Time to give the B team a turn?

The NSW Liberals are the perennial B team of Australian politics. Since the emergence of the current two-party system, they (and their UAP/Nationalist) predecessors have held office only when incumbent Labor governments have either split or been so long in office that the accumulated arrogance and corruption is too much to take*. On those criteria, the performance of the Iemma government suggests that the Libs may finally be due for a turn. But there are a couple of obvious problems: the next election is not due for a couple of years, and the Liberals have never looked capable of presenting a credible alternative than they do now (to be fair, they look marginally better for the change from Debnam to O’Farrell).

So, I’d prefer it if Labor had a go at internal renewal. John Sutton’s suggestion that Iemma be replaced by his deputy, John Watkins, looks like a start. There’s also the possibility of an old-style party-Parliamentary leadership split over electricity privatisation, with threats to force the resignation of Treasurer Michael Costa. Again, the sooner the better, as far as I’m concerned.

If Iemma and Costa lose their jobs before pushing their privatisation through, it will, no doubt harm their prospects of well-paid post-political sinecures. But the financial sector looks after its own, and I’m sure something will be found for these loyal allies.

* I can’t recall ever reading much about the 1965 election which brought the startlingly corrupt Askin government to power, and introduced the one sustained period of Liberal rule with (I think) four election wins in a row. Still, Labor had been in for 24 years and the rightwing machine that has produced so many of our current hacks was already in charge, so I don’t think this can be a big exception to the rule.

57 thoughts on “Time to give the B team a turn?

  1. Can anyone tell me whey this comes up when I try to post?

    Have I been banned / censured?

    Precondition Failed

    The precondition on the request for the URL /wp-comments-post.php evaluated to false.

  2. Can anyone comment on claims made the story Private power ‘cheaper’ in the Australian of Friday 29 February:

    JUDGING by the Victorian experience, households and businesses in NSW can expect lower prices following electricity privatisation, together with more choice for consumers and fewer supply interruptions.

    Greg Wilson, chairman of Victoria’s Essential Services Commission, said similar fears expressed by opponents of the Kennett government’s state power sell-off in the 1990s had proved baseless.

    “When you look back to the debate, and the view that this would lead to increases in profits and prices and under-investment, the facts themselves in our performance reporting show the opposite,” Mr Wilson said.

    Based on a standard annual electricity consumption of 4000 kilowatt hours peak and 2500kWh off-peak, the commission found customers could save $79-$150 through market offers, depending on the standing tariff, which ranged from $926 to $956 across the five retail areas.

    “Those detractors of the process in NSW who try to claim that the performances deteriorated in Victoria are actually completely wrong,” (said Brad Page, chief executive officer of the peak industry body, the Energy Supply Association).

    They do admit the record of privatisation in SA was “less clear-cut”. (I thought it was a total fiasco), but manage to conjure up a favourable spin to put on the whole experience:

    In South Australia, power interruptions have been stable, with the exception of the heatwave summer in 2005-06. South Australia received a net total of $4.9 billion for the breakup and sale of power, coal and gas assets between 1999 and 2001, compared with the $22.5 billion reaped by Victoria.

    All these these claims appear to superficially lend plausibility to the case for privatisation in a very narrrow limited sense, but one can be practically certain that we are being given far less than the complete picture.

    What we are certainly not being told of will be the loss of employment and training opportunities (i.e. ”feather bedding”) as has occurred withthe privaisation of Telstra.

    Tha Australian’s Editorial of the same day, perversely named Power to the people seized upon this study to push it’s usual pro-privatisation message. Naturally to the Murdoch editorial writers, the wishes of two- thirds of the NSW public whom it claims to have been duped by “a union-funded scare campaign” counts for nothing.

  3. I see further heartening developments in the fight against privatisation in the SMH article “ALP Left ready to fight Costa” of 29 February:

    IEMMA Government MPs are on the brink of rebellion after one of the Labor Party’s most senior figures endorsed the right of ALP politicians to vote in Parliament against the planned privatisation of the state’s electricity industry.

    Luke Foley, the party’s assistant general secretary who leads the Left faction, has told his MPs that if the Treasurer, Michael Costa, introduced privatisation bills before the issue is debated at the ALP conference in May, the Government would be breaching an agreement with unions.

    Mr Foley reportedly told the (Left’s annual general) meeting: “A commitment was given that no legislation would be introduced prior to the party conference. If privatisation legislation is introduced prior to the conference, then MPs would be within the their rights to tell caucus that they would not vote for it when it came before Parliament.”

    Mr Foley was responding to a question from … one of 250 members at the gathering … Another Left member, the Sydney solicitor James Shaw, said Mr Foley was even more explicit, arguing that loyalty to party policy, which opposes power privatisation, was more important than the rule demanding caucus members vote together in Parliament.

    “Luke expressed the view that ALP rules on policy overrode the principal of caucus solidarity,” Mr Shaw told the Herald.

    “He said that he supported caucus solidarity in general but, because electricity privatisation was so obviously against party policy, Labor MPs were free to cross the floor – and everyone in the room totally supported Luke.”

    Mr Shaw said the delegates also passed a resolution unanimously opposing the privatisation.

    Mr Foley’s comments will embolden the 15 Labor politicians, including the right-wingers Paul Gibson and Grant McBride, who marched with 5000 unionists on Tuesday against the privatisation.

    His statement also directly contradicts Wednesday’s claim by the Energy Minister, Ian Macdonald, that no MP would cross the floor. …

    … Mr Foley has already felt the heat from unions and activists, who elected him at the last ALP conference, for helping to thwart a special anti-privatisation conference.

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