Letter from the Premier of NSW The Hon Kristina Keneally MP
The NSW Opposition have started to distribute their election policy document. What is most extraordinary about this 65-page document is that it does not commit to one more train, one more bus, one more kilometre of road, or one more ferry. It does not commit to the lowering of public transport fares under MyZone, or the light rail line under construction now.
It does not promise one more hospital bed, one more nurse, one more police officer, or one more respite or supported accommodation place for people with a disability. Remarkably, it makes no mention of community services, child protection or social housing. Many of the specific initiatives the policy document does promise, such as building the South West Rail Link or creating an independent Health Information Bureau, are already underway.
I am disappointed. We want the NSW election in March to be a debate about ideas for positive change for our state. This document reminds me of Nick Greiner's famous comment that, in Opposition, you have two sets of policies: those you announce, and those you keep in your bottom drawer until you are in power. A direct quote from former NSW Liberal Premier Nick Greiner puts it in context. Mr Greiner said: "We ruthlessly separated the issues of getting elected from the issues of governing. I literally had a draw for elections and a drawer for government. In the drawer for getting into government we had 'truth in sentencing' and populist things that were liable to win you votes. In the drawer for governing we had microeconomic-type steps, ones that were difficult to sell politically even though they proved to be right and successful. We had directions rather than policies that avoided the pitfalls of detail. I remember the transport one which managed to convey in positive terms the directions [in which] we were going to go rather than we are going to shed 33 percent of the workforce ... In most cases we had a directions speech which we published and in most cases we had a policy behind it which we didn't publish."
(Source: Reform and Reversal: Lessons from the Coalition Government in
New South Wales 1988-95 by Martin Laffin and Martin Painter) We have to wonder what is really in Mr O'Farrell's bottom drawer. I commented to this effect in Parliament, and attach a transcript of the relevant excerpts for your information.
The Hon Kristina Keneally MP
Premier of New South Wales