New Premier Gladys Berejiklian is already on the run, after only a couple of weeks in the job.
Since taking over from disgraced former premier Mike Baird on January 23, Berejiklian has managed to cobble together a new cabinet of misfits, but is already reported to be preparing to dump one of Baird's signature policies — the forced amalgamation of the state's local councils.
In response to leaks on February 2 indicating the Coalition state government is discussing ending forced mergers, Save Our Councils Coalition (SOCC) spokesperson Phil Jenkyn said: “Save Our Councils wants to see an immediate withdrawal of the government from all forced council amalgamations, whether in court or not. The government should immediately withdraw from all legal proceedings with councils.
“The councils which have been forcibly amalgamated should, by way of proclamation, be reinstated; the administrators should be removed and the legitimate elected councils should be re-appointed.
“Local democracy is just as precious to the people of Leichhardt as it is to the people of Cabonne, and the way this government has trashed local democracy and ignored the community had made many, many people very angry.”
The SOCC position clearly goes a step further than the rumoured government plan to allow plebiscites of residents on the mergers, possibly with the next election for those councils that have already been forcibly amalgamated. SOCC rightly demands an immediate reversal of all forced mergers, and a return to properly elected local democracy.
Commenting on Berejiklian's new cabinet in the February 2 Sydney Morning Herald, Jacob Saulwick queried why former planning minister Rob Stokes was removed from his portfolio. Under the heading “Bizarre reshuffle is an own goal” Saulwick asked: “If housing is the biggest issue in the state, as Berejiklian suggests, on what lunacy would she move from the job ... the person in government who has given it the most thought, and who may even have a perspective to deal with it?” Stokes had supported cuts to negative gearing tax concessions on investment housing.
Adrian Piccoli was obviously sacked as education minister because he was a prominent critic of the federal government slashing its financing of the Gonski program of national needs-based funding for schools.
The premier's new cabinet is clearly based on factional deals within the Coalition, and a desperate bid for political survival — especially with crucial state by-elections coming up shortly.
To add to the premier’s woes, on February 2 a leaked Treasury document revealed NSW's land titles registry is earning $130 million profit each year, increasing pressure for the government to ditch its privatisation plans.
The government hopes to receive $2 billion for leasing the Land and Property Information office for 35 years to corporate investors. These documents show the buyers would make billions of dollars in profits over that period.
This revelation that the government is planning to sell off even more of the farm to benefit its big-business backers, is another blow against Berejiklian.
It further strengthens the public understanding that the state government is an administration by the bankers, for the bankers: both Berejiklian and her predecessor Baird came from the banking sector.
Now is the time for the various community-based campaigns against the NSW government's neoliberal attacks to unite and mobilise to bring down the Berejiklian regime as soon as possible, while keeping up the pressure on the Labor opposition to abandon its largely me-too policies on the major issues.