GLADYS WINS, BUT ARE WE THE LOSERS?

A breakdown of who won and who lost. 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, won an historic victory, against significant odds to become the first sitting female Premier to lead a political party to be re-elected to Government in NSW.

For the moment, let’s put aside her destruction of Sydney and its heritage buildings, trees, and space, the endless construction of mega edifices and “infrastructure”, and consider how we in the nether regions will fare as we analyse and crunch the numbers. 

The Coalition will have 48 seats in the new 93 seat Legislative Assembly avoiding the dreaded hung Parliament and so Premier Berejiklian will be able to govern without the need of minor parties nor independents, at least in the Lower House.  

Labor won 36 seats, and the minor parties make up the balance of 9 seats. 

Lower House Results

Party Seats
Australian Labor Party 36
Liberal Party of Australia 35
The Nationals 13
​The Greens ​3
​Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party 3
Independents 3
Total 93

Upper House

In the Legislative Council things may be a little more challenging for Premier Berejiklian as the make-up has now changed and she will frequently need to negotiate the support of the minor parties to get her legislation through. 

The Coalition won 8 seats; Labor 7 seats, The Greens 2, One Nation 2, The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers 1, and Animal Justice took out the last seat after preferences were allocated.

Paul Green

There was perhaps some divine intervention (or perhaps retribution) as Christian Democrat, Paul Green, the man who sponsored that notorious Amendment in 2017 to allow for SRV increases in the MidCoast Council, lost his seat in the Upper House. Mr Green now misses out on that $186,000 annual salary (for eight years) and will have to find a real job.

Composition of the New Upper House

From these 42 Members the House will need to ‘elect’ the President and then the Government will need to have 21 votes to pass legislation.

Myall Lakes

National’s Stephen Bromhead, comfortably retained Myall Lakes trouncing Labor’s Dr David Keegan with a swing of 1% and increasing his first preference vote to 48.43%. On a two party preferred basis Mr Bromhead had an unassailable result of 59.2% with Keegan barely reaching 40.8%

Prior to the election Labor needed at swing of 8.7% to have Keegan elected. Local Labor luminaries were excitedly touting a Keegan win if not, then a significant narrowing of the margin.

The hapless Dr Keegan failed to deliver, only managing to scrape a primary vote of 29.2% allowing the Nats to increase the First Preference margin to 19.2%, meaning that at the next State election Labor will need an improbable swing of at least 9.6% to win.

What was touted by many to be a close race turned into a massive disaster for the Country Labor Party. Dr Keegan failed to connect with any significant element of the community losing 32 of 34 polling stations, the Pre-poll, the Declared votes, the IVote and the Postal vote. This left many staunch members of the Labor Party with a bitter taste and calling for heads to roll. 

The Labor Party will now have to go back to the drawing board and select a candidate who can actually connect with the community and not just spout the corporate party slogans. They need someone who both understands local issues and will be on the right side of community sentiment, public concerns and can build confidence as a viable alternative. 

Keegan failed to impress

One long time Labor supporter (who asked to have their name withheld for fear of causing even greater embarrassment to Dr Keegan) said;

“He had over 12 months to campaign. He was always on the wrong side of important community issues. As a Councillor, he backed the Barrington Coast. He backed the Masters Office Centralisation, he has been ineffectual as a Councillor, his performance has been woeful and uninspiring,  he failed to neither champion nor to secure any local outcomes, little wonder the community saw through him and wouldn’t back him at the election.”

(Note:  Mr Bromhead has opposed both the Barrington Coast name and the Masters Office Centralisation issues).

Bromhead’s Renaissance

The Myall Lakes election result has also been quite a remarkable renaissance for Mr Bromhead who was struggling in 2017 after the saga of Council amalgamations, the Greyhound Racing Issue, the resignation of Premier Mike Baird and his role in the imposition of the SRV on the MidCoast Council community, with National Party members openly expressing concern and criticising Mr Bromhead, particularly after big anti-Nat swings in NSW.

Flying Visit

Enter stage right, newly elected Premier Gladys Berejiklian who was parachuted into the area in October [2017] on a flying visit to select meetings of the party faithful, to rally the disaffected troops and to restore confidence. A strategy that clearly worked for Mr Bromhead.

She returned here again in 2018, making announcements, throwing around buckets of cash and promising more goodies. These visits were then followed up by a raft of other ministerial visits to support Mr Bromhead.

Luke Foley

Conversely, in March 2018, (now former) Labor Leader Luke Foley arrived in Taree on the big Red Bus (which was running late), jumped off for a few moments, posing for quick photo ops and selfies with the party faithful, and with Dr Keegan by the River, then got back on the bus and swiftly moved on to Newcastle. 

Keegan’s Failures

Keegan clearly failed to capitalise on the many opportunities to expose the Coalition government’s failures over the past eight years, and to translate those back on to a local level.

Issues such as: a shrinking local economy, over 1000 jobs lost; commerce is struggling – shops are closing; very few jobs – young people leaving the area; increased drug distribution; cost of living is spiralling (Electricity, Council, Water and Petrol prices); the struggling Manning Referal hospital, the now ineffectual Women’s Refuge, a Council in chaos after the amalgamation; the roads, the roads, the roads.  (And bridges.)

The local Labor Party needs to have a real good look at itself and its local leadership. Heads at the branch level should also roll.

They clearly need some-one who can come out of the community, that has grassroots campaigning skills, and genuinely connects with people.

So in the end, Mr Bromhead only had to avoid shooting himself in the foot to get elected.

The focus will now turn to Mr Bromhead and this paper will be cataloguing and following his progress on the promises and commitments which he has made to the community.

We will be very interested in seeing and writing about his plans and delivery schedule.

Other parties and the Independent

The Greens, Shooters, Fishers and Farmer’s parties and the Independent all failed to make any relevant contribution to the outcome of the election in Myall Lakes. 

Practically speaking whilst the candidates may have carried the flag for their respective parties (and causes) they had very little prospect of achieving a great deal, apart perhaps from some notoriety at ‘Meet the Candidate’ events. 

In reality, it is very difficult to get elected to a State Seat or indeed a Federal Seat in a general election without any significant public profile or without having spent a considerable amount of time in advance campaigning throughout the electorate and or spending a great deal of money on campaign materials.

There have been a few exceptions at by-elections, but those results have only come about over particular and quite emotive issues, which have cut across entire electorates.

Popping up at the last minute before an election, will not work and often compromises the ultimate result. If people are serious about running for office they need to campaign on policies and become known to the community over a year or two.

One wonders how many of the candidates had actually ever been in the State Parliament let alone understand how it operates?

$4 per vote

However some candidates (or their Partys’) will profit from this election. Candidates who achieve more than four percent (4%) of the vote will receive a payment under the electoral laws of $4 for each primary vote (First preference vote).

This means Independent Paul Sandilands, who picked up 4,169 First Preference Votes, who campaigned without a ‘How to Vote’ card or much, if any, advertising, will receive a payment of $16,676. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate will receive $14,072 for her 3,518 votes, The Greens candidate will pick up $11,188 for her 2797 votes.

Labor will receive $58,764 for Dr Keegan’s 14,691 First Preference Votes.

The biggest winner of the lot, will of course, be the Nationals, who will pick up $ 97,468 for 24,367 First Preference Votes, and of course Mr Bromhead, now elected for his third term, consolidating a very lucrative pension when he retires. 

Council’s Failures

Most progressive Councils in NSW usually develop a strategy for elections which encompasses a range of shovel ready projects to pitch to the political parties and politicians prior to general elections, to secure much needed funds for local projects. In the cut and thrust of elections, parties often throw around money in the hope of drawing your attention and garnering your vote.

Often this can lead to Dutch auctions with political parties promising to match each other on various commitments.

It was particularly disappointing to see that MidCoast Council failed to have a clearly enunciated list of shovel ready projects for the State Election and it seems they will also fail to have a list for the Federal Election.

This really demonstrates the lack of leadership, direction and experience at both the Councillor and the Executive Levels of the Council. 

The Voters Got It Right?

Perhaps the most telling thing in terms of trust to the community, was that prior to the election, Dr Keegan’s position on the Masters Office Centralisation proposal had been inconsistent, then at the March MidCoast Council Meeting, he expressed concern over the costs, and he even signed a ‘Pledge’ that was published on the front page of this newspaper supporting a call for an independent review of the Office Centralisation Proposal by the Office of Local Government. Then on 10 April, after he lost the election, he backflipped again, and voted alongside the other Labor Councillor, Claire Pontin, to proceed with the $40 Million Office Centralisation to Masters. 

Voters Hold the Power

Ticking the box to vote in an election, counts in far more ways than many consider. 

In country areas there’s a swathe of voters who’ve always voted, let’s say, for the Nationals, because their father and grandfather voted that way (when it was the Country Party.)  This historic adherence to a particular party maybe doesn’t work these days, given the shifting sands of political parties’ philosophy influenced by money, politics, corporate persuasion, and personal priorities, as much as policies. (ie. Barnaby Joyce.) 

How many voters actually do their homework and know much about their candidates; Why are they running, what are their beliefs, experience, motivation? It seems anyone running can promise anything because, should they actually win, they are never held to account as personally responsible.

The truly smart, bright, caring, moral good men and women don’t run because the system is skewered. They hope they can help more by being outside the tent. And who can blame them. 

The truly brave and bright, smart and caring, sometimes eventually surface in the big league. In the meantime, in the training camp of rural and regional politics, we get the also rans, the learners, those who know how to work the system and the numbers, and, very occasionally, someone who is genuine and who really cares. 

But they are few and far between. 

There was much emphasis put on becoming a marginal seat. So that with apparent 50-50 odds between the major candidates, the community reaps the benefits of a bidding competition and whoever wins, the community still gets the spoils. 

What a sad state of events, really. It shows how truly marginalised rural and regional seats are. We only count as numbers, not people. Politics, politicians is now a competitive business, where the corporate power mongers rule behind the scenes. We are losing the grassroots men and women who go into politics for the better good for all of us, to truly help society, our country, not primarily themselves and their mates. 

So that quick tick in a box can bring down Armageddon on our heads, rain riches upon us, or, as in most cases, we get a second best option because they know how to play the game. So we’re the losers.

But it’s the only game in town. It’s up to us, to take a bit more interest, pay closer attention, call them out, or give them a pat on the back. Encourage good people to stick their hand up and run to represent us. 

A vote is a privilege and a duty. And if it goes pear shaped, we only have ourselves to blame. 

Settling for mediocracy as better than the lowest common denominator, ain’t much. 

Demand more, expect more from those in public office. Remember, we put them there. 

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