Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Higher Office

There has been a predictable flurry of chatter in the last few days about candidates not staying on after the election.

I wrote previously about the conspiracy theories regarding a Eric Roozendaal departure once he qualifies for his pension (here: Many people are (predictably enough) are wondering how many Labor politicians will be moving on post election.

Presumably there will be less than one would normally expect when a party loses after 16 years in office, for two reasons.  First of all, the loss is inevitable, and it been that way for a long time.  No one from Labor could (plausibly) claim to be heading into this election still expecting to be in government - so there is little reason to expect the kind of exodus we say after Howard was punted in 2007 (Downer, Costello, McGauren and Vaile all jumped ship, Howard having famously lost his own seat).

Additionally, Keneally has been calling very publicly for what she has called "generational change" for some time.  Whether this is about renewing the party and trying to make sure they have a shot in 4 years, or rather just about trying to make the party look new and invigorated for this election is anyone's guess. 

This all means that most people who don't intend sticking out the 4 years have probably already jumped (or been pushed).  

During the Channel 10 debate last week, both leaders were asked questions about whether they will remain as leader after the election, which struck me as a particularly silly question. I've scoured the internet for a transcript but have been unable to find one, which seems typical of what seems to me to be the media's apathy to this election as a whole.

O'Farrell gave a rather cryptic answer that I didn't really follow about it being up to the party room and a vote having to be taken, when surely a simple "Yes" would have sufficed.

The question was difficult for Keneally because she knows that when Labor lose there will be people suggesting that she should no longer be leader of the party, despite the fact that no one really has much bad stuff to say about her leadership.  It may well not be up to her if she stays or not.

What she did guarantee is that she would be serving out her 4 year term as member for Heffron, she being one of the few Labor members all but guaranteed to retain her seat.

Today she is apparently refusing to comment on whether she will stay as leader if Labor are not returned ( SMH online).  She was then asked whether she was considering a Federal career, to which she replied that she was not.

If she did go chasing Federal glory, she wouldn't be the first.  The most obvious example would be Rob Oakeshott, who quit NSW politics to run successfully for Mark Vaile's old seat in September 2008.  A number of current House of Representative members also cut their teeth in State politics.

There's also the question of whether the Labor leader who was at the helm of what may very well be the biggest shellacking ever handed out by a state in living memory would ever have a political pulse afterwards.

I recall discussion some years ago, back when the Liberals were at their lowest in NSW and Howard still seemed unassailable, that the party was going to struggle to get out of the doldrums in NSW because all the "talent" in NSW as heading for the Federal arena where there were opportunities to govern.

How times change.

That aside, it still seems that many people see Federal politics as the pinnacle for politicians.  I don't ever plan to run for anything, but if I did, and I was given the option of a job that would keep me in Sydney (for the most part) or job that would require me to spend much of my year in Canberra, I reckon it would take me at least 2 seconds to decide to stay in NSW.

I've also heard it said that it is State Governments that really get things done, and provide the services that people need - police, hospitals, roads, public transport, which surely must hold some appeal.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it seems a shame that people often regard state politics as a "stepping stone" or an audition for greater things.  It remains to be seen how many of the Coalition's members take the same approach in the years to come.

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