Jun. 21st, 2010

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There was a state by-election in New South Wales over the weekend. The seat of Penrith, deep in Western Sydney. That's Labor territory. For nearly three decades Penrith has been held by the Australian Labor Party.

The election was sparked by the resignation in disgrace of Karyn Paluzzano, who had lied to the Independent Commission Against Corruption after rorting staff allowances.

The new Labor candidate lost heavily, with about 24% of the vote, while the Liberals won the seat with an absolute majority of 51%. A swing of 25%, the biggest in State election history.

We're talking way out on the edge figures here. This was not a normal result. If we saw only half that swing state-wide at the NSW elections due early next year, Labor would be reduced to a rump, with a Liberal/National Coalition Government sprawling over three quarters of the seats in the Legislative Assembly. If the primary figures were repeated in every seat, Labor would be wiped out entirely.

Let's start from the top. The Labor Prime Minister, who has a net approval rating of minus nineteen percent, and whose party is behind in the opinion polls, says the election was fought on state issues, not federal.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has rejected suggestions that it is a bad sign for the Federal Government at the next election.

"I think it is our long experience in the political process that the Australian people vote differently on state and federal political matters and they have done for quite some time," he said.

The Treasurer, Mr Swan, echoed those comments on Channel Ten on Sunday.

"It was a state by-election fought exclusively on state issues - I don't see any federal implications at all," he said. ABC News


The Labor NSW Premier Kristina Keneally has likewise distanced her government from the result.

She has blamed anger at the former Labor member for Penrith, Karyn Paluzzano, for the party's poor result.

"In this case the former member did not act with that integrity that the electorate expects and when I was out in the electorate I heard that over and over again," she said.

"People were disappointed that the former member had acted without that integrity that is expected by elected representatives."ABC News


And the Labor candidate (who seems like a decent sort of chap) blamed the loss directly on the rorts of the previous member.

But what incentive is there for a voter to punish a new candidate for the sins of the old? There is always a certain protest vote in by-elections, but nothing like this. Members have resigned in disgrace in the past, but the subsequent by-elections have never recorded such swings. There has to be something more.

Penrith was the third state by-election since Labor won a narrow victory in 2007. In 2008 there was a 22% swing to the Liberals in Cabramatta, and a 23% swing in the same direction in Ryde. You'd think Labor would have taken those results as a wake-up call, and lifted its game.

Labor is going to be devastated at the next State election. The drover's dog could win for the Liberals. Voters do not reward dishonest, incompetent governments. Simple as that.

The NSW Labor government is well on the nose, no doubt about that, with a continuing list of scandals and failures that no amount of leadership shuffling has ended.

But the Commonwealth government is travelling well on core issues, with a tiny jobless rate, a strong economy, and most departments delivering their services well. Where has the recent free-fall in opinion come from?

It's personal.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says people are sick of the Government's spin.

"They're sick of the broken promises, they're sick of the financial fiddles, they're sick of the addiction to spending and taxing and I think it's a growing feeling right around Australia."

Nationals Leader Warren Truss has told the ABC's Insiders program the Federal Government should take note.

"The same style of Government that was evident and has been evident in New South Wales and Queensland for some time is the same style that's happening in Canberra - big announcements, blockbuster type promises, but then no action, no outcomes and no results and people frankly are sick of it," he said.ABC News


I think that Abbott and Truss have hit the nail fair and square on the head. Broken promises. Voters elect representatives based on what they promise. It's always a string of promises at election time, and when those promises are broken and the leaders resort to further evasion and dishonesty to explain why they are not to blame, then where are the voters to put their trust?

I don't normally comment on politics these days, but my bullshit meter has been ringing loudly recently, and I can't help but point the finger at those flinging the brown stuff.

Spin is the curse of politicians. Things go wrong and it's apparently not the fault of those with their hands on the levers and their fingers on the buttons. Yeah right.

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