Labor’s last stand
Monday March 26th 2007, 10:21 am

In his NSW state election post-mortem comments, Peter Manbed is right about only one thing- this is Labor’s last chance.

Voters returned Labor to NSW government despite a conga line of cockups, mainly because Peter Manbed was viewed to be an out-of-touch fatcat from the big end of town with no concept of life in the real world, but the electorate’s ire with Howard was a big factor as well.

Howard thinks that WorkChoices wasn’t a factor in the NSW result. Wrong, bucko. While a federal level matter, WorkChoices did indeed play in NSW voters’ decisions. Manbed had claimed that as Premier, he would have no problem with complying with WorkChoices- and would hand control of NSW workplace relations to Canberra. I believe Labor would have done much worse than just suffering a ~5% swing against them and losing 3 seats- had it not been for many begrudging votes, not so much for Labor and Iemma but against WorkChoices. The Greens appear to have picked up many voters lost by bad Labor policy (including me). I do believe this will be repeated at the federal elections. Quiver, Johnny. You have good cause to fear- ratbaggery is no longer working to hold the Labor vote in check.

To be reasonably fair to Iemma, he’s inherited most of NSW’s problems from the Carr government. It was Robert John Carr, someone I once had glowing respect for, who negotiated the toll-road and tunnel PPP contracts, allowed public healthcare to slip to maddening if not threatening levels of paucity, failed to come up with effective public transport schemes and maintain/improve public transit infrastructure. The blush was really off the rose with my opinion of Mr Carr when he walked out of his Premiership and into an office at Macquarie Bank with not so much as a stop for a sandwich. Mac Bank is a financier of tunnel projects and the Kingsford-Smith Airport. More concerning yet, Mac Bank will get to ‘double dip’ if the sale of Qantas goes through with the blessing of ACCC, with Mac Bank permitted to set the airport facilities rates it will charge to its own airline. NO conflict of interest there…

The delay in opening the Lane Cove Tunnel until the day after the election (with a $25 million dollar bonus to the contractor for delaying the opening– the tunnel has been ready for weeks) was a cynical Iemma manoevre, one which reveals the Labor government’s solid knowledge of how much we hate toll roads. However, it’s not the toll roads and tunnels themselves nor the extra $20 per week for drivers which must pass through the tunnel areas which are at the core of our hatred- it’s the ‘tunnel funnel’ traffic redistribution.

Blocking perfectly good free public roads forces drivers to use the toll roads. The toll roads are run by private companies which set prices at will and respond to shareholders interests- not those of the greater community who are forced to use the toll roads. In reaction to community fury, Iemma backpedalled at Mach III, re-opening some blocked roads around the Cross-City tunnel, which has since financially failed due to extreme overestimates of how much traffic the tunnel would attract. Protesting drivers have studiously avoided the tunnel, raising the craft of rat-running around the toll roads to a high art. While tunnel-funnelling does force some drivers to use the toll facilities, it is simply impossible to block them all. The avoidance of toll roads and tunnels forces drivers to use much slower routes and spend many more hours idling engines in city traffic, creating even more pollution than before the tunnels were opened.

The toll roads are “public-private” partnerships, for sure… but the ‘public’ part of that pair is the government, not the people of NSW. I’m fairly confident NSW voters never were polled in the Carr years on allowing our public roads to be hijacked by private profiteers.

Somewhere along the line, governments developed a fear of deficit financing and operating to the benefit of the public. If governments must be run like a business, they should more resemble a non-profit organisation. The massive US interstate highway system was built mainly as a defence project, but was financed with public debt over some decades. The economic payback from the freely available roads has covered the cost of the US freeway infrastructure in increased business and income tax revenue many, many times over. Toll roads do shift the cost to the users of the road, but this results in seriously unbalanced cost imposts on a very few members of the community and none on the community at large who don’t use them. Narrowing the main financing base of large physical infrastructure to only the very frequent users runs a great risk of insolvency if there’s a boycott by the potential users- as has happened with the Cross-City tunnel debacle.

Let’s hope that Rudd’s publicly financed broadband backbone plan is indicative of a broader commitment to use government economic power for nation-building. Public-private partnerships which don’t work on NSW roads are unlikely to work any better in a publicly accessible high-speed data backbone.


9 Comments so far
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How is Rudd’s broadband plan different from any other public-private partnership?

Comment by Flashman 03.26.07 @ 11:17 am

Flash, I was under the impression that Rudd wanted to go the route of making it a government owned/operated deal rather than a more typical PPP. The funding is proposed to come out of some public bucket of money, not solely from a corporation seeking to maximise a profit return for a shareholder base.

Comment by weez 03.26.07 @ 11:57 am

And THAT’S why Rudd must be stopped! He’s robbing future generations by, uh… investing in their future! Yeah, that’ll stick!

Comment by Flashman 03.26.07 @ 11:11 pm

Costello sure thinks it’ll stick, Flash.

The silly-wild-assed conspiracy theorist in me thinks that the gubmint finds the opposition organised online to be somewhat inconvenient already- and faster access can’t be good, at least not for the gubmint.

The pragmatist in me thinks that if Rudd said the sky was blue, Petey The C would be pointing out the pink and orangey bits at dawn and dusk.

Comment by weez 03.27.07 @ 2:29 pm

I heard the new editor of Ruppys Bulletin on radio this morning. He claimed that the Hicks predicament only became an issue after the online world kept ringing the bells.

From there, on talkback, it soon went to ‘Gov fear of broadband’. Your view, weez ,maybe more mainstream than you imagine.

Your pragmatist is of course spot on, as well. The trouble is that such a negative portrayal of Rudd ,on everything, just looks so phony. It smacks of desperation.

Comment by joe2 03.28.07 @ 2:21 pm

joe, it wouldn’t surprise me that online activism, and by association, broadband, is a threat to the govt, but I wouldn’t have thought it was a very big one. That’s why I put on my tinfoil hat for that comment. I’m surprised such came up in talkback (commercial radio, right?).

The ‘online opinion’ is the same public opinion that’s been around all along- it’s just that there’s an awful lot more people around certain websites than around any given water cooler these days. However, social chain reactions are now starting to go critical. The activism connections that develop via the ‘net are the equivalent of a neutron cascade in a sufficiently sized lump of uranium. The critical mass of numbers is there- it’s just the connections are only now being made.

Indeed, the Hicks thing was a grand bit of organisation and facilitation of an existing public sentiment by GetUp- and is probably going to be looked back upon fondly as their coming of age as online activists in Australia. MoveOn, GetUp’s kissing cousins from the USA, punch so far above their weight that with their sort of magic, Kostya Tzu could kick Mike Tyson’s ass twice a day. GetUp floundered for a while until they got their fingers on the pulse, but they’re finally beginning to connect on Australians’ hotbutton issues.

I think Johnny & Petey have already worn out their slam & smear game on Rudd. The public’s wise and we’re all now taking their spews with about a tonne of salt. The Burke stuff went face first into the muck. Johnny’s old and tired ‘OH NOOOOOEY!- the unionists are taking over the ALP!!’ gag is falling flat… especially when you consider how many farmers, bankers, businesspeople etc. populate the Libs’ rank ranks. Pot, kettle, etc.

I’m fairly confident (80%+) that the Australian public is going to gig Johnny & the Libs over WorkChoices, if nothing else. I’m actually considering putting a wager that JWH bails out before the election. ‘Course, JWH knows just as well as I that Costello is as charismatic as radioactive pondscum, locking in a Lib loss if JWH were to bail.

Rudd’s mudproof, wasn’t drawn (much) on Burke. What rabbit do you think JWH will pull out next?

Comment by weez 03.28.07 @ 4:49 pm

“What rabbit do you think JWH will pull out next?”

Hard to say and guess, weez. Maybe WW3, if he thinks that line will help him win an election and circumstances provide. Or as an excuse not to hold one, if he reckons he will lose.

Iran, as a large bees nest, will only take a few more pokes and we will be thrown into a war. Perfect timing to re-issue fridge magnets and take the public on another ride with J. Winston. H., on rearguard.

Hoping otherwise.

Comment by joe2 03.28.07 @ 11:35 pm

I thought WW3 was already in progress. 😕

Seems like Johnny has already played the boat-people card. That didn’t light off the electorate as it did before Children Overboard.

Maybe JWH will magically uncover some heinous terrorist plot to blow up all the Mr Whippy vans in the week before the election. ‘Course, it will be found that Fred Nile is behind the Mr Whippy bombings- after all, those vans are all PINK and CLEARLY, ice cream mustn’t be the only cream on sale from the side windows of those cryptopooftermobiles! Mr Whippy, indeed! Sounds positively Mapplethorpeish. 😀

Comment by weez 03.29.07 @ 6:15 am

“I thought WW3 was already in progress.”

Sorry I forgot. Since they strapped Brendan Nelson down and told him not to mention “The War”, it clearly crossed my mind.

Now this Whippy theory sounds a little bit far fetched. Though S/M has always been a tory theme and persuit. Yes, they would have to be very careful about who got caught up in the ‘drag net’,so to speak. Only to be released post-election, presumably.

Comment by joe2 03.29.07 @ 2:16 pm



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