It’s been over a week now since the teetering edifice that the Sussex Street machinery built with the rejected ex-premier Kristina Keneally as its American-tongued perky leader has come crashing down here in New South Wales. Destroyed in a tsunami of electoral hate that would barely shade the wrath of rebel anger across many despotic Arab states, the regime that gave more seductive promises than a $10 hooker (and left every customer with a used and dirty feeling afterwards) was left with a rump of seats in the NSW parliament barely large enough to warrant a ticket allocation to the next Legislative Assembly disco. Seats previously considered cast iron rusted on Labor were snatched away with bigger swings than a hyperactive gymnast on a kiddy’s play-set, giving the coalition of Liberal and National parties enough electorates to run around with a well-credentialed ‘Look at the size of my mandate’ holler. Meanwhile in Canberra our esteemed Madame Prime Minister gallantly places her red coiffure in the CO2 filled bucket of unsold policy trying to make any positive light from the destruction of those same elemental ALP forces that raised her upon high during last year’s Rudd d’etat.
Now before we get carried away and start looking to the Coalition under Barry O’Farrell to sort out the inchoate mess that this state has become, I think it is only fair I too sink the slipper into the corpulent corpse that is the state Australian Labor Party, as run out of 337 Sussex Street, Sydney NSW 2001. I think it only proper to ponder the past before hurtling down the clogged M4 that is the political future of this once convict settled state, where Olympics were held with great popular acclaim and no government minister knew how to simulate breast intercourse with a colleague.
The first and biggest misnomer about the ALP’s malaise in the post mortems after the election is that the split in the party over the privatization of our electricity suppliers and infrastructure was the Achilles heel that nobbled what could have been a stable run to the polls. The recently elevated leader of the opposition John Robertson had led the anti-privatization charge within the membership which in turn led to the removal of Morris Iemma, and whilst he represented one strand of the ALP’s policy approach, the likes of the Eddie & Eric foisted Premier Keneally wanted to grab the money and run by flogging off anything bigger than a D sized battery from the NSW ledger. The clusterfuck that was the partial sell off in December followed by the almost immediate proroguing of the NSW parliament was a farce that even an episode of ‘Are You Being Served’ could never match. As Eric ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ Roozendaal and his vapid leader-ette Kristina Keneally dodged and weaved questions relating to probity and the economic benefits like punch drunk geriatric boxers on a trampoline the ALP mired itself further and further into self-destructive navel gazing.
However it wasn’t the privatization itself nor the supposed ideological battle within the once great social democratic party that drove the humoungous bloody nail into the plywood and cardboard coffin that was the now punted state government. There was a single cause that had festered and oozed like a sucking chest wound under the boils of the ALP’s body politic. This was the simple shocking fact that the ALP are no longer relevant to the vast majority of the people in NSW to whom it either looks to as its natural supporters (the voters in Western Sydney, the Hunter, Illawarra and certain ethnic groupings). Additionally their progressive appeal to the chardonnay set and the chattering classes has dispersed amongst the ravings of the Greens (who find council boycotts of Israel more productive than understanding the misery of Sydney’s crap transport infrastructure) and the disengagement from the party itself by some of its so called leading likes (yes, Carmen Tebbutt and Verity Firth the finger is pointing at you).
The party that for over a century that has been touting itself as the worker’s party, the disadvantaged person’s party, the party of social justice, of equality, of strong public infrastructure investment, of the battler and the person with a social conscience took every single one of these standards, every one of these clarion calls to their supporters and flushed them down the political shitter at Sussex Street quicker than a development involving a hotel and pokie machines would get clearance from their hopelessly compromised public service. If you were a commuter traveling between Sydney’s western and northern suburbs you could well be sitting in traffic for almost 4 hours a day, whilst the much mooted Epping to Chatswood train line became a story of if not now when, and only if Julia can get some mileage to save the seats won in the Ruddslide of 2007 (which she didn’t). Nurses (a key constituency of the ALP) as well as teachers (ditto) were swamped by the growth in demand for their services whilst infrastructure and support was left to wither and rot. Billions were pissed against the wall in such travesties as the inner west metro, the V8 races at Homebush and the almost diabolically decrepitude of regional and city hospitals (join the dots between the Bathurst swing and the abysmal construction standards of the new hospital). Your average voter who had to deal with the real world of life in NSW saw what all bar the likes of Obeid, Sam Dastyari,, Eric Roozendaal etc etc knew was the reality of NSW after 16 years of ALP misgovernment. NSW’s government was being run by a party with no connection to people or ideals beyond whatever got the most benefits either politically or financially for a chosen few in Sussez and Macquarie Streets.
To make matters worse the stench of gangrenous self-interest and political corruption saw ALP parliamentarian after parliamentarian stinking of an inability to keep their pants on, properly account for their financial arrangements (and then lie to a court convened to investigate their misdemeanours), claim they couldn’t achieve what they knew was best for those they represented in cabinet whilst staying in that very same government…the list goes on. Between marital strife, assaults, drug charges for leading advisors and council level corruption the NSW ALP made The Sopranos look like pillars of society.
So at the end of the day, when so many ALP state members had sated themselves on parliamentary largesse and then sat back stunned as the public verdict was brought down on their incompetent and unscrupulous behaviour the soul searching has begun by putting into the leadership a member of the self-obsessed gang that has brought the NSW Labor party to such a nadir. The echoes of Arbib, Tripodi, Obeid, Roozendaal etc still resonate for the now state opposition, and in so called traditional Labor seats such as Penrith, Newcastle, Kiama and Campbelltown there is no hope for a roots revival. The disconnect and the ideological waywardness will continue as no one in ALP headquarters is willing to return to the credible Labor ideals of a Jack Lang or a Joe Cahill. Instead the spivs and the opportunists, the excuse makers and the indolent run the ALP in New South Wales.
Good riddance to bad rubbish.