Third time lucky?

Nathan Rees’ 15 month premiership of New South Wales has come to an end following his 47-21 defeat in a party leadership vote by Heffron MP Kristina Keneally. Of course, what New South Wales needs is not a new Labor leader but an election and a change of government, and the fact that there is little prospect of this occurring until March 2011 raises questions about the state’s electoral and constitutional arrangements. Keneally becomes Australia’s fourth female premier, and the third to be granted the stewardship of a doomed Labor government. Rees has not said what he plans to do now: notwithstanding the current margin of 14.4 per cent, Labor would probably start the underdog in a by-election for his seat of Toongabbie.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

251 comments on “Third time lucky?”

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  1. dovif,

    Labor says boo!

    Maintain your partisan rants if you like, but kids still go to school, people still get treated in hopital and trains and buses still run. Life goes on even as the whingers squeak like rusty gates.

  2. Which ICAC subsequently cleared Greiner of any wrongdoing?

    Well, you’re close, Laocoon. ICAC brought the finding that Greiner has acted corruptly, and a few weeks or so later he appealed to the courts and won. However, Hatten and the Indies said they did not withdraw their support from Greiner due to the ICAC finding, but due their total disagreement with the “bribe” for Metherhill to retire.

  3. [If we’re going to criticise those responsible for fixed four year terms, let’s blame the right people. Take a bow the voters of NSW. NSW is the only state to adopt four year terms by referendum. The Independents fixed the term of the 1991-95 parliament, those since have been created by the referendum.]

    What a pleasure to have Antony back up one of my earlier comments. Thanks, AG

  4. I may have quit the ALP but i will be voting liberal next state election. I find the greens anathema and i would hate them to win my seat (Balmain).

  5. Vortex,
    Back when we had the fine, in retrospect, Wran Govt., I became a member in the ALP Balmain Branch, and we subsequently lost the seat to an Independent, Dawn Fraser.

  6. Just been flicking through Psephos/Adam’s site’s NSW electoral results for 2007. Here is Heffron, Keneally’s seat…

    [Kristina KENEALLY * ALP 23,066 56.4 +02.1
    Ben Spies-Butcher Grn 8,031 19.7 +06.9
    James Cogan 875 02.1
    Scott Nash Lib 8,889 21.8 +04.0]

    I wonder if there is a reasonable swing against ALP that goes to GRN/LIB, GRN could finish ahead of Liberals and get their prefs, and potentially Keneally loses here own seat?

  7. Greensbourough

    oh yeah you reminded me the train still run, it now take me 5 minute extra (25% extra) to get to work… because the govenment wants to report more trains are running on time, by forcing train to stop for 2 extra minutes at 3 stations……. It is really good spin, if we change the definition of a late train from 5 to 10 minutes, we can say trains are on time more than ever

    If the Liberals stole 10 minutes of my day each day, I would be complaining about them too

  8. dovif,

    “oh yeah you reminded me the train still run, it now take me 5 minute extra (25% extra) to get to work”.

    Obviously explains your decreased blogging. There’s a reason for everything.

  9. To channel Paul Keating, Labor won’t be asking for another 4 years at the next election, they’ll be asking for 20, which they won’t get.

    I wonder why Keneally would put her hand up for the gig knowing she will lose the election and essentially taint her political career (although John Fahey did get a Federal Cabinet seat having lost the ’95 election, so taint might not be right word…)

  10. More Catholic politicians. At least she is in a Labor Party.

    I thought she was on a promise from the Pope when he was here last year the way she carried on. However she had to settle for just blowing the budget on World Roman Catholic Yoof Day or whatever it was.

    I suppose Uncle Tom’s novels will be made compulsory texts in NSW schools.

  11. Lacoon
    Yes, a new post created for environmental policy, but Metherhill was promised he would have the job without it being advertised for normal public recruitment.

  12. Again, just flicking thru the 2007 results, the only other seat that might be good for Greens might be Blue Mountains, but even that looks pretty hard

    Though I guess a bit silly making any prognostications 16 months out 😀

    Off to bed, before my early morning jog around the Domain; hope they have cleaned up all the blood from in front of the Parliamentary offices by then

  13. [I suppose Uncle Tom’s novels will be made compulsory texts in NSW schools.]

    LOL, Albert. However, we could do a heckuva lot worse than “Gossip in the Forest”, “Schindler’s Ark”, “Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith”, etc.. They are modern classics.

  14. Laocoon,
    Forgot to mention that Greiner’s blunder was that he could have just made this new environmental policy position a member of the Premier’s personal staff and not been found corrupt by ICAC, but this was to be a gazetted position in a Public Service department. So basically Greiner shot himself in the foot.

  15. No worries, Laocoon. Coincidentally I just finished reading a book on Greiner’s rise and fall,
    “An Act of Corruption?” by Gleeson, Allan, and Wilkins, which is why it’s fresh in my mind. 🙂

  16. Hemingway,

    The Greiner matter proves the whole ICAC culture is rubbish. Greiner was exonerated yet lost his political career.

    Biggest waste of money ever.

  17. I see that Kristina Kerscher Keneally was born in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1969.

    KKK, Las Vegas and ’69 – it all has a certain felicity.

  18. Once they legalised gambling, held the Wood Royal Commission, jailed a Chief Stipendiary Magistrate, etc, etc, NSW politicians ran out of underworld activities to be involved with.

    It’s been a boring bunch of incompetent public servants and Labor hacks ever since.

  19. [The Greiner matter proves the whole ICAC culture is rubbish. Greiner was exonerated yet lost his political career.

    Biggest waste of money ever.]

    GG, spot on. The irony was that Greiner created ICAC to seek and destroy former Labor ministers.

  20. We are still suffering from Kermie’s so called reforms most of which he culled from the Thatchler textbook. Public Education, Children’s Services and Mental health are three areas that have not ever recovered. If anyone ever deserved to be hoist by his own petard it was him.

  21. Greiner wasn’t exonerated.
    His victory in the court was on a legal technicality.
    According to Jeff Shaw’s account ‘In Greiner v ICAC the Court of Appeal held that ICAC had erred in making the declaration of corruption in relation to Mr Greiner, in particular because there must be “objective standards” that represent a prerequisite for that finding.’

  22. It an utter furphy to argue against fixed terms based on the NSW experience as any party on the ropes (as this one clearly is) will do anything to survive whatever the system! It would require a severe split within the party in government of the day for it to lose a vote of no confidence (be it Labor or Liberal) irrespective of whether there is a fixed term or not.

    Unfortunately it is one the flaws in our current system of parliamentary democracy which jumps up from time to time. It is very sad that the citizens of NSW are deprived of the opportunity to fix up a desperate state of affairs but this would be the case whether there were fixed terms or not.

  23. Where on earth did I read requests to say Sorry to “us.”

    Amongst many others, the time consumed having to wait and wait upon or in public transport.

    One’s life eddying, as one waits.

    For the train or tram to arrive, to move on.

    I believe it is not really that the infrastructure is the basic problem.

    It is the population and the concentration of work opportunities in Sydney itself.

    The best of best traffic flow occurred when Sydney was shut down to enable the Olympics. People used public transport, which worked in the main very well.

    Friends reported that their necessary drive to work or whatever took a quarter of the customary time.

    Notwithstanding that I was caught up in an unfortunately timed train failure in pouring rain. (Climate Change ?) Had both time and opportunity to buy a jacket, to I think it was at about 8.30 pm. As a suddenly freezing visitor.

    Took forever, but not too forever, to work out how to pick the bus I needed to get to my intended destination. And to fight my way onto one of the overcrowded buses.

    Worse things have happened, and they were comparatively worse, in terms of our small numbers, in attempting to get on public transport after major events in Adelaide.

    With tired and irritable kids in tow.

    It is just that Sydney is unmanageable. Population.

    It is just that Adelaide is unmanageable. Public Transport.

  24. [We are still suffering from Kermie’s so called reforms most of which he culled from the Thatchler textbook. Public Education, Children’s Services and Mental health are three areas that have not ever recovered. If anyone ever deserved to be hoist by his own petard it was him.]

    Albert, I hope you return to read my response.

    I personally witnessed Greiner gleefully commence the demolition of a once-proud TAFE system. One of my TAFE colleague’s was a classmate of Greiner at Riverview, and a couple years after Greiner’s demise my colleague had a 50th birthday celebration, at which Greiner was one of the speakers.

    My colleague was trying to introduce me to Greiner, and being caught off guard, I just shook my head and walked away. If I had spoken at all, it would have ruined the celebration because I’d have told Greiner what a rat-bastard he is.

  25. Hemingway,

    You only have to look at WA where ponderous inquiries reveal people spoke to each other, to know these Corruption Commissions are expensive balls of wind.

    Sure Gordon Nuttall copped a sentence. But would he have got the same under due process of the Law?

    Personally, I believe political culture in Australia is mostly corruption free and nearly all politicans and aspirants I have met and been involved with are motivated by good intentions.

    I just see it as a travesty that the aspiration to political involvement is becoming criminalised by hysterical rantings from fringe groups about corruption.

  26. [Gusface,
    Thanks for the spelling correction. Please note that this puts me in good company, e.g. Antony Green]

    No worries.

    I met JH quite a few times way back when.

    Now there was a man of principle,integrity and gall.

    Nifty did not like having to account to some bloke from nowra.

  27. To: Paul Gibson, Nick Lalich, Noreen Hay, John Della Bosca, Matt Brown, Grant McBride, Cherie Burton, Ninos Khoshoba, Rob Furollo, Frank Terenzini, Richard Amery, Tony Stewart, Tanyia Gadiel and Diane Beamer.

    I certainly hope that you and Mr. Obeid and Mr. Tripodi are happy with instilling an undemocratic, mafia style of power within NSW Government. Your unrelenting desire to screw with the people of NSW for your own factional powerbase, is frankly disgusting.

    The Labor party and people of your electorate do not deserve such representation from factional representatives such as yourself. I am ashamed to be a Newsouthwelshman today, even more disgusted that for the last 15 months we actually may have had an honest, everyday leader, one who came from a honest everyday background.

    I certainly will be placing my vote in the NSW elections with anyone other than the Labour Party, after voting labour for the last 19 years, you have now chosen for me, taken away my right to common decency, good governance and democracy.

    Shame on you and your factional mates for disallowing NSW the right to a good government. Let us now hope that the Governor listens to the peoples petition and gets rid of all of you rats that don’t deserve to represent the people of NSW.When you realise that your pay packets are our taxes and that you work for us, then maybe just maybe you might deserve the titles of Honourable. There was nothing honourable about you rats today.

    Dr Gary Martin

  28. GG,

    A recent world-wide study found Australia was the 4th least corrupt country in the world. I agree nearly all pollies are motivated by good intentions.

    I knew Hawke’s Fed. Minister for Education Peter Baldwin quite well when I worked with him in the Balmain ALP Branch, and he’s one of the finest blokes you could ever meet. Fortunately for Labor, Peter was highly intelligent, ethical and incredibly hard working. He’s enjoying a justly deserved retirement in the Blue Mts., where I bumped into him a little while back.

  29. >>William has called the election 15 mths out!

    Well you don;t have to be Nostradamus to do that. However let us not underestimate the ability of the NSW Liberal and National Parties to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory to regurgitate yet another cliche.

  30. Gus,
    According to the book I read on Greiner’s downfall, it was JH who kept the Indies from chickening out when the pressure on them was enormous to let Greiner step down, but not out, pending his appeal. JH seemed impervious to the pressure, but it must have taken its toll.

  31. Hemmingway,

    Altho not religious myself,there was a touch of the saintly about john.

    I think he was that rare type that had conviction no matter what and would not bend,at one stage nifty quoted the old chestnut ‘wont someone rid me of this priest’.

    His appeal was a lot like oakshotts in the sense that of a “cleanskin”.

    In those days ,the community there on the nsw south coast was strongly independent and enjoyed a certain “frontier ” mentality.

    John was known to easily half the electorate personally and ensured that he championed the areas concerns.

    he would have made a good governor or even gg

  32. This is indeed a difficult time to be a Labor loyalist in NSW. (What was I thinking when I moved from Victoria?) Rees was always an obvious dud to me, I don’t why the Labor right agreed to have him as Premier in the first place. I’ve no idea whether Keneally will be any better, but I’m not optimistic. I accept that the NSW Labor government is politically dead and needs to be given a decent burial, but nothing would induce me to vote Liberal (or National in my seat, even worse), nor could I ever vote Green. I also have a lot of regard for my local member (Steve Whan) and will both work and vote for his re-election. This is a contradiction, to be sure, but I’m stuck with it.

    We have been here before, with the hopeless Unsworth government in 1988. Several lessons arise from that experience.

    * People said the Liberals and Nationals couldn’t possibly be worse than Unsworth, but it turned out they were. As someone pointed out above, Greiner’s naive Thatcherism did immense damage to NSW’s social infrastructure. And Greiner’s Liberal Party was much more moderate than the current version! The NSW Labor Party may be a sick beast, but the Libs are infected with rabid and very dangerous extremism.
    * Despite taking a heavy beating in 1988, Labor was back in office in seven years. Smarty pants Greiner proved an inept premier, and O’Farrell isn’t nearly as smart as Greiner. So there is some ground for optimism in the longer term. But Labor can’t just assume that the Libs will fail and that they will coast back to office in one or two terms. Success in the future is contingent on Labor sorting out its structural and personnel problems in opposition.
    * The independents elected in 1988 from strong Labor seats (Keegan, Fraser, Arkell, etc) proved to be worthless and were defeated after one term. Labor may lose some traditional strongholds to Greens and independents in 2011, but buyer’s remorse will soon set in.

    There are some other lessons:

    * I have been a supporter of fixed terms, but I think I have now changed my mind. It has the advantage of predictability, and stops premiers calling snap elections when it suits them, but the traditional flexibility of the Westminster system also allows a failing government to be put out of its misery.
    * The NSW ALP’s factional system is severely broken, with neither left nor right able to attract enough competent and honest people into state politics. The problem is not factionalism per se – Victoria has entrenched factions, but that hasn’t stopped Bracks and Brumby governing effectively and finding a Cabinet of reasonably competent ministers. There is clearly a structural and cultural problem at the base of NSW state Labor politics. The corrupt influence of liquor, gambling and property interests is obviously part of this, but that’s always been a problem in NSW politics (see Bob Askin), so it’s not the whole story.
    * The federal system is breaking down, at least as far as NSW is concerned. NSW seems to have worse infrastructure, health and transport problems than any other state, and they seem beyond the capacity of state government to fix. This is only partly due to the incompetence of the current government. It’s partly due to the very rapid growth of Sydney, partly due to Howard starving NSW of funding, partly due to NIMBYism and the power of vested interests. Would a federal takeover solve these problems?

  33. >> buyer’s remorse

    “Post purchase dissonance” is the flash rat marketer’s term for it…

    Adam I hope you have luck with the Whan campaign – he seems a decent cove.

  34. I’m depressed. I remember when Mr Kristina Kenneally and Joe Tripodi (and assorted others) where keen young things running around the Sydney Uni Labor Club….oh the humanity….

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