31 October 2008

Nothing to show for it

In today's papers we've seen two reasons why the NSW Labor Party is dead, and the Rees experiment has failed. They haven't done enough; and they've committed to do much less going forward than is necessary.

Frank Sartor has positioned himself as the keeper of the NSW Labor flame, and given this effort it looks like the flame is so dim a sudden cold snap could see him off.
NSW Labor is re-enforcing the claim of the Opposition and Liberal-leaning media commentators, that the Carr and Iemma governments were "bad" governments. Little wonder that Labor's voting base is deserting it.

Labor's most consistent policy over the last thirteen years has to keep state politics reporters close to Labor. It seems that the closer they get to NSW Labor, the more Liberal they become. Ask yourself why that is Franky boy.
Bob Carr lamented to a student audience at Sydney University that the government was failing to articulate its achievements, citing the falling smoking rate as an example, down 4 percentage points in the past four years alone, largely due to the good work of the NSW Cancer Institute.

Consistent with general declines in this area over the past decade. Congratulations on finding an area in which NSW did not fail utterly, though.
Add to this that suicide rates have almost halved, alongside big drops in cancer and heart disease death rates, and there seems to be a lot of good news to tell.

No right to claim them as achievements of the Labor government, though.
But despite 88 per cent of public hospital users rating their experience as "good or very good", the Government is reinforcing a perception of a "poor" health system and, hence, "poor" government.

88% of public hospital users see staff run off their feet and shoddy equipment, with scope for improving these eaten up by bureaucrats with no heath-related role - only to supply stats among themselves, or to the Minister's office for a press release. At a time of plenty we had a right to expect more and better.
With hindsight, every government can do better, and every government deals with some challenges better than others.

This is pathetic. Sartor's ego could not admit of error or it would collapse, which made it impossible for him to act as an agent of renewal. It's this sort of skittishness in the face of scrutiny that makes people turn off when the spruiking begins.
it is healthy to acknowledge past errors

Healthier still to fix them, Frank. That's what you were never good enough to do.
No one can seriously question Carr's environmental gains. His was one of the first governments in the world to introduce a greenhouse gas trading scheme; it protected native vegetation and expanded conservation lands.

OK, so we're not allowed to question Carr's environmental policies - but what you can do is ignore them. The greenhouse gas trading scheme is a non-starter, not part of the Garnaut future nor much evident in the present. Native vegetation has always been protected and Carr would assume lands without providing for their upkeep.
It introduced sustainability controls on new housing - saving 40 per cent on water and greenhouse emissions

All we need now is some new housing.
A recent national education survey showed NSW children bettered the national average for all skills and categories measured and, in many cases, topped the nation.

This was the case in 1995, when Virginia Chadwick was Education Minister, and NSW has only succeeded in this field to the extent that it (repackaged, renamed) continued those policies.
Community services and child protection have been improved

This is a lie. These areas have been run down to nothing.
Almost all public hospitals have been upgraded or rebuilt ...

Basic maintenance has been meagre, as you'd expect under a Labor government.
... the health budget more than doubled ...

Given an increasing but ageing population, a baby boom and significant advances in health technologies, not to mention bureaucratic bloat, this can only be described as pathetic.
... and waiting lists for predicable surgery have been slashed.

No, they have been fiddled with until they cease to function as useful indicators of reality.
... the Olympics was an outstanding success and five expressways were completed ...

These were legacies of the previous Coalition government. Again, Sartor is seeking credit for not screwing them up rather than claiming success for Labor.
... critics dwell on teething problems with the Cross City and Lane Cove Tunnels, where the government rightly shifted the risk to the private sector.

These were Labor initiatives, Labor screw-ups. The government was absolutely wrong to shift long-term transport planning to commercial interests that had no interests therein.
But recent changes to planning bodies -

Oh Franky boy, don't even go there, Rees will look after the ALP donors, that's all you need to worry about.
In public transport the Carr government built major bus transitways and started the rail clearway program.

So? A pathetic and desultory effort. At a time of plenty we had a right to expect more and better.
Iemma ... devised the visionary metro line to Rouse Hill. This was to properly connect Sydney's east and west.

The metro line was always the wrong solution of the northwest, and the clowns who spiked the Parramatta to Epping line can claim credit for nothing.
Carr and Egan have been criticised for paying off all the state's debt - $12 billion of it - and not spending more on public transport infrastructure instead. One can agree with that criticism with the benefit of hindsight.

Fine, but the whole idea of you being there was to change that decision at the time, not to mince around it in hindsight.
The trouble with the stampede to rebrand the Government is that it risks ditching good policies for the sake of short-term political expediency.

If NSW Labor loses the next election its only legacy will be the good policies it fostered. Political gymnastics and spin is never enduring. If that happens Labor's Sussex Street head office will have a lot to answer for.

It has ditched non-policies and flung itself into a void, and as to NSW Labor having anything to answer for - you helped create non-answerable Labor, Frank, Labor that spruiked but did not listen. Thirteen years of achievements press releases have wafted down Macquarie Street and are choking turtles as we speak, Frank. This isn't atonement, it's nothing at all.

A bit like this, really. Rees has been planning to ditch the northwest metro for ages but has not had the guts to announce it. People stopped listening to him once he commissioned the Supercars thing at Homebush. He really thinks that the future of hundreds of thousands of people matters less than the Leg Man from Bankstown.
"Labor's planning policies are putting a city the size of Canberra into Sydney's north-west and now Mr Rees has condemned those people to continued use of buses and cars."

Too right Barry, this is the single biggest failure of thirteen years of planning Sydney. Now, you have to come up with some ideas given that Rees is so discredited.


  1. I don't agree with most of this.

    The three (related) really big failures of the NSW ALP have come from their obsession with silly short-term media games at the expense of long-term re-election strategies (a characteristic they share with the Rudd goverment), the intimacy with property developers (again spurred by the short term at the expense of the long term) and extreme debt avoidance at exactly the time when Sydney needed massive public infrastructure projects that could and should have been funded by debt.

    They are rightly paying the penalty for these. But Sartor is right - on health, education and conservation their record is better than most.

  2. Your second paragraph is spot on but the third isn't. I don't know what criteria you can acclaim their performance in health, their performance in education has been poor and in conservation they have done the same short-term thing you mention in your preceding paragraph.