NSW election washup

Chris O’Regan writes: Your editorial (yesterday) summarily dismissing any suggestion that media portrayals had anything to do with last Saturday’s election result was a bit too flippant. That’s not to say that the defeat of the Keneally government was just because of media coverage, or that voters were not genuinely angry; both are absurd contentions. But crucially, your editorial fails to examine the media coverage of the election itself to see if it was up to scratch.

Virtually every outlet, Crikey included, seemed mesmerised by the sheer size of the incoming swing and drugged by a curious air of fatalism, all of the coverage pivoting around the inevitability of Liberal victory. That portrayal was just as unsophisticated as the false equivalencies and trivialities that normally paralyse political coverage in Australia.

Nobody thought to ask what the government could have done differently (surely the media’s role). Nobody thought to ask — beyond perfunctory, insidery, view-from-nowhere, how-will-it-play unsophisticated narratives (“anger”, “betrayal”, etc. etc.) — what was motivating such a significant change and what voters expected/wanted to happen after Saturday. Nobody thought to ask the party that has possibly the biggest electoral blank cheque in Australian history how it planned to use its newfound enormous power, and what the new government expects the state to look like one year or ten years from now.

Not to suggest that victory for Labor was a realistic prospect; but the role of media spectators is not simply to pass on received wisdom; it is to contemplate alternatives to what is provided, educate the public, and investigate areas (like Barry O’Farrell’s plans) that are hidden from public view. The lazy assertion that “policy/party X is unelectable” — that lack of analysis has killed any amount of good policy in recent years, and it has now left an open field for mindless, absurd narratives (“carbon tax killed Labor”, “disloyalty killed Labor”) purveyed by the professional spinmasters to start dominating the “why” part of the discussion.

John Burke writes: Re. “Poll Bludger: no precedents for depths plumbed by Labor vote” (yesterday, item 1). William Bowe, in discussing the failure of the Greens to pick up many of the fleeing Labor voters, did not mention the matter of the $325,000 donation from the ETU that Adam Bandt accepted in Victoria during the last federal election.  That union has a reputation for thuggery that I would have thought no political party would have wanted to tainted by.

Stephen Mayne’s article describes what sort of an outfit the ETU is. NSW Greens have worked very hard to expose donations from developers and the like but then have recently accepted donations of $30,000 from the AMWU and $30,000 from the CFMEU. I find it amazing that they would accept help from those sorts of organisations. Accepting such donationst is really a good way to trash the brand. If the Greens really want to be a third force they must learn to shun the nasties from the left as well as from the right. I voted for them again but the pencil went a bit reluctantly to their square on the ballot papers. Many others would not have been so loyal.

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Keane: Robbo hands Liberals a perfect win” (Monday, item 2) So Bernard Keane wants Barry O’Farrell to take on unpopular reform, including full electricity privatisation?! Perhaps he should look at the example of Nick Greiner: a landslide in 1988 and gone in 1992.

Keane also thinks the defeat proves the ALP needs to reform itself. Why? Because it can only win four elections in a row? The last Labor leader who thought he could “reform” his way to victory was Simon Crean. Remember him?

As for the NSW Greens, rather than losing the “Federal momentum”, they are replicating their result: roughly 10% of the overall vote, higher in the inner-city and an inability to attract the wider population, even in extreme situation like this.

Les Heimann writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 15) Richard Farmer explains it well; the new Premier of NSW has creamed Labor simply by being a modern personification of Harry S Truman and  taking the electorates middle ground and thus power. It’s politics 101 really and as pointed out by Farmer, not Costello politics. And that’s why — all other things staying equal — the Liberal/National coalition will not win power at the next federal election.

Labor has been severely criticised over recent years for hugging the slippery slide that is the middle ground, pandering to the aspirationalists, deserting the working class and so on. This is the McKell school of Labor politics; the purist NSW Labor philosophy that has enabled Labor to hold office in that state for most of history. Now, in NSW the power is gone from Labor because the seeking and holding of power became the game not the outcome and it all became personal — fought publicly and to the death. Too much has been said and written about the need for Labor to re-invent itself. There is no need.

However, Labor absolutely must maintain a narrative on a higher plain than that of a Costello-led Coalition — the Coalition are wrecking themsleves but many would ask of the alternative and it should be a clarion call by Labor for fairness, equity, opportunity and compassion for all. It’s easy stuff, not scary, particularly middle ground, unarguable and needs to be repeated often. This then would be good for the country and good for Labor — ask Barry.

James Burke writes: How amusing to see various past luminaries of Sussex Street — Bob Carr, Morris Iemma, Michael Costa, Mark Arbib — queue up to declare that everything that went wrong in the NSW ALP government happened “since the last election” (or, in Arbib’s case, “the last couple of years” — ha!).

Seems to me the rot began at the closing ceremony of the Olympics. It was certainly evident when Costa was appointed Minister of Police — after he and Carr sought the approval of Alan Jones. Costa went on to lead the ALP into the tar pit of electricity privatisation. Meanwhile, bereft of any abiding principles or philosophy, the troops resorted to rape and pillage.

The ALP in NSW treated their base with contempt, while fawning over Murdoch, Macquarie and radio’s ranting ratbags, and nuzzling the netherlands of every “build-it-and-they-will-crumble” developer and every “pokies-in-the-games-lounge, coke-in-the-loo” hotelier in the State. Now all that remains is that whisper on the wind … “whatever it takes, maaaate, whatever it takes …”

Ken McLeod Past President, Tuross Head Branch of the ALP, writes: As an ALP member, I liked your NSW election coverage, particulary the comments regarding the MP expected to be elected Leader of the Opposition. I remind you how he got into Parliament, and it was very dodgy. See my letter to the NSW President, which Crikey published back in 2008. Note I never received a reply.

Intervention in Libya

Bruce Graham writes: Re. “Rundle: Libya and the torch of life burns brightly” (March 24, item 11). Amid all the blather about why NATO is shooting in Libya, both Guy and Richard (comments, yesterday) ignore the glaringly obvious.

A military action in Libya is (technically) easy, (comparatively) cheap, and likely to be free from (politically damaging) domestic casualties.

The Libyan government was fighting a desert war with military hardware.   These things are easy to blow up from the air. Even better, the tanks and guns are moving along empty desert roads.  NATO controls the Mediterranean sea. The USA has a battle fleet already there, doing nothing. Airplanes can fly sorties from Cyprus without any  political cost on the ground. Contrast this with Cote -d’Ivoire, where there is presently a low level urban conflict. That could only be influenced by ground troops  (or an assassination attempt). Ditto almost every other Arabic conflict at present.

The First barbary War, and its pragmatic denouement, are a fitting comparison.

No more Oz please

Dr Robert Musk writes: Hooray for Harold Thorton (comments, yesterday)! Stop talking about the bloody Australian! Reporters reporting reporters is not news, it’s an industry newsletter. Why should I continue to subsidise it?

Peter Fray

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