Michael Costa’s parting barrage on Friday painted New South Wales’ future as becoming The Bankrupt State without his infinite wisdom and guidance — but NSW is already bankrupt in several other ways.

That it’s politically bankrupt is obvious: quick, let’s stick the least experienced person in as Premier — they’ll find fewer of his fingerprints at the scene.

And the early mail on Nathan Rees isn’t as good as the spinners would have you believe. His fledgling performance as Water Minister has been marked by an imperious embargo with few exceptions on drilling bores west of the Great Dividing Range — an edict promulgated without consultation, warning or apparent regard for the consequences. Oh well, it would poll well with green voters and never mind the nuances of the real world beyond Macquarie Street.

And the “new” administration remains as hopeless tarred with ethical bankruptcy as the “old” lot. This is a new broom still sweeping with Fast Eddie Obeid and Joe “Moorings for Mates” Tripodi.

Let us not forget Eric Roosendaal, the “new” Treasurer who is supposed to make the hard decisions to save the state. Labor machine animal Roosendaal was the Roads Minister who slung $25 million to Leightons as compensation for delaying the Lane Cove Tunnel funneling until after the last election – perhaps the single most cynical act of this totally cynical government. On that alone, Roosendaal is not fit to hold public office of any kind, so heaven help us when he gets the keys to the treasury.

But perhaps that example goes some small way towards answering the biggest question about the past 13 years of Sussex Street control in NSW: where has the money gone? Against which wall was it splashed and by whom?

It’s all very dramatic of Costa to declare the state’s finances in near-crisis — he was exaggerating, of course — but we long suffering tax payers and voters have every right to ask why.

NSW was the boom state in the housing bubble, the state’s treasury awash in stamp duty. Sydney remains the country’s financial capital. For all the headlines WA an Queensland garner as the resources boom states, NSW is not without fabulous mineral wealth from Broken Hill to the rich Hunter coal fields with plenty in between.

And NSW has been far from a low-tax state. So where has the money gone? Education, health and basic infrastructure remain substandard — and please don’t try to blame the federal carve up of GST. It’s just another red herring.

Some of the money has gone on featherbedding the mates and members — countless jobs for Labor cronies and relatives.

On that score, the NSW public service is bracing for bleak days. Not only will Rees ’n’ Roosendaal be out to do some token slashing, room will have to be found for the wave of political appointments desperate to find a job with more security ahead of the now inevitable loss of power.

There’s still another option for NSW Labor though. They’ll lose John Watkins’ seat but might keep Iemma’s, so there’s a chance to stick in some 18-year-old school kid who’s never even voted Labor before and then make him or her Premier. The less experience he or she has, the few fingerprints anyone might find at the scene.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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