Well, it’s going to be an irritating few months before the next NSW election.
We had hints of it with the last NSW budget – a smorgasbord of desperate, ad-hoc Liberal giveaways with a pale wash of fairness-goo slapped over it.
Now we see the decades-late acknowledgement of ordinary people’s concerns over immigration with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s partial address of the issue this week. “She also claimed the timing hadn’t been right to discuss migration levels in NSW until now.” Of course not. She could ignore it until she thought the suburbs were going to turn. And she doesn’t have to do anything real because it’s not a state responsibility.
The preening Liberal left don’t preen so much on immigration when they think they’re gonna lose. You can see the Hollowmen chatting: “Let’s talk immigration but get a wog to do it. And only talk about numbers. That’ll trick the mug punters on all sides. Wins all round.”
We also see the Liberal insider’s conventional wisdom that “Gladys is an asset” being played out in a scrabbled together “I’m just an efnic working girl” narrative. That conventional wisdom also held that former Premier Mike Baird’s social media focus was a game-changer. And that banning greyhound racing was a winner. Insider wisdom has rarely seemed less wise.
And so, more in hope than expectation, on Wednesday night two ex-Liberals rocked up to a Menzies Research Centre event to listen to NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet. His history of delivering the occasional penetrating speech was encouraging. We were hoping for some policy meat. All we got was froth, and as froth goes it was lightweight.
He managed to turn a think tank policy event into a platitudinous festival of campaigning emptiness. Only on GST reform did we get anything approaching something solid.
What was most notable was the undertone of defensiveness. Defensive about competence in infrastructure delivery: “People talk about months of project delay, well I say there’s been years of delay due to Labor”. This after eight years of Liberal government. Defensive about Liberal values – well, more about the extent to which the NSW Government acts on them. Defensive about the Liberal’s positive agenda: “We’re more than the cleanup crew for Labor”.
Defensive about regulatory impact on business, Perrottet stressed how the government had reduced the compliance load for setting up a café. A week after pushing pointless, virtue-signalling compliance on NSW businesses with the Modern Slavery Act.
And defensive about the anti-establishment emergence of the past five years. It’s an alarm bell when a Liberal labels a movement driven by a desire for accountability and self-determination “populist”. But when Perrottet identifies it as created by the ALP’s rejection of blue-collar values and capture by public service interests, you know it’s spin. It couldn’t have anything to do with the values and behaviour of sitting Liberal members and their enablers too, could it? Impossible. It’s all the fault of the ALP.
The spin is even clearer when he identifies the NSW Liberals as the true home of those forgotten by Labor’s move to the ABC-luvvie demographic. The Libs are clearly running scared that aspirational workers will desert them like long-term Liberals have. Presumably, Gladys-the-povvo is to address that. Their internal polling must be dire. If it is, it is purely self-inflicted, given that Opposition Leader Luke Foley is a public zero.
We saw the bones of likely campaign themes. “Freedom, prosperity, opportunity.” “GDP is a means to an end.” “Strong, free and fair”. “I’m a conservative and that means conserving the environment too”. Just a series of nods to areas of concern, no doubt soon to be backed by taxpayer dollars. Plus ça change.
Seriously, if all the NSW Treasurer can offer to a policy-focused, pro-Liberal audience reduces to “we build stuff and it creates opportunity” and a few anti-PC bromides to keep the faithful fed, the people of NSW may as well switch off now. It’s going to be a long, superficial summer.
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