All eyes are on Mike Baird as he takes the office of Premier of NSW for the next four years
By ,Vish Viswanathan
“I love this State!” exclaimed Mike Baird after winning a clear mandate although with a reduced majority, in the New South Wales State Elections held on March 28, 2015. “We will do what we say we are going to do, and to the people of NSW I say this: I will guarantee that we’ll work every day for you to make your lives better,” said the newly elected Premier with confidence to his cheering colleagues and supporters. In a personal message to voters he said, “Hello Mike Baird here. My personal commitment to you and to NSW is to never stop working for you, your family and community.”
Luke Foley, leading the Labor party in the elections said, “The next election will be very winnable!”, while very gracefully conceding defeat and the election victory to the Coalition, on the night that the results were announced.
Going forward, both candidates will be clearly in the spotlight; Premier Baird will be held accountable for his pre-election promises and Mr Foley for creating an impactful Opposition that could be a strong contender in the next elections.
A brief synopsis
The people of NSW voted for the 56th Parliament that included 93 candidates to the Legislative Assembly, and 21 of 42 seats in the Legislative Council. This election was preceded by an electoral redistribution, which meant that electoral boundaries have altered and some of the voter enrolled districts may have changed.
The 2015 election was notable and significant for NSW in that:
Luke Foley, the Labor party’s leader was not a member of the Legislative Assembly prior to the election, and commenced leading the Labor campaign only three months ago
The Liberals’ campaign to lease part of the State’s electricity assets was not acceptable to a majority of voters in NSW, as evidenced from independent pre-election surveys conducted
The popularity of Mike Baird overshadowed any other voter concerns
Nationals partners to Coalition with Liberals had tough competition from the Greens in rural NSW
Voters could vote online for the first time via iVote run by the New South Wales Electoral Commission
A good number of candidates from multicultural backgrounds were fielded across party lines
During the last elections in 2011, the Coalition won a big majority 64.2% of the state-wide two-party preferred vote, a swing of 16.5%. Both the two-party vote and swing were post war records. The Coalition won 69 seats in the 93 seat Legislative Assembly, the largest majority in the state’s history. However, the long history of NSW as a Labor state was in contrast to the thrashing the party received at the 2011 election. With just 25.6% of the first preference vote, Labor recorded its lowest vote share since becoming the official opposition in 1904.
In the 2015 elections, the scenario changed dramatically with the Coalition majority winning 54 seats, but reduced to 45.7% of the votes and with a loss of 15 seats to other parties. The Labor party on the other hand won 34 seats and gained 14 more seats with 34.1% of votes.
The core theme of the Coalition campaign was a proposal to lease half of the state’s remaining electricity assets to the private sector to fund a $20 billion infrastructure plan. However, Mr Baird’s ability to deliver the privatisation plan will be challenged at the Upper House, where a Coalition majority may not happen. With the Greens and Shooters party opposed to the policy and Christian Democrat Fred Nile sitting on the fence, Labor may be in a position to block the plan.
On a positive note just as we predicted, it will be a very good outcome for the common man if the Premier and his newly elected cabinet, manage and deliver their ‘infrastructure dream’ during next four crucial years, building up the State’s economy, creating new jobs and funding core services like health, education and community welfare.
It is also a very good opportunity for Luke Foley and his team to serve as effective and constructive Opposition and to lead his party into a very competitive position, offering new talent. No doubt he will use that team to fight the Coalition on key issues and with a positive swing of 8.5% in primary votes, Labor has opportunity to change the political scenario through hard work.
Overall, voters across New South Wales have cast their ballot with maturity and understanding of key issues. According to exit polls conducted after the polling, health and education were top issues considered by voters and ‘poles and wires’ figured later. This is an interesting outcome as the electricity sale issue and perceptions of so-called ‘scare campaigns’ did not have much impact with voters, as expected by both Coalition and Labor.
The two major parties made a number of pre-election promises, and deliverables with no strings attached are now a key factor in the build up to the next elections in 2019.The Coalition will need to watch each step every day for the next four years and will be monitored not just by the Opposition, but by the people of NSW.
Will election promises be fulfilled and the momentum continued? Premier Baird, we’re watching you!