Saturday, September 6, 2008

State of Play

No doubt the voters of of NSW are today looking enviously over to the West, and wishing they too were having a state election.

The late polling in WA suggests it'll go down the the wire, with the ALP a big chance to get kicked out.

NSW voters will have to wait till 2011 to do the same. And let's be honest the ALP should get turfed out in that state - imagine any other government where in the space of 2 days, the Deputy Premier quits politics, the Treasurer is sacked, and then the Premier is dumped/resigns (and add to that the fact the State is in a recession and pretty much broke). The phrase basket case doesn't even come close.

What is happening in NSW is an example of why democracy needs at least 2 strong parties. By 2011 the ALP will have been in power for 16 years. They should have lost last year, but the NSW Liberal Party is the only organisation known to humanity that can make the NSW ALP look competent - their leader was an empty suit called Peter Debnam. Even staunch Liberal Party voters didn't know who he was or what he stood for except that he once went for a swim in a pair of budgie smugglers.

The new Premier is Nathan Rees. No one knows who he is, but I guess at least he has a couple years to do some good before (surely) his Government gets turfed. But then the current Liberal Party led by Barry O'Farrell is still so useless that it recently voted against privatising the NSW power supply.

But as I said, democracy needs a strong opposition; without it you get governments staying in power for too long. Every long term government in Australia has ended badly. Think Bjelke-Petersen's QLD Government (ok, I'll say it was terrible even before it had been in power for a long time) - it ended in corruption and scandal; Menzies/Holt/McEwen/Gorton/McMahon ended a decade later than it should have - had the ALP not split with the DLP the ALP would have won the 1961 election - and if nothing else this would have likely kept Australia out of the Vietnam War; Hawke-Keating ended with the ALP lost and policies disconnected with the Australian people (ok I was still a supporter, but I was in the minority!); and even Howard's - by the end it was bloated, lazy and totally unconnected with the public - the regional partnerships programs was as close to a full on rort as you can get, workchoices was a disgrace, and the budget had no discipline as Howard sought to buy his way to electoral victory.

Personally I think every government should get two terms, another one if they're doing well, and then ideally after 3 they get the boot. That gives them about 9 years. Now obviously it only works if they are not guaranteed the first 6 years - a 6 year term would lead to extreme laziness.

The Americans have it right I think with their policy of only 2 terms for a President - there is too much advantage in being the incumbent (Bill Clinton would most likely have won in 2000 - which would have given him 12 years in office; you could argue that would be better than 8 years of George W, but the unfortunate thing with W is he got in without winning so that kinda defeats the process).

Of course such a system wouldn't work in Australia - though one could argue that no one should be PM for more than two terms.

The big problem with the NSW Liberal Party is John Howard (c'mon I had to find some way to blame him!). Basically,under Howard the Liberal Party scorned the states. Howard hated the states and anyone who wanted to be anyone in the Liberal Party gave them a wide berth and went for Federal politics. As a result, throughout the country you have ALP governments and completely unelectable Liberal oppositions. Howard also didn't stop the NSW Liberal branch becoming beholden to a bunch of right wing cranks, and as a result they ended up with Peter Debnam.

I have long argued that Joe Hockey should drop out of the federal arena and go into NSW politics. He would win the next election in a landslide.

Now I think Uncle Joe sold his soul when he became Minister for Workplace Relations under Howard, but out of the Federal sphere he may regain his heart, and realise not every sentence begins with "Union bosses...".

But still as they say, in a democracy you get the government you deserve. NSW voters might argue though it's hardly democracy when the other side is so bad you don't really have a choice; and I'm inclined to agree - surely no one deserves the NSW Government (or it's opposition).

No comments: