Monday, September 08, 2008

WA election, Lyne and a wry sense of enjoyment

I am really enjoying the WA outcome. We still don't know what the final results will be, but it has set people running in all directions at once. In particular, I am really enjoying the existence of so many multiple National Party models.

In WA, we have the cross-bench model. In SA, a coalition arrangement with Labor. In Queensland, a merged Liberal National Party, with Federal members able to sit in either Party room. This is in fact a variant of the CLP NT model.

In all this, there now seems to be emerging agreement that the lessons for the Nats from the Lyne/WA combo is stick to their knitting, proper independent representation of regional interests.

Meantime, in NSW with its new Labor Premier, the main feeling seems to be a heartfelt hope that he can actually do something to improve the situation.

A major casualty in all this is the support that once existed for four year fixed terms. This seemed so self-evidently sensible - give Governments time to govern. But what do you do when a Government gets into a mess? In the NSW case, the ALP's current majority means that the Government can simply hang in there for the next few years hoping that things will get better. As do we all.

The decline in the NSW economy adds to the Government's woes.

All the discussion about the existence in Australia of a two tier economy misses the point that the Australian economy has always been a multi-tier economy. It's just that the balance has changed.

The NSW Government's revenue position has been weakening for some time. The ending of the Sydney property boom reduced income from property transfers. Slowing consumer spending affected GST revenues. Growth in pay roll tax revenues has slowed as employment growth has slowed. In all this, the only growth area has been increased mining revenues from the coal fields of Northern NSW.

The NSW Government's expenditure position has also been deteriorating. Leaving aside problems with the State's deteriorating infrastructure, the aging of the NSW population is now affecting spend in a number of areas such as health and welfare.

One can argue that the Labor Government has failed to address the State's needs. However, and in fairness, it needs to be recognised that any NSW Government would face a difficult time just at present.


Anonymous said...

Your enjoyment is not shared, Jim. The pork barrel is going to be scraped to the bottom, regardless of the virtues of the situation, and 55 MPs will be hostage to the special interests of 4. I wouldn't welcome that no matter what ideology the 4 held.

Nor do I expect any deep introspection from Truss and Co as to how to revivify the national entity.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I think you are far too generous on the NSW state government. They've been a leaderless dog's breakfast for far too long, which must account for some of the malaise the state now faces.

That they are not already in opposition says more about the NSW Libs than anything.

Jim Belshaw said...

Let me have my pleasure, Bob. As I have so often complained, we live in an age of super market politics. As part of this, the pork barrels so to speak that I am interested rarely get opened,let alone scraped. The WA Nats went to the electorate with a clear position.

I agree with you re the Federal Nats and NSW.

I phrased my brief comment on NSW in the way that I did in part because I had just read the NSW budget papers as part of my research. I am very critical of the NSW Government's performance and will be so again. But the current budget position is very difficult.

Anonymous said...

I don't begrudge you your enjoyment, Jim. I'm more concerned that this is not a process which will generate good policy. What I would like to see, and this may still give you pleasure, is Labor 28, governing with the assistance of the independent members for Kwinana and Kalgoorlie, but with Grylls in a semi-coalition, so that they can press the points they need to without pandering to special pleading.

That way you might get (for instance) rural and regional development assistance, support for grains research and social welfare for regional towns. you'd be less like to get restrictive marketing schemes, farming subsidies and 'right to farm' legislation.

Jim Belshaw said...

This actually seems the way that they are heading, Bob. On a different matter, I find that my arguments about special pleading have shifted since my brief stint in the NSW system. What do you do if the entity is such that a majoritarian approach means that you must always lose out, creating a perpetual case of majority oppression?

Anonymous said...

What do you do when you are in the minority? For a start, you suck it down, because that's what a democracy is - the tyranny of the majority. That leaves the hard grind of changing attitudes through lobbying, education and work. It's not like it's a hopeless cause, unless it is a plea for special treatment on a plainly unequal basis.

Jim Belshaw said...

I don't agree with you, Bob, on this one. What you say sounds so reasonable. The difficulty is that it doesn't work very well in practice where there are widely varying interests. I think that I will bring this up as a new post - easuer to do than a long comment, since I want to cross-reference to other posts.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, Jim.

But I give you fair warning as to the line I will follow:

Climate change and its economic effects was the preserve of radical greenies less than two decades ago. That fight is by no means over, but the majority view appears to have changed.

Women's Lib moved from crazed bra burners to the respectable feminist movement in less than a decade.

And restricting Government spending to produce surpluses moved from pipe dream to semi-relgious icon in about a decade and a half.

These are powerful changes, starting from an unpopular base. The last case in particular has not been entirely positive in my view, but is shows what can be achieved without starting with a majority preference (or even working against the majority preference).

Jim Belshaw said...

Bob, in a funny way your prove my point. Each of these was what we can call macro issues - broader change that ocurred across society. Yes, they were argued for and fought for, but they fall in the class of what we might call universals.

The problem becomes different when we drop below this level, especially where there are irreconcilable zero sum conflicts or where existing power structures are very strong.

Now power structure will voluntarily dismantle itself. If a movement, Scottish nationalism foe example, can gain so much power that it forces compromise, then things happen. But Scottish nationalism, or the IRA for that matter, forced change because they refused to accept the dictates of the majority.

The same thing happened in New England. So long as the new state movement existed it forced Sydney to at least temporise.

In many cases, focused and unrestrained localism is the only way to get things done.