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August 2006   
F E A T U R E S

Interview: A Life And Death Matter
Macquarie Street and Canberra are squaring off over safety in the workplace, NSW Minister for Industrial relations, John Della Bosca, explains what's at stake.

Unions: Fighting Back
When John Howard's building industry enforcer started threatening people's homes, one couple hit the road. Jim Marr met them in Sydney.

Industrial: What Cowra Means
The ruling on the Cowra abattoir case highlights the implications of the new IR rules, according to John Howe and Jill Murray

Environment: Scrambling for Energy Security
Howard Government hypocrisy is showcased in its climate change manoeuvring, Stuart Rosewarne writes:

Politics: Page Turner
A new book leaves no doubt about whether the faction came before the ego, Nathan Brown writes.

Economics: The State of Labour
The capacity of the state to shape the political economy and thus improve the social lives of the people must be reasserted, argues Geoff Dow.

International: Workers Blood For Oil
A new book by Abdullah Muhsin and Alan Johnson lifts the lid on the bloody reality of US backed democracy for Iraq's trade unions

History: Liberty in Spain
Worker Self-Management is good management. The proof in Spain was in Catalania, Andalusia and continues in the Basque Country, as Neale Towart explains.

Review: Go Roys, Make A Noise
Phil Doyle thought he'd find nostalgia, but instead Vulgar Press' new book, Maroon & Blue is a penetrating insight into the suburban mind under stress.

C O L U M N S

The Locker Room
Ruled Out
Phil Doyle plays by the rules

Fiction
Tommy's Apprentice
Chapter One - Tommy and "The Boy"

Politics
Westie Wing
Ian West wonders what might happen if the NSW Coalition actually did win power next March at the State elections.

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Politics

Westie Wing


Ian West wonders what might happen if the NSW Coalition actually did win power next March at the State elections.

He can be seen at the beach very early in the morning surrounded by television cameras on a reported 1 hour swim - rain, hail or shine.

He is a paid up member of the Royal Motor Yacht Club at Newport on Sydney's insular peninsula.

He is an active member of the Bondi Chamber of Commerce - an organisation dedicated to championing the interests of business owners through collective bargaining (collective bargaining is okay for employers, but not okay for workers).

He was formerly with Dalgety Farmers Limited - now de-listed.

He was a former manager and joint venturer to the Aerospace industry.

He is the third person in the last 4 years to hold his current position, winning an uncontested ballot.

His would-be opponent stepped out of the race after being told he did not have the support of extreme right wing elements of the voting pool.

He is the Member for Vaucluse - Australia's richest electorate.

According to recent polls there's a good chance you don't know who he is.

He's Peter Debnam - one year into his job as Liberal Party leader.

Only one in five people in the state actually knows who the guy is, but NSW Opposition Leader Peter Debnam likes to think that he speaks for all of them.

It's a funny world - politics - where someone with the public profile of a stick insect can front the evening news cameras and announce our impending doom.

Funny, but a little frightening, and here's an example...

Peter Debnam: "At dawn ... on the 25th of March (2007), my instruction to the police commissioner will be to take as many police as you need and charge them with anything to get them off the streets. There's 200 thugs on the streets of Sydney who should be in jail, that's the issue. I'm saying to the Government, 'Get in their face, get 'em arrested, get 'em locked up.'"

When asked to flesh out how this policy might work in practice - the shrill answer is 500 more police to be deployed into South Western Sydney. Sound like leadership material?

The state of siege in Peter Debnam's head is of such magnitude you can forget democracy, rip up the constitution and abolish the Parliament.

When Peter Debnam talks about dawn raids, we can assume he doesn't feel the need to act on reports of Liberal Party branch meetings last year where guns were flashed to intimidate people.

On addressing allegations of extreme elements, standover behaviour and ballot rigging in his own party, Peter Debnam remains silent.

But there he is - scaring people back into their houses, spending money that isn't his, and talking down public servants.

At the top of his list of claims is that of responsible economic management. He even has an MBA to bolster his credentials.

Peter Debnam's core promise is that he will cut 29,000 positions from the NSW public service. Assuming he didn't just make this figure up and that the promise is genuine, we need to understand where these jobs might come from.

At present, there are about 270,000 permanent full-time public sector employees in NSW. When you discount frontline services like teachers, nurses, doctors, police, fire fighters, bus and train drivers, that figure reduces to 32,000 positions.

Of those 32,000 "non frontline" public servants, approximately 9,000 are in regional and rural NSW, which Debnam has also said will not be affected.

So we're down to 23,000. But he said 29,000...

Peter Debnam wants us to take him seriously, so we need to take him at his word and assume there will actually be cuts to frontline and essential service staff.

Part of the solution for making his numbers add up may come from transferring significant State functions to Canberra, or in his own words, "to the extent of the duplicated bureaucracies in Canberra, health education, transport, let's get rid of them."

So how would the rest of the workforce in NSW fare under a Coalition Government? Peter Debnam is very clear, saying he will be in lockstep with John Howard on Work Choices, transferring the bulk of NSW's IR powers to Canberra, eliminating awards and the State Commission.

That might get a good reception at the Bondi Chamber of Commerce or the Royal Motor Yacht Club, but for the mainstream, it would be a disaster.

Peter Debnam's race for the mantle of economic manager also includes the prospect of unfettered Public Private Partnerships. Debnam has said he'll let the private sector in on every public enterprise, services and infrastructure, across the board. In his own words, "Across the board. Everything we can get them involved - if there is an innovative way of getting them involved, we'll do it."

Peter Debnam seems to have forgotten people in NSW are still paying off the disastrous $800 million Airport Rail Link.

But his willingness to embrace the private sector to show off his economic management credentials rests uneasily with his more than $22 billion in unfunded promises made to date.

Some of Peter Debnam's more loopy ideas include:

- light rail for the Northern Beaches at a cost of $1 billion

- taking on the RTBU to smash what he believes is a union controlled bus monopoly in Sydney CBD (never mind that RTBU covers both bus and tram employees)

- a tunnel under the Spit Bridge

- exempting employers from WorkCover premiums for apprentices

- shutting down the Kings Cross Medical Injecting room which is supported by 75% of local residents and business owners, and has saved countless lives

- axe the Roads and Traffic Authority on Day One (Day One Year One)

- building a Defence Industry Development Strategy for NSW

- re-name 'NSW Police' to 'NSW Police Force'

- increased taxpayer funding to property investors

- a super highway through the Blue Mountains (it has been shown that the amount of earth needed to be removed could be used to build a land bridge from Australia to New Zealand)

Peter Debnam has refused to detail how he'll pay for his insane spending promises.

It's worth remembering what happened the last time the Coalition was in Government in NSW. At the end of their last effort there had been six budget deficits in a row, NSW was on credit watch, and unemployment was at 8%.

And for all the tough-talking, Peter Debnam won't stand up to the Howard Government on the GST rip off that sees $900 from each NSW household leave for Canberra. Nearly $3 billion leaves NSW taxpayers and Peter Debnam doesn't utter a word in defence of NSW taxpayers.

That could be because John Howard has signalled a major effort will be put in by the Federal Government to help get Peter Debnam elected.

Whichever the case - prepare to see Peter Debnam becoming more shrill and alarmist as the months to next March count down.

The imminent meltdown will appear ever closer - but we must take Peter Debnam at his word. And we need to take him seriously because he'll have the assistance of a friendly tabloid media, a cashed up Federal Government and Liberal Party, and an electorate that may have forgotten or has never known the disaster that is a NSW Liberal Government.

Like the Premier said in relation to one of Peter Debnam's recent announcements, "Peter Debnam's policy is either a fraud ... or a disaster."

Take your pick NSW.

If you require assistance accessing information from a NSW Government Department or a Minister, or have feedback and ideas for speeches, or if you believe you know an issue that should be looked at by one of the Parliamentary committees, contact me at Parliament House on (02) 9230 2052 or email [email protected]


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