MERCURY SAYS: Why Labor must go

By Editorial
Updated November 5 2012 - 2:46pm, first published March 23 2011 - 10:49pm
MERCURY SAYS: Why Labor must go

When this Labor government was first elected in 1995, it promised hope, vision and a new path for the people of NSW.But on Saturday voters will go to the polls across NSW and dump it in what is expected to be one of the most humiliating defeats in Australian political history.So, what went wrong?After 16 years, any government can become tired, lazy, complacent and arrogant.This Labor government is all of those things.It has also proven itself in many situations to be incompetent and scandal-prone.However, what offends many people, and certainly offends those in this Labor heartland, is how Labor's obsession with itself has been to the detriment of those it claims to serve.Like Narcissus staring into the pond, NSW Labor cannot see anything but its own image and thereby is blind to its fundamental public duties.It is why Labor, on the balance of all analysis, has failed to deliver in many areas of transport, education, health and infrastructure.It is why the "Premier State" has lost its lustre, drive and status; why our economy and spirit are not what they should be.It is why the Labor brand, established on egalitarian, working-class values, has been eroded in NSW.It is why Labor cannot possibly be returned; why today we say NSW stands more to gain from an O'Farrell government than it does another throw of the dice with Labor.This is not a glowing endorsement for a Liberal government. We say it with trepidation.Our concern relates chiefly to what a Liberal government could see as an open invitation to cut services, compounding the difficulties of the socially vulnerable in its political nether regions such as the Illawarra.Have we heard anything to placate such fears at this point? No.As for the Illawarra, is advocating for change at a state level the same as saying we ought to dump Labor from five Illawarra seats - Heathcote, Keira, Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama?We believe that in calling for a new government we can achieve a mix of allegiances that will better place our region.Labor's five MPs here have sought to portray a sense of unity in serving the Illawarra.It is true that under their reign we have seen the phenomenal expansion of the University of Wollongong and the port, redevelopment at WIN Stadium, the introduction of the free Gong Shuttle and the opening of the Northern Distributor, among other achievements.However, as welcome as state funding has been for the university's various complexes, its growth is largely due to its own enterprising culture. As for those other roads, buildings and services, we should not have to beg for our fair share of the state budget. We would argue we deserved more.Many voters will be thinking about health as they head to the ballot box on Saturday. Sadly, Wollongong Hospital is inadequately resourced and it is only by the good nature, talents and humanitarian efforts of medical, nursing and administrative staff that it manages on a daily basis. Hopefully the new state government can do better.As well, the five MPs have not delivered to community expectations on a range of wider regional fronts, essentially because of their lack of team play and team planning. At times, relationships between them have been strained, even acrimonious. If they had taken a true Team Illawarra approach the region would have been so much better off.If Mercury-Iris polling is correct, sitting MPs Paul McLeay and Matt Brown will lose in Heathcote and Kiama. In Shellharbour, Anna Watson is guaranteed to become the ALP's new member.Then there are the Illawarra's two most intriguing seats, Keira and Wollongong.As much as the other three seats have their own dynamics, what happens here will determine the immediate fortunes of NSW's third largest city.Keira is going down to the wire and could be so close that we do not get a result on Saturday night.Retiring Labor MP David Campbell would have expected in other circumstances to have just passed the baton to his protege Ryan Park. A young gun who worked in Mr Campbell's office and scored a $250,000 senior position in the public service, Mr Park's drive and hard work will ensure him a bright future with the party. He would be a strong advocate for constituents.With a 22 per cent margin, how could Labor lose the seat? However, such is this imminent electoral tsunami, the Liberals' John Dorahy, a league "great" and pokies businessman, is a good chance. It is why we have seen Premier Kristina Keneally in the Illawarra an incredible nine times in seven weeks.Would we have more to gain as a region with a Liberal member in Keira and a Liberal government in Macquarie St? Incumbency has not been favourable to us and only time would tell.And then there's Wollongong.We have thought long and hard here.Sitting Labor member Noreen Hay would be the first to admit she would not win a popularity contest like Australian Idol. But she could be guaranteed to go the distance in Survivor.Ms Hay has many political foes, notably ones in her own party. They and others have been running an anti-Noreen campaign.Fundamentally, we ask, has she delivered for her constituents and can we do better?In some ways, Noreen Hay epitomises what is wrong with Labor. Just as her party has been preoccupied with factional plays and politics, she has too often been caught up in what we would call the business of politics.We don't doubt her genuine efforts for her core supporters in the ethnic community and in Wollongong's working-class suburbs.However, too much of her energy, it would seem to us, is spent on maintaining her power base rather than it being devoted to the wider interests of a city crying out for leadership in such challenging times.Politics is the mechanism in a democracy to bring about change for the better for a community. But it is not the means and the end.The Liberal candidate Michelle Blicavs and the high-profile padre, Gordon Bradbery, are credible alternatives at this point in Wollongong's history.Ironically, a scandal-plagued Labor government felt compelled to sack our "systemically corrupt" local government (fuelled by the misdeeds of Labor-endorsed councillors). We should not forget the infamy this brought upon all of us - and local democracy must be restored. Our CBD is also in dire need of revitalisation.The Liberals say that a Liberal member in conjunction with a Liberal government would deliver the services and projects we need.We are suspicious. With the election pendulum likely to swing back, in part, to Labor next time around, and with Illawarra seats possibly falling back to Labor, we are not sure Barry O'Farrell will have the political incentive.Hence, as part of the new mix, an independent has strong appeal.Pastor Gordon Bradbery is not the messiah. His campaign smacks of a political novice. He preaches an "anti-corruption" and ethical line; that he won't be beholden to anyone. But as we have revealed, key business movers and shakers in Wollongong are behind him. If elected, how will he play to their expectations?That said, Mr Bradbery provides a new energy.We end on this note because Wollongong is the contest that will define change in the Illawarra. Fancy a seat with a 25 per cent margin falling?And, overall, if five Labor seats become one or two Labor seats, two or three Liberal ones and an independent, we suddenly have a more vibrant mix.We have spoken boldly here because in a world that is moving so fast these are not times for the timid.You may disagree with elements of what we have said - or everything. Perhaps you'll agree. But it is right that we have a say on something of such importance.On Saturday you have your say. Use it wisely and use it for the Illawarra.