27 May 2021
I was going to write about the farce of the Upper Hunter by-Election, as there was plenty to say about that, so I will start there, but now there is more!
The first thing to say is that the National Party vote fell 2.8% to 31%, which is less than a third of primary votes, yet they claimed a victory! They claimed that this was because they supported coal mining, yet a lot of farmers and those no directly depended non coal though that this was a bad idea, and it is not clear that this overblown endorsement of coal is justified. Labor lost 7.5% to get 21.2% and are now tearing themselves apart- see below for more. The Shooters lost 10.1%, but this may because One Nation entered the race and got 12.3%. Independents did quite well with a total of 16.8%, with Kirsty O’Connell who was anti-coal being endorsed by Malcolm Turnbull and getting 8.8%. These are all primary votes, because almost two thirds of voters did not give preferences, being encouraged to ‘Just Vote 1’ which means that effectively the Primary vote will determine the outcome, creating a massive advantage to the major parties, which translates into a NSW gerrymander where the Major parties get a much higher percentage of the seat than they got of the primary votes. It makes a farce of democracy .
Labor should have benefited from the fact that the by-election was rendered necessary by the incumbent Michael Johnsen being accused of raping a sex worker in Parliament House and denying it but still resigning! But Labor looked very weak because it sits on the fence with coal mining, wanting the current coal miners vote, but also pretending to be the party of progress against climate change. Their sitting on the fence which was disastrous in Queensland in the last Federal election was disastrous again. They should have had a plan to transition out of coal with environmental jobs plan, but they seem incapable of such a strategy. Arguably the State was punished for the Federal deficiency, but NSW State Labor has plenty of incompetence of its own.
Labor, having lost in a by-election where they are supposed to increase their vote seems keen to do a lot of blood-letting. After the years of domination by Obeid and the Right and a history of corruption and nepotism there is a very shallow talent pool. The colourless Jodi Mckay seems to have had no impact on Gladys Berejeklian, despite scandals about sex and asset misallocation, and personal deliberate ignorance. McKay had apparently cobbled together the numbers to survive, and people moved against her. The plausible Chris Minns looked likely to be standing up, but John Barilaro, himself no stranger to questionable land deals in Queanbeyan, released a ‘dirt file’ to stop Minns’ ascent. The file was called ‘Why Chris Minns and Jamie Clements can never run the NSW Labor Party’. Jamie Clements was accused of sexual assault by a former staffer, and of taking improper donations from a Chinese property developer, Mr Huang. Presumably there was also something in the file of substance about Minns also, as he resigned from Shadow Cabinet. It might be noted that he was Shadow Transport Minister yet has not had his voice heard despite the fact that the Liberal strategy of funding underground freeways and selling them as monopolies to the private sector seems to have come from the Los Angeles town planners of the 1960s who recommended getting rid of trams to have private cars as the main means of transport, with a dash of Thatcherite privatisation thrown in.
Labor’s corruption scandals have sapped their talent and seemingly discouraged good people. Carmel Tebbutt, John Watkins and Graham West were very good people who resigned before they might have been expected to.