April 6th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The NSW election and our incredible shrinking farming sector

SOCIETY The pervasive and pernicious online porn epidemic

CANBERRA OBSERVED Coffers are full but Treasurer will take spending cautiously

OPINION Judge treats Cardinal Pell to a spot of 'open justice'

NATIONAL AFFAIRS NSW Liberals re-election gives a boost to Morrison

ECONOMICS The Great Dragon uncoils all around the globe

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS President Donald Trump: an unlikely promise keeper Part 2

REFLECTION On the conviction of Cardinal Pell

FICTION Orange Years: The Japie Greyling Story

TERRORISM Lessons from Christchurch

ASIAN AFFAIRS Xi's imperious play prompts U.S. to repair Asian friendships

YPAT Getting with the program: one young person's story

MUSIC To market, to market, to sell a good song

CINEMA The LEGO Movie 2: Building a world

BOOK REVIEW A template for living alongside the world

BOOK REVIEW Catholic Maryland and early tolerance



THE BUDGET Take your tax cuts and be merry, for tomorrow ... is another day

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Liberals re-election gives a boost to Morrison

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, April 6, 2019

The return of the Coalition government in New South Wales, led by Premier Gladys Berejiklian, marks the end of a Labor surge that saw the return of the Andrews Government in Victoria and the election of a Labor government in Western Australia.

Gladys Berejiklian claims victory.

Despite being forced to change leaders five months ago after former leader Luke Foley resigned over sexual misconduct allegations, NSW Labor was confident of defeating the two-term Coalition Government in NSW.

The incumbents faced huge problems caused by the drought in rural NSW that has devastated farms and rural communities, and forced up prices of food in the cities. This gave momentum to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, which campaigned hard against government neglect of rural areas, and should have helped the Country Labor Party, the country section of the ALP, but its vote virtually collapsed.

Despite the drought, the Government failed to commit to a program to drought-proof NSW by building new water storages, largely because of the concerted opposition of extreme environmentalists, including the Greens.

Additionally, the Liberals faced infrastructure problems around the growing Newcastle-Sydney-Wollongong comp­lex, housing problems highlighted by the Opal Tower scandal last December, when hundreds of residents from a newly completed 24-storey apartment building at Olympic Park were forced out, and the planned rebuild of two major Sydney sports stadiums.

The Berejiklian Government had committed to rebuild the Allianz Football Stadium at Moore Park, at a cost of $730 million, and to renovate ANZ Stadium at Olympic Park. $810 million is being spent reconfiguring the Olympic stadium into a full-time 70,000 seat rectangular venue.

Labor opposed the renovations, using the slogan, “Schools and hospitals before stadiums”, and said it would renovate the stadiums at no cost to taxpayers. How this was to be done was not revealed.

With over 60 per cent of the vote counted, Liberal, Nationals and Labor received 75.2 per cent of the vote, and the Greens another 9.4 per cent in the lower house. It was a different story in the upper house, where Liberal/Nationals and Labor won only 61.6 per cent and the Greens 9.4 per cent. A huge number of voters did not vote for a major party in the lower house.


Labor leader Michael Daley blamed Labor’s disappointing performance on his short time as leader; but he has had extensive political experience, having served as a minister in the last NSW Labor government, then held senior posts in the shadow ministry before his election as leader last November.

Opinion polls showed that the momentum for change was with Labor early in the campaign, but swung towards the Government as election day loomed.

Two issues in the last days of the election worked against Labor. By common consent, Gladys Berejiklian defeated Daley at the televised Voters Forum telecast on Sky News on the Wednesday before the election.

And a video recorded six months ago, in which Daley blamed immigrants for taking the jobs of people in Western Sydney, caused immense damage to Labor’s campaign, particularly in areas with a high migrant population.

Although the National Party lost seats to the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party in outback NSW, the Liberals held their seats and will form a majority government in the state.

An issue that both major parties skirted during the election campaign was the looming energy crisis in NSW. The Labor campaign for a huge expansion of renewable energy was clearly designed to win Green votes, or to stop the inexorable drift of left-wing Labor votes to the Greens. But the hard fact is that the 1600-megawatt Liddell Power Station, which is coal-fired, will close down in three years’ time, and there is no replacement in sight.

AGL, the owner of Liddell, has announced the plant’s closure, and although both the federal and NSW governments have opposed it, AGL has confirmed that it will go ahead, making NSW dependent on imports of base-load power from Queensland.

Unless urgent and immediate action is taken, NSW will face the prospect of soaring power prices and even peak period blackouts, like South Australia and Victoria, which have closed base-load coal-fired power plants and not replaced them.

A second issue relates to gas. NSW gets most of its gas from the Cooper Basin in central Australia, with supplementary supply from Queensland and Victoria. Most of Queensland’s production is earmarked for export, from terminals in Gladstone, north of Brisbane.

Victoria’s gas production comes overwhelmingly from gas fields discovered by Esso-BHP in Bass Strait. These fields have supplied Australia with low-cost gas since the 1960s, but the fields are nearly depleted and, despite a large-scale drilling exploration program, no new fields have been discovered. The Victorian Labor Government has a moratorium on gas exploration anywhere in the state, so gas shortfalls are inevitable.

The outcome of the NSW election will certainly be a shot in the arm for Scott Morrison and the Federal Coalition, ahead of the May election.

In the forthcoming Budget, the last before the election, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is expected to announce a budget surplus, for the first time since the Howard government lost office in 2007. This will give the Liberals a large war chest for the forthcoming election campaign. With falling house prices threatening to stall the housing sector, one of the largest parts of the economy, federal spending may be all that stands between Australia and a recession over the next two years.

Although the NSW election result will encourage the Federal Coalition, the Morrison Government still faces an uphill battle to be re-elected in May.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm