With all the drama and inevitable weeping and gnashing of teeth about the Carbon Tax in Canberra yesterday, it was perhaps inevitable that it would become an issue in the NSW election.
Of course, anyone who is influenced by what either leader said on the issue surely misunderstands the delineated roles of the Commonwealth and State governments, but let's put that aside for the moment.
Keneally came out in support of the tax, saying "Climate change is a real problem and we as a nation need real leadership to deal with it," (SMH Online) whilst O'Farrell said that he opposed the tax because it "is going to boost families' power bills by $500, boost the power bills of small businesses by $2,000, and threaten industries like the steel industry in the Illawarra." (ABC Online)
To what extent the Federal leaders have instructed these two to follow the party line is anyone's guess. The way both fell in line seemingly without question highlights the clear ideological divide between Federal Labor and Coalition on this issue.
To see a stark ideological difference extend past meaningless rhetoric is a treat in Australian politics. I often have the feeling that it is anyone's guess where the two major parties will land on any particular issue.
WorkChoices was, until now, the most obvious example. Labor (and the unions) in the 2007 Federal Election used WorkChoices to brilliant effect, galvanising their base and reminding people who they (ostensibly) stand for.
The Carbon Tax appears to be the next WorkChoices, which should be a guarantee of some first class niggle from both sides. The NBN and the flood levy have also been interesting to watch, for the same reason. Abbott's "Oppose or Die Trying" approach has certainly helped lift some pulses on both sides of the aisle.
In NSW, there are few issues on which there is a true ideological split. Labor have been trying to paint O'Farrell as someone who will privatise everything, in typical Liberal style, but their efforts must seem a little disingenuous given they just crashed through the power privatisation.
There are differences in the plans for transport, but there is no major difference for ideological reasons. Same goes for health and education.
In fact, it's a little hard to think of a state issue where we have the same ideological battle that we are now seeing in Canberra. This may very well be a product of the fact that the Coalition knows that all they have to do is stay on their feet long enough to fall over the line - why risk alienating all the Labor voters who have drifted across to them by doing something that will annoy traditional Labor voters?
This all makes O'Farrell's willingness to "nail his colours to the mast" a little confusing. Have a look at this Newspoll: http://bit.ly/efUTcT
Admittedly, the numbers are from December last year, and presumably we'll see an avalanche of polling on the issue soon. Also, I'm not a huge fan of the question asked by the pollsters, but this will have to do for now.
Labor voters are 57:39:4 (in favour:against:uncommitted) on a price on carbon. Liberal voters are 31:65:4
As things stand in NSW, there are hundreds of thousands of people who would usually be Labor voters who are telling pollsters they will vote for the Coalition.
These people voting Coalition on 26 March is surely the key to a crushing Coalition victory - and O'Farrell allowing climate change to become an issue and tying himself to the Federal Coalition position on going to push these people back towards Labor. Further, it's hardly going win any voters from Labor - based on present polling, I think it fair to assume that the only people still planning to vote Labor would vote naked before they voted Coalition.
In my view, irrespective of whether he actually believes it or not, O'Farrell would do well to steer the conversation towards state issues rather than risk chipping away at the Coalition's monumental lead rather than importing an issue that is only going to lose him votes.