Today’s Sydney media is awash with “peace in our time” reports that the Iemma Government’s power privatisation legislation has been rescued by Barry O’Farrell’s Opposition.

The agreement between Iemma and O’Farrell to send the Bill to Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat for a three-month scrutiny was hailed as a victory … for both of them!

“”oalition rescues Iemma on power,” trumpeted The Sydney Morning Herald and “Opposition signs on to power sell-off” and “O’Farrell scores victory on extracting changes” screamed The Australian.

Treasurer Michael Costa added to the atmosphere of triumphalism in his remarks to the SMH:

Mr Costa said Opposition support for privatisation was always inevitable given its policy support for private enterprise. ‘This was always the way it was going to proceed’.

In other words, Costa has admitted that he was unconcerned about reaching an agreement with his own party and treating it with scarcely concealed contempt because he always believed Coalition support was “in the bag”. His comments have deeply annoyed Coalition MPs who have been made to look like Labor’s patsies.

At a press conference this morning O’Farrell and Nationals Leader Andrew Stoner were at pains to stress that the Coalition is not locked in to the sale. They will await the Auditor-General’s report and the rural and regional impact survey before deciding how to vote.

“The NSW Liberal/Nationals final position on the enabling legislation will be determined on the basis of the contents of these reports,” O’Farrell said.

His tactic is clear; he is enjoying the division between the Labor Government and the NSW branch of the Labor Party and he is anxious to perpetuate the government’s agony over privatisation.

Instead of killing off the unpopular privatisation issue, he’s decided to spin it out to highlight the ineptitude of the government and its shambolic inability to get things done.

The weird political reality in NSW is that we have a Labor Government which isn’t supported on privatisation by the NSW Labor Party or the trade unions, and which has become a hostage to the Coalition on the issue.

This simply adds to the other-worldliness of living in the Premier State as it lurches from inertia to paralysis to implosion.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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