Sunday, February 06, 2011

NSW Labor, the coalition & the New England interest

The current electoral climate in NSW is very difficult for those of us who want to bring about real change.

Yesterday I was talking to a died in the wool Labor voter. I said casually that I was thinking of voting Labor, something that would actually be a first. She replied that our votes would cancel out.

The problem I have and the reason I was thinking of voting Labor lies in the fact as I see it that the decline in NSW Labor, the certain success of the opposition, at this election means that the coalition is under no real pressure to look at new things that might bring about change. All the opposition has to do is keep its nose clean, to go with the safe.

Further, the likely scale of victory combined with fixed four year terms means that it may be eight years before the political system opens up again.

Pretty obviously I have a vested interest in New England issues. Quite obviously, too, a fair bit of my writing has focused in one way or another on things that I think are important to New England's longer term future.

This is hard sometimes because New England does not exist in a formal sense. I constantly have to define and explain what I am talking about. Nobody doubts that education is important in NSW, but education in New England? Does it have an importance beyond the local that is not covered by education in NSW?

I argue yes. However, if someone denies the very validity of my concept of New England, then they are not going to listen to my arguments about New England education. My arguments have no meaning to them. If my arguments have no meaning to a large enough group, no political party is going to listen.

During the long period of Labor rule in NSW I gave the Government the courtesy of sometimes painstakingly examining the way their policies affected New England. This was not a party political examination, but a professional one.

I am now going to do the same to the opposition, starting with the National Party.

Why the National Party? Surely I should focus on the Liberals as the major coalition party?

Well, so far as New England is concerned, the Nationals are the biggest coalition party. Further, in the now polarised electoral climate, I am not sure how many of the New England independents will survive other than Richard Torbay. Beyond this, the swing now on looks so big that it seems likely that the Liberals will have a clear majority in their own right. The coalition will survive, but with the Nats in a much weakened position.

Now surely this makes the Libs more important? Well, yes and no.

I am focused not on this election but the one after when the the Nats are likely to come back into the balancing position.  The Libs will continue to be dominated out of Sydney as Labor was. Once the Nats get the balance of power back, Nat policies and approaches will then come back into prominence. I think that is the time when the chances of gaining a New England focus will be greatest.

Of course, I may be wrong. It may be that new Hunter Valley Liberal MPs will have a New England focus and take up the cause. Alternatively, new Hunter independents might do likewise. I just don't think based on the evidence that I have seen to this point that this is likely. After all, New England doesn't exist.

My personal view is that we must try to make New England needs an issue at this election not because it will have any impact now, but to lay the base for the following election when the political climate will have changed.

What do you think?     


Mark said...

Interesting concept in todays Daily Telegraph Jim. They are holding a "peoples parliament" so that ordinary people of the electorate can have their say. Still plenty of feeling out there.

Jim Belshaw said...

We need to capitalise on that, Mark.