Look out, Luke, democracy about

Open letter to NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley – and the Australian Labor Party 29/3/2015 (the day after Labor lost the NSW election)

Dear Mr Foley,

Immediately before Labor lost the NSW 2015 election, you were publicly defending your parliamentary colleagues’ right to vote against legislation central to the entire election campaign: Liberal leader Mike Baird’s plans to lease 49% of the State’s poles & wires business to free up $20 billion or so in capital for spending on critical infrastructure, such as roads, rail and other services.

There is no doubt whatsoever that this strategy was at the forefront of the Liberal Party campaign, as demonstrated when you debated Mike Baird on Sky News and asked him what was Plan B. He replied: “There is no Plan B.”

Your rationale for opposing this plan, you explained, was that those who voted for Labour were entitled to expect Labor to vote along its pre-election stand, even it meant voting against the clear mandate of the winning party which was then in Government.

Immediately after Labour’s loss, Labor’s assistant general secretary is reported (‘Calling on Foley to come out fighting’) Sunday Telegraph, 29/3/2015, p9) to have advised you that it would be a mistake for Labor and you to change their opposition to the state’s power network privatisation.

On the same day – indeed, on the same page of the Sunday Telegraph – Former NSW Labor Treasurer Michael Egan ‘slammed Luke Foley’s anti-privatisation stance, accusing the party of failing to ‘grow up’.

Who is more in tune with the spirit of democracy: you and John Graham or Michael Egan (and several other Labor politicians)? I ask from a centrist, non-partisan stance, being neither a ‘lefty’ nor a ‘righty’. (I recognise good public policy, whichever party can deliver it.)

It seems that you have been infected by the Federal Labor virus (let’s call it slefishharmusitis) which turns rational politicians into speed bumps on the road of democracy. The one that managed to infect Labor thinking and made it vote against budget savings that Labor itself had proposed. Labor may think of it as hurting the Abbott government, but it is hurting us, the nation. And it is also an act of foolish self harm, as the future will demonstrate.

Party political point-scoring is not in the national interest and the idea that an Opposition can try to stand in the way of the central platform of an incoming government is clearly against the spirit of democracy. It is not the Liberal/National politicians you would be frustrating – but us, the voters. Look out, Luke Foley, doing damage to democracy is fatal for all of us.

It can be argued, and I accept this, that oppositions are there to hold the government to account for all its policies and legislation must be robustly dissected. Indeed, legislation that will frame this policy should be carefully scrutinised. But that’s not the same thing as thumbing your nose at the majority of voters who understood the strategy proposed by Mike Baird – and voted in favour of it. What will you say to them if your colleagues vote against it?

The most disturbing aspect of this, though, is the maintenance of the charade that the partial privatisation of electricity services will force up prices, in the face of evidence to the contrary. Yet for all that, worse still is the notion underpinning this misleading story: that higher electricity prices must be the only benchmark for testing good public policy, ignoring the positive effects of a $20 billion (much needed) infrastructure program. Doesn’t Labor want to create more jobs, grow the economy and provide better services? Where is the Labor party the people can respect and trust?

Yours in Democracy,

Andrew L. Urban

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