A victory for Orthodoxy. When a government is really bad, it does not need an Opposition Leader to tell the people. They know it. Thus, Barry O’Farrell could campaign for the past couple of years without strident shouting about the evils of Labor. Sure he could, and did, criticise but he did it in a measured way that frightened nobody as he calmly adopted a measured position on the middle ground of most issues. The success of these tactics was evident at the weekend and his federal colleague Tony Abbott should learn from it but probably won’t.

Maybe the federal Abbott-led Liberals know that the Labor government of Julia Gillard is not as unpopular as they are currently pretending and suffer from the delusion that by shouting loudly they will make the unpopularity they want into a reality. I doubt they can succeed in that task but the important O’Farrell message they are ignoring at their peril is to appear as the moderate centrists of federal politics. At the moment the shrillness of the Coalition is combined with appearing to be at the extremes of many and varied issues.

A lesson for the Greens. I guess I’m allowed to write that I told you so. Two weeks out from the NSW election I predicted that the NSW Greens were making a mistake by acting at their weekend policy launch “as if they are going to be winners in two seats  —  Balmain and Marrickville. Instead of speaking in gloating tones about the prospect of success, federal leader Senator Bob Brown should have been reminding the faithful of what happened at the Victorian state election where similar optimism proved unfounded.”

Notwithstanding whether they finally manage to win a seat or not, the Greens vote in these two inner-city seats was disappointing. The party should learn the lesson for future elections — underdogs do better than self-professed winners.

And if there is a second lesson for Bob Brown’s party from the weekend vote it is that there are dangers for Greens in getting too far away from green issues. To be other than a fringe party of the left means not alienating moderate people attracted because of environmental concerns by concentrating on the so-called “social justice” aspects of the party’s policies.

That this is not just an Australian phenomenon was illustrated at the weekend in two German provincial elections where the Green vote jumped considerably in reaction to public concern about nuclear power as is explained elsewhere in Crikey today by colleague Glen Dyer.

Let me write it again … bald headed men can’t win. If a man with a shaved head can successfully lead a party to election victory in this television age I will be absolutely staggered. Political history suggests baldness is impediment enough — watch out for that growing n-ked crown, Tony – but a completely nude nut is a sure vote loser.

Not a winning look!

So if  NSW Labor, as expected, does choose John Robertson as its leader, Barry O’Farrell is even safer than his parliamentary numbers suggest.

Something else to worry about. If what is happening in Japan is not enough to get you concerned then have a read of this from Der Spiegel:

Germany’s nuclear power plants suffer from serious safety deficits, with inadequate protections against earthquakes, plane crashes and cyber attacks. Retrofitting the plants would be so complex and costly that their continued operation makes little financial sense.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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