In deciding not to contest the upcoming byelections in Newcastle and Charlestown, NSW Premier Mike Baird has badly misjudged his response to ongoing revelations of corruption within his party at the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Clearly the decision will save the party money ahead of next March’s election, but to deprive voters of the opportunity to vent their anger smacks of cowardice.
The havoc wreaked by ICAC on the NSW Liberals, and in particular the removal of the popular and increasingly successful Barry O’Farrell, presents us with the unlikely scenario that NSW Labor could be competitive at the 2015 election.
That makes NSW Labor’s failure to undertake crucial internal reforms — intended to lessen the chances of future Obeids, Tripodis and Macdonalds emerging — even more culpable. Moreover, it is clear that current parliamentary leader John Robertson, a man heavily tainted with the follies of the Iemma-Rees-Keneally years, has made no impression on voters.
On the weekend, Robertson’s chief of staff, Ian McNamara, stood aside after questions arose about his involvement with the Newcastle debacle. A better outcome for voters would be if Robertson himself gave up his job and a more effective leader, one with no history in the disasters of Labor’s last term in office, replaced him. A competitive Labor Party would put more pressure on Baird to deal with the cancer of corruption in NSW and give NSW voters a realistic choice next March. But that won’t happen under Robertson.