With another NSW Election done and dusted, it was a result that could have been predicted a year ago, though it’s highly likely that the result might have been worse for Labor with Luke Foley as leader, who was as effective as lettuce left out in thunderstorm. Daley may have come out with his faux pas with his “Asians taking our jobs” comment and the gotcha moments on the Sky News debate, but Foley seemed to have nothing to add to any campaign other than opposing safe schools and other Miranda Devine friendly policies.
It could have been predicted because the Liberals have done what state governments should do and have built things. Roads, train lines, tram lines. They have spent money on hospitals and schools. Some of these things have taken longer than expected, cost more than expected. However, this Liberal Government has been largely competent in the eyes of voters. That seems to be reflected in the result across various Sydney seats.
The big problem for the ALP in NSW, other than replacing Foley, was that they were left with little on which to campaign. Opposing the stadium rebuilds was a nice piece of symbolism, but that’s all it really was. The fact that the campaign became obsessed with sprinklers is testament to that. Labor was left to suggest an M4 Toll cash back, Victorian Labor’s solar panels idea and not much else. At least they have finally left the Bob Carr days behind, and largely support the building of things.
It also didn’t help the ALP’s cause that the Liberals have a competent Premier who has few apparent character flaws. It may be hard to be enthusiastic about Gladys Berejiklian, but she’s not a Liberal Man Asserting At Everyone in a Morrison, Abbott or a Dominic Perrottet fashion. Or an unapologetic sexist like the departing Upper House member Peter Phelps, who left twitter after delivering more evidence that he will not be missed from the NSW Parliament.
This is why outside comments about how “useless” the ALP were in losing this election are missing the mark. They miss the context of the contest. For a start, it was always a difficult task for Labor to win more than one seat from the Liberals in Sydney. The main seats that needed to swing hard to Labor were Coogee, Oatley, East Hills and Penrith. Coogee has gone back to Labor with the help of the Keep Sydney Open campaign. Oatley, however, was always going to be tough, as the area continues to gentrify and Liberal Moderate Mark Coure continues to a hard working and competent member. East Hills, too, is continuing to gentrify, which always poses problems for the ALP, particularly when the Liberal Government continue to build things, such as, in the case of East Hills, the M5 duplication.
Penrith, however, did witness a sizeable swing away from the Liberals – 4.7% – despite the Westconnex project, a new pedestrian bridge over the Nepean River, upgrading Nepean Hospital and various other increases in infrastructure spending. This indicates that it was not an entirely hopeless campaign for the ALP, and that there were gains.
What makes this election interesting, however, is in the other shifts and trends away from Laberal swings to and fro.
- The Greens. The continuing growth of the Greens’ vote in Balmain and Newtown shows further proof that the ALP need to spend fewer resources in those seats going into the future – the areas clearly like Jamie Parker and Jenny Leong. The same went in Ballina, with Tamara Smith receiving an increased vote, not needing to worry about the decision by the Animal Justice Party to direct preferences to Labor, which was not the usual trend across the state. Lismore is still in play for them. Tellingly, however, the Greens’ vote fell considerably in inner west seat Summer Hill, which should lead to questions about the suitability of their candidate in such a relatively wealthy seat. The Greens’ vote statewide went against their Newtown, Balmain and Ballina result, with another drop, reducing them to scraping in two candidates into the upper house.
- The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers have found their niche as the “Protesting against the useless Nationals” party. Looking at the website of the new member for Murray, Helen Dalton, it’s clear that the campaign direction in these rural seats was about water and the environment, not guns. The background of their three lower house members also speaks to the shift of the party towards a “Rural Independent” vibe. That shift is represented by the professional backgrounds of their new MPs – none of them fit the Shooters’ cliche of Men Who Drive Utes With Angry Bumper Stickers. Their first MP, Philip Donato, who was comfortably returned this time around, was a Police Prosecutor. Helen Dalton is a retired teacher who used to run as an Independent. In Barwon, their candidate, vegan public servant Roy Butler (though he says he only follows a vegan diet, not a vegan philosophy) also focused on land issues, rather than guns. They will be interesting to watch.
- One Nation has had a chequered history in NSW, especially in terms of the lower house. In the upper house, however, there was always an opportunity. Pauline Hanson ran by herself in 2011 and almost won, even though she ran virtually no campaign and entered very late into the contest. That was also the time when she had been out of parliament for some time and did not appear all that much on any media outlet. This time, however, the Mt Hunter Hermit himself, Mark Latham, has added his own brand of populist, racist opportunism to the party. He has been successfully using a regular place on Sunrise and the ability to work with Sydney’s rabid talkback radio culture to safely secure a spot in the Legislative Council. In the lower house, One Nation showed its ability to attract votes, despite their candidates being terrible campaigners. They didn’t run in many seats – A 13% vote in Camden, 11% in Wollondilly, 10% in Maitland, 8% in Holsworthy and 6.7% in Penrith shows that these seats are still rife with supporters of populist, irrational racism. A blip from this election was their anti-burqa Muslim candidate in Hornsby. She got 5%.
What does this all mean for the Federal Election?
The short answer – not a lot. The Federal Government don’t generally do very much for people in the way state governments can. The state government builds train lines while the Federal government spent the Abbott years blocking the funding of them. The state government funds hospitals and schools while the Feds spend money on robodebt systems that end up not only costing almost as much as it collects, but cause widespread psychological trauma. The Feds have the shouty and smug Scott Morrison as leader, who doesn’t really appear to do much. This is why Barrie Cassidy’s opining from last night misses the mark.
Some of Lindsay swung to the Liberals, which can be suggested in part due to the deceleration of funding and attention on Londonderry when compared to 2015, as well as the virtual ignoring of rural Mulgoa. Penrith itself, however, swung to Labor. It may be true, however, that NSW might not swing as much as Victoria and Queensland. Time will tell. The Nationals, however, have a lot to worry about, especially if rural independents feel emboldened by the performance of the SFF.
But it’s a pity that the Federal election probably won’t see the candidate stylings of Eddie Dogramachi, the independent candidate for Hawkesbury. I was made aware of him though a photo shared with me by twitter user @clarissaclw, which is placed at the beginning of this post. Eddie doesn’t seem happy with very much and believes he can End The Misery. A high ambition indeed.