The big question hovering over tomorrow’s state conference of the NSW Labor Party at Sydney’s Darling Harbour is whether Premier Morris Iemma and Treasurer Michael Costa will enter through the main door or be smuggled in through a private entrance.
To enter the conference room, Iemma, his ministers, MPs and delegates will have to pass through a May Day demonstration which will be dedicated almost exclusively to demanding a vote against the sell-off of the State’s power industry.
The proposal is so on the nose that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, an early supporter of the Iemma-Costa offensive, is now backing away and urging compromise.
But it’s too late: compromise is no longer on the table. Even the 11th hour sweeteners – a $7.5 billion future fund, a “mums and dads” share float, job guarantees, pricing watchdogs etc – haven’t shifted anyone within the anti-privatisation majority.
With the vote against privatisation almost a foregone conclusion, the question is – what next for Iemma and Costa?
They face a tumultuous Caucus meeting on Monday and the resumption of parliament on Tuesday. Consecutive defeats at the annual conference tomorrow and then caucus on Monday would be a devastating vote of no confidence in the premier and his treasurer and it’s difficult to see how they could survive.
And if they were then defeated on the floor of the parliament, in either the upper or lower house, the game would be up. One, or both of them, would be obliged to go. They could soldier on, of course, but they would be lame ducks with scarcely any authority in the Cabinet or parliamentary party and even less credibility with the business community, the media and the electorate.
The NSW political landscape is in for some seismic changes.
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