The NSW government looks to be on the skids after a 30% swing against the Liberals in the September 8 byelection in the rural seat of Wagga Wagga. Independent Joe McGirr won the seat which had been a Liberal stronghold for 61 years.
The Nationals’ lost its once safe seat of Orange similarly in a November 2016 byelection. The Labor opposition now only needs to win seven more seats in the 93-member Legislative Assembly in next year’s election to form government.
The declining fortunes of the NSW Coalition government are taking place amid the growing crisis of the federal Liberal Party.
Despite its boast about leading the country in terms of economic performance, the NSW government is experiencing a loss of public support because it is widely seen as beholden to the dictates of the corporate sector.
The privatisation of public assets in NSW — a feature of Coalition and Labor state governments over the past 30 years — has accelerated under the Gladys Berejiklian government.
Susan Price, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Parramatta told Green Left Weekly that no public property or service is safe from being sold off to the big-business friends of the Coalition.
“The NSW Coalition government is among the most corrupt with its sell-offs of public assets to big business.
“Nothing much has changed in this state since the infamous Rum Corps military regime of the early 19th century, although the scale of the hand-outs is infinitely larger,” Price said.
The NSW government has presided over a huge privatisation program, delivering more than $40 billion to state coffers. It has also been the beneficiary of a fiscal windfall generated by ballooning stamp duty revenue — the result of Sydney’s gigantic property boom.
The biggest single sell-off was the three-year, three-stage sale of the “poles and wires” from the NSW power industry, raising more than $30 billion. This was followed by the privatisation of the Port of Botany for more than $5 billion.
Berejiklian’s effort to brand her regime as the “infrastructure” government” has now been rebranded as the “privatisation” government. It was such a branding that helped bring down the short-lived Campbell Newman Liberal-National Party government in Queensland in 2015.
The NSW Labor Party also had a branding problem: it is trying to recover from the disastrous “corruption” branding it earned during the Eddie Obeid Inc period of the 2000s.
Labor could help itself pretty easily, Price said, if it took a clear stand in opposition to the controversial WestConnex tollway project.
“The New South Wales election will pit corporate interests against people power”, Price said.
“Important movements have been organising, including against WestConnex, the forced council mergers, the sell-offs of public housing, new coal and coal seam gas projects, cuts to TAFE and public education and the government’s moves to privatise public hospitals.
“Combined, these community movements can help bring down this reactionary state government. Importantly, too, they can pressure Labor to adopt social and ecological policies which we need”, Price concluded.