On NSW politics

Alastair Lawrie writes: Re. “Animal Justice Party brings home the facon in NSW” (Friday). Another week, another error-strewn article from Crikey’s NSW political “correspondent”, Alex Mitchell. First, Mitchell fails to compare like with like. After discussing the Liberals losing 14 seats and the Nationals one at the poll, Mitchell writes “Labor won 14 seats, the Greens three and independents two”. If we are talking about overall seats won, that should read 34/3/2, but if we are only discussing seats gained at the election, then Labor winning 14 seats is indeed correct, but the Greens only won one (Ballina, given Newtown was already notional Greens post-redistribution) and the independents zero (as confirmed by the ABC “Changing seats” page). Which is it Alex?

Second, even after re-reading multiple times, it is difficult to see the point of the Country Labor discussion, and in particular the sentence “[w]ithout the contrived support from rural and regional centres, the party’s primary vote would have remained at a disastrous level in the high 20 [sic].” Is Mitchell seriously suggesting that at least half the people who voted for “Country Labor” did not know they were voting for “Labor”? Or is the argument that, had the NSW Labor Party not run candidates in 26 rural and regional seats, their vote would have been lower? Both are fatuous.

Third, Mitchell is correct to observe that in three seats (Strathfield, Gosford and The Entrance) Labor came from second place to claim victory, from margins of between 0.3% and 3.8% behind on first preference, thanks apparently to “the arrival of life-saving Greens preferences”. But if that was noteworthy, surely the fact the only seat genuinely gained by the Greens, in what has been described as their ‘breakout’ election, was won on Labor preferences, from 9.6% behind, would also be worth mentioning. Without these equally “life-saving” preferences the Greens would have won exactly the same number of seats as they did in 2011.

This is not to say there are no issues arising for NSW Labor from the state election. The fact that they secured first preferences from only just over a third of voters, leaving them a not-insignificant 13 seats short of majority Government, and that their recovery was much poorer than their counterparts in Queensland, despite having one more year to prepare, are both worthy of close scrutiny. And critically examining its differing performance across inner-city, suburban, Newcastle/Wollongong/Central Coast, and rural and regional seats, and asking whether it is capable of still appealing across these demographics, would at least be an interesting discussion — something which, sadly, Mitchell’s piece was not. Instead, we are left with basic errors, ridiculous points and glaring omissions.

All of which leaves me wondering: if I wanted to read a poorly-written and inaccurate anti-Labor opinion piece, why wouldn’t I just buy a Murdoch paper instead of subscribing to Crikey?

Alex Mitchell replies: I’m at a loss to know what Alistair Lawrie’s long beef is all about. I welcome the fact that he has bothered to review the March 28 result and argue for his analysis. That’s his right. His personal abuse of me offers nothing to the discussion. However, it is worrying that anyone who ventures a critique of NSW Labor’s policies, management or electoral results is immediately monstered. It’s a practice taken directly from the old right’s self-defence manual. Facts are stubborn things and often unpleasant but it is unhelpful (and often fatal) to bury them.

The hills are alive … or not

Ignaz Amrein writes: Re. “Coalition still playing catch-up on financial planning” (yesterday). I’m in absolute agreement with what Bernard Keane is saying, but something caught my eye. He said:  “… or enjoy some skiing on the slopes around Zug”. I just happen to be born in Zug (Switzerland).  Zug is very popular for company headquarters because of very, very low company taxes (think Xstrata before the Glencore merger), but one thing Zug is not known for is skiing, unless you’re an absolute beginner, because there are a lot of hills around there, and for that matter anywhere in Switzerland,  to practice!

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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