Opinion Pieces

NSW Can Have It All

Sydney Morning Herald 11 March 2019

Like all Australian elections, the NSW campaign features the usual combatants competing on a lopsided playing field.  

Three big challenges for the Coalition are emerging for the last two weeks of the campaign.

The first is whether the Liberals can overcome the plentiful union boots on the ground, big money and big lies.

In the 2016 federal election campaign, voters heard the worst of all lies. Unions and Labor said the Coalition would privatise Medicare.

Imagine that, privatising a government health scheme that pays people’s health costs. The proposition is absurd.

Labor ramped it up in the last few weeks of the federal campaign. Internal Liberal Party polling showed “Mediscare” destroyed the party in Tasmania.

As fanciful as this sounds, many people believed it and voted for Labor.

I am sure Labor doesn’t enjoy scaring people but scaring people seemingly works, it shifts votes.

No doubt a lie on a similar scale will emerge in the last two weeks of this campaign.

Whatever the lie is, it will be supercharged both physically and digitally.

Union operatives on the ground will appear in every suburb in every marginal seat over the next fortnight which provides an extraordinary physical campaign edge.

Doorknocking, street stalls, manning pre-poll stations and infiltration of community organisations are the basic services provided by paid union campaigners.

On polling day, you may even see nurses or fire brigade officials handing out for the Labor Party.

The same people who are paid by unions to represent workers are also adroit at digital trolling. Union trolls push out the talking points of the Labor Party on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to shape opinion.

These are not Russian bots, these are real people on the union payroll.

The Liberal Party generally campaigns on its own.

Occasionally there is support on single issues from third party groups like business associations but it is never as directly political or as well resourced as union efforts for Labor. And this will be the first election in NSW following the 2017 same sex marriage plebiscite. 22,000 new people will be on the roll.

Younger people tend to lean towards Labor which will be an added bonus for the opposition.

The second challenge is clearly communicating the transport miracle in NSW.

Labor’s 16 years in office left Sydney clogged and congested. Major projects were announced but abandoned. Over 8 years, NSW has seen outcomes. The spin is gone. The roads and rail are in.

The scale of the transformation is unparalleled. We are months away from the North West Metro commencing. West Connex is starting to bear fruit with the M4 East tunnel due to open within weeks.

North Connex is on the way, light rail is coming and a slew of regional projects will ensure the bush gets its share.

The challenge of the transport miracle is much of the final delivery will occur after the election. The task for the Liberals is to ensure people know the outcomes are in and the spin is gone.

For this to happen, the miracle must be broken into digestible bites. Rail lines, roads and bus stops.

The third challenge is sticking to the Liberal Party’s core equity: economic management.

The facts speak for themselves.

NSW unemployment is the lowest it has ever been at 3.9%. The state is booming and delivering record investment in infrastructure. And has no debt. As the Treasurer Dominic Perrottett said on Sunday, Michael Daley thinks the biggest issue in NSW is whether to refurbish or rebuild a stadium. It is not.

The biggest issues are always, do I have a job? Is my life getting easier? Do I have access to essential services? Do my kids have a future?

After eight years of good government, the fact is, NSW has good answers to each question. NSW is back on track.

Three new metros, five new motorways, 170 schools and 40 hospitals are being delivered.

98 per cent of the infrastructure spend is on hospitals, schools and transport. Just 2 per cent is on stadiums.

The equivalent “Mediscare” lie we are already seeing is the “Liberals cut hospitals to give it to the stadium”. Prepare for more lies.  

What do you do when you have no positive agenda? Scare people.

The Premier rightly said on Sunday “you can have it all”. You can, but only if you get the economic fundamentals right - which the Liberals have done.

Andrew Bragg is a Liberal Senate Candidate - @ajamesbragg

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