Damage control is one thing the NSW Labor Government is getting plenty of practice at. Recently it has been the turn of Water Utilities Minister David Campbell to deal with a Daily Telegraph story predicting two years of total chaos for residents in the path of pipelines to take water from a planned desalination plant to the rest of Sydney.

The Tele’s story claimed that the plans to demolish houses and close roads was being kept secret ahead of the March election but Minister Campbell was given the brief to say that the concept plan was not going to be followed. Water from the desalination plant at Kurnell in southern Sydney to the inner western suburbs to link up with the city’s main water tunnels would be following a different route.

“No home will be acquired, no home will be abolished to construct this new piece of pipeline, this new piece of infrastructure, if indeed it is built,” Mr Campbell said.

Given the decision to postpone road works to feed motorists into the new Lane Cove toll road tunnel until after polling day, people might well be sceptical about Premier Morris Iemma’s assertion that there is no “secret agenda.” Credibility is no longer his government’s strong suit although the polls still show him with a handy lead. The latest such finding was in yesterday’s Sun Herald where a Taverner poll predicted Labor was cruising to an easy victory.

To an outside observer like me this NSW election is shaping up to be a perfect one for the underdog effect to operate in. People might not actually want a Liberal Government because they do not think much of them either, but they surely would not like an already arrogant government to be returned with too big a majority. A wish to administer a lesson rather than a beating, as Jeff Kennett discovered when he went to an election in Victoria with a similar lead in the polls despite considerable dissatisfaction with his arrogant style, can easily go too far.

Peter Fray

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