By Henry Johnston
Optics is everything in contemporary politics and the Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten understands its power.
Thus, Bill Shorten’s welcoming of Michael Daley MP at the launch of the NSW ALP election campaign at the Revesby Workers Club on Sunday March 10, bristled with the nomenclature of ‘optics’.
And while various news outlets faithfully reported snippets of the event, the proceedings were streamed via the internet on Facebook and other digital platforms.
Both Madigan and Fitzpatrick are inheritors of the digital age. And winning the votes of those who prefer streaming to free-to-air TV or reading old fashioned ‘inkies,’ could tip the election in Daley’s favour.
Now contrast the Liberal Party launch on the same day with a mute PM Scott Morrison and the Usual Suspects of John Howard et al, dutifully covered by the biggest inky of them all, The Australian no less.
In the optics stakes the winners were undoubtedly Bill Shorten and Michael Daley.
Perhaps the worst example of bad optics is this photograph of the wife and daughter of Ryde ALP candidate Jerome Laxale being mobbed by blue clad Liberal supporters.
So let’s consider what is at stake in Ryde / Bennelong as well as the big Labor seats west of the Sydney CBD. While many of these enclaves remained loyal to the ALP in the Rudd Gillard Rudd years, and stayed faithful to Bill Shorten, their NSW State equivalents, deserted the party in the two previous elections.
Indeed, seats such as Penrith, Revesby, Riverwood and further west Bathurst, must return to the State Labor fold. For it is in western Sydney and its environs NSW will witness the biggest of big infrastructure projects; the construction of the Nancy Bird Walton Airport at Badgery’s Creek.
This is nation building stuff and its impact will be felt for at least a century. Policy wonks and political hard heads are hoping its construction and management is overseen by a sensitive state and Federal government, and not monstered by a Liberal apparatchik such as Max Moore-Wilton, famously given the shortest of short shrift by Anthony Albanese MP.
Labor members in adjacent Blue Mountains seats and local government areas are terrified of an airport built by a Liberal clique currently supervising the Westconnex debacle.
Say what you like about NSW Labor, but it delivered the State, Australia and the world, the best Olympic Games of the age.
Michael Daley knows this and has a Cabinet-level understanding of how enormous projects can be delivered on time, on budget. It is this reason I contend, why he stood up to Alan Jones.
Bill Shorten is familiar with Daley’s Labor pedigree and appreciates the fundamental fact that it is easier to deal with a NSW Labor premier, than a lame duck Liberal premier, whose political future lies in the maw of Alan Jones.
The alternative is a minority Labor State government which may rely on the two Greens State members Jamie Parker (Balmain) and Jenny Leong (Newtown) for Confidence and Supply. Add to this mix Mark Latham as a One Nation MLC and we have a recipe for a debacle.
Given the fact thousands of citizens in western Sydney are about to learn the joys of changing trains in Chatswood to get to the CBD, or losing bus services in and around the Ryde electorate, (see above) March 23 2019 will be one of the most important dates on both the NSW and national electoral calendar.
Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book The Last Voyage of Aratus is on sale at Brays Bookshop in Balmain an at Forty South Publishing.
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