, the first victory they must win is not in the party room, but over the Liberal Party organisation.

John Carrick was General Secretary of the NSW Division of the Liberal Party, the equivalent of today's State Director, from 1948 to 1971. As a campaigner he was a one-trick pony, hammering fear of Communism: this helped keep the Menzies Government in office federally but it made bugger-all difference in state elections. It wasn't as though Labor governments of this era were comprised of formidable politicians. They were studies in mediocrity who failed to build the infrastructure that could have better supported the growth and potential of NSW. Carrick lost the 1959 election by a single electorate: the then leader, Pat Morton, should have wrung Carrick's neck. Instead, it was Robin Askin who faced Carrick down and finally won an election for his party in 1965.

After Askin the NSW Liberals did their usual revolving-door leadership trick, until Nick Greiner decided that he would actually like to be Premier. Out of his office he ran a political operation in parallel to the hapless Liberal Party administration, which gave Ian Kortlang his taste for lobbying and which gave the Liberals a victory for which the party apparatus could claim little credit.

Now, Barry O'Farrell has done over three clowns at the top of the NSW Liberal organisation. Before the new State Director has had a chance to screw things up O'Farrell has cleared the underbrush of the NSW Liberal Party organisation to build a highway to power. Nick Campbell (the rightwing Ben Franklin) and Michael Photios are not great leaders, but they have shown themselves useful tools to enable O'Farrell to have a clear run at Sorry Morry.

It is necessary, but not sufficient, for a NSW Liberal leader to assert the primacy of his political aims over those of the party organisation. What helps are self-defeating interventions by the ALP like this:
While Mr O'Farrell says he has no doubt the reforms will be endorsed, the state's Labor Premier Morris Iemma says it is unlikely the factional warring is over.

"It is still a party at war, and they've done nothing to stop the war," said Mr Iemma.

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon agrees.

Yairs. Last I heard Iemma is still ploughing ahead with electricity privatisation, at which nobody expects him and his to succeed. What's clear here is that NSW Labor's commitment to political suicide remains strong - while the Liberals' commitment to political suicide in 2007 was even stronger, thanks to O'Farrell it seems to have diminished. Lisa Carty's olfactory senses could well be mistaken: Selig, Vanzella and Webster are done for, it's Labor blood you can smell Lisa.

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