Two polls today point to a clear Labor victory in New South Wales, but differ in their extent: ACNielsen has it at 56-44 in the Sydney Morning Herald, while it’s 53-47 in the Daily Telegraph‘s Galaxy poll. ACNielsen might have more value as a brand name, but a good word should be put in for Galaxy, which has performed extremely well on each of its three previous entries:
Both agencies took advantage of the public mood of disaffection by asking respondents if they thought either side deserved to win, knowing full well the response they would receive. According to Galaxy, 59 per cent said Labor did not deserve to win against 67 per cent for the Coalition; ACNielsen encountered a slightly more contended sample, with figures of 52 per cent and 57 per cent. It’s also interesting to note that both polls indicate a solid increase in the non-major party vote, both compared with 2003 and polls from the start of the campaign. The sense of disenchantment is echoed in each of of the major newspapers’ editorials, although most have given reluctant backing to the Coalition; the exceptions are the Sun-Herald, which alone backed Labor, and the Financial Review, which vaguely indicated a preference for the Coalition without providing an explicit endorsement:
Sydney Morning Herald: "As the Opposition Leader, Peter Debnam has run a disappointing campaign … Yet on the Coalition benches sits a core of talent that could form the nucleus of a good government. In Victoria, Steve Bracks came to power with a similarly small pool of front-bench talent to draw on. By concentrating power in that restricted group, his Labor Government was able to run that state effectively – to the point where, with fewer natural endowments its economy now outperforms NSW. Given the same opportunity, the Coalition could be expected to do the same here. As for inexperience – the argument has no force. In any democracy it stands to reason that a new government will be less experienced than the one it replaces. So what? In any case, Labor’s experience of government has been of repeated and widespread failure. Its supposed experience should be seen, if anything, as a liability. Labor’s best talent resigned soon after Bob Carr. When Michael Egan, Craig Knowles and Andrew Refshauge also quit the scene, Labor lost its edge in ability. Labor and the Coalition now face each other as equals in talent. It is, we admit, an uninspiring choice for voters, but when they enter the ballot box a choice must be made. As voters look from Labor after 12 years – tired, talentless and arrogant – to the Coalition’s untried and patchy team, they must assess the risks each represents. We believe the re-election of Labor is simply one risk too many".
Daily Telegraph: "It’s hard to envisage a more tired, rotten, arrogant, useless government than this lot. Equally, it’s hard to remember a worse campaign than that run by the tragi-comic NSW Liberals and their Speedo-clad leader, who decided five weeks ago to unleash himself on the voters without any pants on … However, today The Daily Telegraph recommends a vote for the Liberals. We happily endorsed Labor in 1999, with qualifications in 2003, but we cannot do so again â€“ at the state level â€“ this time. Labor has now shown it is a demonstrably bad Government â€“ an irretrievably bad Government â€“ with a talent pool shallower than our parched rivers, incapable of becoming a force for genuine good regardless of its future configuration. They simply do not deserve another four years. There is a chance that, despite the misgivings over his campaign methods and past judgment, that Peter Debnam and the Liberals could, in power, deliver a break with the drift and paralysis which mars this current Labor administration, and become a new, fresh, good government.".
The Australian: "The choice that presents itself to voters going into the polling booths tomorrow is not an enviable one. On the one hand incumbent Morris Iemma looks likely to fall over the line by running not just against his opponent but, cynically, against his Labor predecessor Bob Carr as well. On the other is Peter Debnam, a man who should be in the box seat but who has been unable to bring excitement, or policy, to the table … Despite the wealth of ammunition available to it, the Opposition has not been able to push even the most simple message, that the NSW Labor Government has passed its use-by date. But this is clearly the case. At the previous election, we endorsed Labor before the full extent of the state’s woes was known. In hindsight, voters were entitled to feel ripped off at the result. This time we recommend voters suspend their natural suspicion of Mr Debnam and punish the Government. We do so in the full knowledge that it won’t happen and that NSW will wake up on Sunday to the same horror it has today".
Australian Financial Review. "The Labor governments of Morris Iemma and Bob Carr before him have mishandled every important aspect of economic policy under their control, squandering the ‘premier state’ inheritance that fell into Mr Carr’s lap when Labor won government 12 long years ago. Twelve years of autopilot have left NSW with the slowest growth in the country for the past two fiscal years and the slowest growth of any state for the past eight years. Thousands of train passengers were stranded in peak hour in the middle of Sydney Harbour Bridge last week, hospitals and schools are crumbling, NSW has been, with Queensland, the worst manager of water resources, and its bizarre approach to energy markets and privatisation has frustrated the development of an efficient national electricity market. The roads system makes extensive use of private capital but the process has been poorly planned and managed … If the opposition were vaguely competent, Labor would be voted out tomorrow. Sadly the opposition Liberal Party and its leader, Peter Debnam, do not appear to be even vaguely competent. The party is riven by factionalism and in thrall to a right-wing cabal led by upper house MP David Clarke that prizes its own power above the party’s political success and has actively discouraged moderates such as former leader John Brogden. NSW voters are – perhaps understandably in the circumstances – showing themselves to be more forgiving than The Australian Financial Review".
Sunday Telegraph. "It’s impossible to document all of Labor’s failures here. We’ll list a few instead: the economy, land tax, the vendor tax, the Cross City Tunnel, Campbelltown Hospital, hospital waiting lists, everything to do with water, Milton Orkopoulos, Carl Scully, Stephen Chaytor, the Queen Mary 2 visit, trains, buses, school air-conditioning, police numbers, Cronulla riots, the M5 tunnel … Debnam hasn’t been able to sell himself as a viable alternative, and the electorate is right to be suspicious. His policies are wafer-thin, designed exclusively for seven-second television and radio news grabs … the Sunday Telegraph has agonised over the decision confronting voters, but believes a vote for change is necessary. The Coalition could hardly do any worse".
Sun-Herald. "Neither the Government nor the Opposition deserves to win next weekend’s state election. And no doubt many voters will find themselves struggling to put one side ahead of the other as they wait at polling booths on Saturday. The exercise of any real democratic choice seems almost impossible given that this is a two-party contest in which the ALP’s appalling track record is matched only by the Liberal Party’s abject failure to prove itself as a credible alternative … What Debnam has failed to show is that he can do any better on health, transport, education, the environment or service delivery. It has not helped that he’s been a lone voice – seemingly unsupported by a ministry that has remained in the shadows. The result is that the ALP, incredibly, looks to be the better option".
To tie up a few loose ends: five days ago, I promised that posts would be forthcoming summarising the main candidates for the upper house. Unfortunately I have not been able to fit this into my schedule. I will however take a punt on the outcome: nine seats for Labor, eight for the Coalition, two for the Greens, one for Fred Nile and one for Australians Against Further Immigration. The latter will benefit from a good position on the ballot paper, lower house candidates in most seats and the disappearance of One Nation and Pauline Hanson (who ran in 2003 as an independent); the three collectively accounted for 4.3 per cent of the vote in 2003, when 2.0 per cent was enough to win a seat for the Shooters Party. If I’m right, persistence will finally have paid off for the party’s perennial candidate, Janey Woodger. When taken together with ongoing members, this will put the numbers in the upper house at 19 for Labor, 15 for the Coalition (10 Liberal and five Nationals), four for the Greens, two for Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party and one each for the Shooters Party and Australians Against Further Immigration.
Finally, it’s worth noting that those of us outside the state will be getting a remarkably good deal in terms of election night coverage, provided we have pay TV. Not only will Sky News be providing its traditional coverage, but the ABC’s effort will also go to air nationally on ABC2. Failing that, there is also the ABC Radio coverage on News Radio and, best of all, live blogging here at Australia’s forty-fourth most loved political website.