Sydney vote seen as swing against Baird
In the days since last weekend’s Sydney council elections, expert have had a chance to pick through the results.
Possibly the most rounded summation was given by a distinctly inexpert figure – 2GB radio host Ray Hadley, who called “a monumental blunder”.
The prevailing view is that the big swing against the Liberal in several key seats is a sign that NSW Premier Mike Baird’s greyhound racing ban is going down poorly.
But council amalgamations, sackings, administrators, and a re-jig of electoral rules almost certainly played a part as well.
The list does not end there, with outrage spurred by pub lockout laws, the failed sale of the state’s electricity assets, and a tragic infant health scandal.
In Western Sydney, the Liberal Party is “almost facing oblivion,” Hadley says.
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley said voters delivered a “stinging rebuff” to the Premier that “they’ve had enough of his highhanded, arrogant behaviour”.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce agreed with Hadley.
“I just think that the greyhound decision has not been accepted in many areas,” he said.
“It’s probably good that the local government election is out of the way; it’s a cathartic mechanism to deal with it in some form.”
While the high level of animal abuse in the greyhound industry was alarming, many appear to believe the loss of thousands of jobs and the death of a traditional pastime with no plans for transition is as bad or worse.
Senior lecturer at UTS’ Institute for Public Policy and Governance, Dr Bligh Grant, says the Sydney poll was “very, very interesting”, especially in the wake of forced council mergers across the state.
“It’s [caused a] ruction,” he told News Corp reporters.
“It’s made the whole notion of local government, some would say, very controversial but other people would say very toxic.”
University of Sydney politics lecturer Dr Stewart Jackson says internal Liberal ructions left voters confused as to what they stood for.
“Part of this is that the old debate [in the Liberals] of do you let people get on with their lives and a social conservatism which is where Mike Baird comes in where things have be banned or stopped,” he said.
Insiders say the NSW Government will look to mend it reputation by surging ahead on a massive infrastructure program that includes new railways and roads to hospitals.
Dr Jackson said that may just work.
“Parties have their ups and downs there’s nothing to stop [the electorate] going up and down again too,” he said.
“They [governments] do all the stuff that will make people unhappy in the first couple of years and you do nice things in the run up to the elections. So it’s better to do that stuff now and not going into the next state election in 2019.
“By then voters will see tracks on the ground, and new trains and trams running, and the worst of it will be over.”