The train from the airport was
early. The train from Central to Kings Cross was early, too. Was there
something new in NSW? Not really. Labor bastardry never changes. The
mobile went as I emerged on to Darlinghurst Road with the news that Bob
Carr’s deputy and treasurer Andrew Refshauge is quitting politics too (here).

“The
deputy premier, Andrew Refshauge, is likely to remain treasurer,
although the industrial relations minister, John Della Bosca, is
believed to have been considered and the roads minister, Michael Costa,
wants the portfolio,” The Sydney Morning Herald tipped this morning. Whoops! What the Right wants, the Right gets.

Refshauge will be missed – particularly after yesterday’s woeful presser from Iemma. But today’s Australian contained details of another woeful performance – NSW Labor’s tax policies that need to be factored into today’s announcement:

Iemma
is understood to be considering abolishing the controversial 2.25%
vendor tax on the sale of some properties, which would slice an
estimated $358 million off next year’s state revenue. With little room
to move in terms of raising other state taxes, the decision threatens
to put the NSW budget into the red next year for the first time in a
decade, given the state’s projected 2005-06 operating profit is $303
million.

Credit ratings agency Standard and Poor’s last night told The Australian
that “we would be concerned if a state like NSW went into deficit as a
result of huge tax cuts.” S&P’s director of public finance, Brendan
Flynn added: “We are not opposed to deficits as long as you go into
deficit to fund capital spending.”

Not a good look for Treasurer
Refshauge – and an indication of Bob Carr’s leadership shorn of posing
and posturing. The NSW Labor leadership team is usually a Right/Left
combo. John Watkins, the man who some hoped would become premier,
should now get the runner-up position.

Watkins presents well – a
useful attribute after Iemma’s stumbles yesterday and useful with
“unnamed Labor MP” assassination efforts like this job in the SMH today.
The other contender is Carmel Tebbutt, the education minister – and
wife of the shadow minister for environment and heritage, Anthony
Albanese.

NSW Labor. Plus ça change.

Peter Fray

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