*apologies for the lack of visuals. Once again, Blogger is not co-operating*
The events surrounding the closure of the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre are a odd and rather disconcerting example of the inner workings of the NSW Government today. It was politics, pure and simple - the ugly underbelly that they would rather you not see.
By way of background - the Coalition recently announced that the centre would be closed.
I don't want to discuss the decision itself - what I am more interested in is the actions of Mark Speakman, Lee Evans, Graham Annesley and Mark Coure.
The above are all Liberal members, and as such you would ordinarily expect them to be prompty falling into line behind their leader's decision.
These four Liberal MP's have "broken ranks" in the full knowledge that their actions would attract media attention.
Why have they done this, and who was it that said it would be OK? That is a difficult question to answer.
On one hand, the powers that be know that these four votes are hardly going to swing any decision. The majority commanded by the Coalition is such that they could suffer three times as many deserters and still not be in any danger of a loss.
Moreover, this may be one of the few issues where the deserters don't do any real damage.
The Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre is aomething that 99% of the state did not even know existed. Certainly unless you lived in the Cronulla area or were directly engaged in the work the centre was doing, it is unlikely that you would have any clue about the Centre's existence, let along care enough to take notice of this decision.
The four MP's who have been opposing the decision are, as you might expect, four MP's whose electorates are in close prosimity to the Centre.
Now, it goes without saying that I have no idea what discussions may have taken place between these MP's and O'Farrell's office. Suffice to say, we can assume that these MP's have expressed concern abou their job security if the closure was to proceed.
This is the kind of "local issue" that can sink a local member - communities have a habit of remembering this kind of betrayal for years, and executing revenge that the next election.
Further, it seems likely that these members were given permission to oppose the reforms publically. It would seem odd that they were acting off their own bat, in defiance of their leader.
Thing is, with the enormous majority that the Coalition has, they can afford to lose a few votes each time round. Obviously it is not advisable that it occur too often, and the Coalition would want to ensure that it does not become endemic. But in circumstances such as these where the decision is such that severe consequences could flow for the local member, it may well be in the best interests of the party as a whole to allow the affected local members to "defy" the party.
Obviously there is no danger of the Coalition losing the vote. The local member gets to make a big show of standing up for their local area, and will be picked up in the local press (such as the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader). And only politics nerds like myself actually notice the way the vote actually goes in parliament.
Now, at the time of writing I don't know whether a vote on the substantive issues has been moved. I also don't know how these 4 members voted.
But the odd situation is that almost no one would notice how they voted. At best there might be a story or two about how they defied their party - which is just fine for the Coalition given that they will not lose any votes, but may well give those members something to defend themselves with next time they visit their electorate.
No journalist is likely to write a story about how these members voted in actuality, because if one was to follow the media reports you could be forgiven for thinking that i am the only person in the state who ever reads the Hansard reports.
Apparently it is possible to have your cake and eat it too.