The NSW Labor Government has a death wish. Not content with creating a tide of resentment and anger in electorates across Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle and the bush, it has now incensed its own left-wing faction and many trade unions.

That may not seem a serious matter — the left and the unions are congenitally angry and “against the government”.

But when you consider that the left and the unions provide much of the cash as well as the foot soldiers in an election campaign, it is self-evident that both these sections of the ALP need to be on-side and not offside as the March 2011 election approaches.

Today the NSW ALP general secretary Matthew Thistlethwaite will receive a formal letter from the minority left-wing faction calling on him to uphold party policy and oppose the proposed privatisation of two jails.

The weekend meeting of the left unanimously condemned Corrective Services Minister John Robertson, the former Unions NSW secretary, for re-interpreting established policy and pushing the sell-off plan.

Robertson argues that because the management rights are up for sale and not the bricks and mortar of prison facilities, then the sale falls within the current platform.

This bogus sophistry has been repudiated by three left-wing members of the party’s legal and constitutional affairs committee, James Shaw, Luke Whitington and Cameron Murphy, who have written to Thistlethwaite saying:

We refer to the final paragraph of Rule 11.2 Corrective Services Objectives of the System which states that “Labor opposes the private contract management of prisons”. We submit that this gives an unambiguous direction to any Labor Government not to privatise or contract out prisons.

The weekend left gathering also voted to oppose the sale of NSW Lotteries, NSW Waste Services, the superannuation services manager Pillar, and various sectors of the electricity industry — all issues which are causing disquiet among the party rank and file, the public service and the general public. Even The Sydney Morning Herald has published an editorial opposing the lotteries sell-off as short-term idiocy (well, not in exactly those words).

“A reversal of these decisions to privatise and sell off public assets could do much to rebuild the confidence of the electorate in the State Labor Government in the run up to the next State election,” the left’s motion declared.

However, the Rees Cabinet has stopped listening. It is forging ahead on a program which changes from day to day, lacks cohesion, is rarely explained in a rational and consistent way and shows little understanding of the deep-seated troubles afflicting the NSW economy.

Even NSW Green MPs Sylvia Hale has weighed into the debate saying:

John Robertson’s attempt to say that privatising the prisons is not really privatisation because the government will still own the buildings is just laughable.

Not only is the state Labor government incompetent, it no longer stands for anything, not even its own policies.

And that just about sums governance in the Premier State.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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