Liberals do a Bradbury in NSW

The result of the New South Wales election really will be "historic", but it will be almost a solo performance. NSW Labor can claim all the credit for their loss as the Liberals do little more than a Bradbury. This means that government after the election will be perilous for the winner. Bizarre as it may seem Kristina Keneally is right - the Liberals won't really have a mandate.

As the winning margin is likely to be so huge (64 per cent two-party preferred to the Libs according to Newspoll this morning), there is not much point running through much of our quants.

However, while I've based the qualitative analysis on a politically balanced sample drawn from all the responses we received, it is worth noting that in the original sample Greens were highly over-represented (33 per cent), and Labor was the most under-represented of all the parties with only 14 per cent of original respondents  voting Labor, compared to somewhere around 24 per cent in the population at large.

From this response we can infer that Greens voters are energised this election and Labor voters disengaged. That should mean that the Greens pick up some inner city seats. They've got close in seats like Port Jackson before, and I think they'll probably spill-over this time.

So, given the certainty of the result most interest for me is in the issues and personalities, a story which I will tell using Leximancer maps.


Generally the issues that respondents say are important for the state are very similar to the issues that they say are governing their vote. That's not the case this time.


Figure 1. Issues important to the state.

You can see from the map that central themes are "planning", "transport" and "people", so concerns are essentially about service delivery. "Transport" encompasses within its field "hospitals", "education", "services" and "investment". "People" is a theme which suggests that electors, rather than political parties or politicians' ambitions, ought to be more central. Over on the left of the graph you can see a tussle between a Sydney-centric view of what is important and one that takes a wider view of the state.


Figure 2. Issues important in determining voting intention.

When we get to issues that will effect respondents' votes in the election the service delivery issues that dominate the centre of the previous graph have shrunk in importance and are relegated to the edge. The central themes in this graph are the political parties themselves which present as negative reasons for justifying a vote. "Liberal" is an important issue for Labor voters, and "Labor" for Liberals. A need to "change" the "government" and cure "incompetence" are also strong reasons for Liberals.


Despite her poor approval ratings, Kristina Keneally actually comes out of the contest looking reasonably good.


Figure 3. Approval of Kristina Keneally.

Her problem is "party" which sits right in the middle of the web. She's actually seen by many as having "tried" to do a good job. It is only at this stage that the issue of the sale of state assets comes into play after having been absent from the issues graphs. This suggests that privatisation isn't so much as a key concern, but a justification. This is reinforced by the fact that it is Liberals, who would be presumed to in principle agree with privatisation, who are the most likely to cite it as a reason.


Figure 4. Approval of Barry O'Farrell.

O'Farrell's strongest point with his own supporters is that he is "honest", and that he is not Labor, however those who disapprove are concerned about his policies, that they have little idea what they are and that they will target government services.

The culmination of these two graphs is the issue of preferred premier.


Figure 5. Preferred Premier.

The two most important reasons for choosing O'Farrell are "choice" and "change" - in other words that he is not currently running the government. Supporters of Keneally see her as "strong" and "capable" with "ideas", although she is also seen as the "least" worse option.


If Labor had conducted themselves with probity and prudence in power they would probably still be looking good for this election. There is no strong desire to go to the Liberals because they are Liberals, but because they aren't Labor. This presents O'Farrell with a big challenge after the election. He needs to quickly establish a compelling agenda for change or he will flounder getting his agenda through the Legislative Council and Labor will stage an impressive come back at the next election.

While this election is their own work, and will be devastating, it is far from the end of NSW Labor.

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0 #1 I disagree with your analysis to the extGerard Barry 2011-03-26 11:32
I disagree with your analysis to the extent that the Liberals, if anything, will have a mandate to govern effectively for all NSW citizens. That is will have to be their future focus.

Their election is a clear message for Unions NSW and the Labor heavies in Sussex to butt out. Their control of the parliamentary party was so absolute that they are now the party of dysfunction. Their refusal to allow effective government has cost NSW about $50 billion in lost privatisation opportunities. I hope that they never get to govern again.

The challenge for the Liberals will be to consolidate and do whatever is needed to to a real 'party of government' and not be reliant on Labor to continually implode. This is O'Farrell's big challenge.

The Liberals will also have a mandate not to imitate this excuse of a failed government. If they ever do, I will waiting to tip them out.
0 #2 I also disagree with your "lack of mandaRob Anderson 2011-03-26 14:10
I also disagree with your "lack of mandate" thesis. If the Coalition does as expected and wins a clear majority of seats, then they have clearly won the right to govern as they see fit. Any squeals of protest from the ALP remnant will be seen as sour grapes from a discredited group that most people were glad to get rid of. No one is going to pay much attention to State Labor for quite some time, and I feel Barry and his crew are likely to have a long honeymoon!
I can see a major theme of Barry's for the next term as highlighting and emphasising what went wrong under the ALP. And he is going to have a LOT of ammunition to fire back at Labor. If he gets a bucketload of seats, governs sensibly and can pin any NSW woes on the previous incumbents, then I think he can comfortably look forward to at least 8 years in power.
Disclaimer: I have never been a political party member, and I voted for an indepedent in a "safe" ALP seat.
0 #3 Graham, I'm afraid I also disagree with Francis Young 2011-03-26 14:13
Graham, I'm afraid I also disagree with the mantra that the incoming Liberals will not have a mandate.

Among others, they will have a mandate to (a) expose any inappropriate dealings of the outgoing 16-year regime, and reassess and develop the good ones; (b) see what can be salvaged of our electricity infrastructure (c) prioritise and start to rectify the transport, water and health shortfalls, including Macquarie's exploitation of Sydney airport, the overdue lowering of Newcastle's three CBD railway stations into a cut-and-cover tunnel, and reactivating several dam construction projects ahead of the next El Nino cycle; (d) maximise the benefits to NSW of the NBN and other federally funded projects; (e) capitalise on the public opposition to a carbon tax, which would impact our state's most valuable revenue source.

And there is much more, but in summary, every criticism of the departing crowd is an issue for whose reversal the coalition now most certainly has a mandate.
0 #4 Mandate or not, there's a new Sherriff iPip Denton 2011-03-26 16:52
Mandate or not, there's a new Sherriff in town!

Labor are paying the price for (among other things)never admitting to damn near bankrupting the state to produce a perfect two weeks for the Olympics! Kristina Keneally took a poisoned chalice and has dealt with it with a degree of grace and charm; Barry O'Farrell is a very smart man and - tho I don't like his party - I have a sneaking respect for him. He's got a lotta work ahead to try and salvage something from the ruins...
0 #5 Labor is paying the price for allowing aMary Sharah 2011-03-26 22:21
Labor is paying the price for allowing a cabal of dishonest sneaks interested in feathering their own nests to control the party.
They have brought the Federal party into disrepute by association.
They are now the remains of a rump and serves them right.
I only hope that most of the truly self serving ones are gone.
Barry O'Farrell didn't look much good tonight when he was unable to give a serious interview to the ABC.
Had he nothing to say?
NSW should get more for their vote than this, when we all know that Liberal is also a divided party.
0 #6 Hi, what I mean in my "mandate" comment Graham Young 2011-03-27 15:00
Hi, what I mean in my "mandate" comment is that O'Farrell is going to have to justify most of what is likely to be his agenda because he's won this election because Labor had to go, rather than because people wanted him. I think the comments above exemplify this.

Of course his margin is so huge that he's certainly empowered to be the government, and if I were him I'd govern courageously. But I think it's important for the Libs that they don't get carried away thinking that people voted for them because they loved them. You could easily end-up with another arrogant administration that way.

And I think it's important for Labor to understand it's not necessarily what they should stand for that was rejected, but what they had become.
0 #7 Fatty O'Barrell and the Liberal Party maAnonymous 2011-03-28 00:37
Fatty O'Barrell and the Liberal Party may have won the majority of seats in the lower house but the big question is "Who will get control in the upper house?". Hopefully the Liberals will have a minority in the Upper House so that the minor parties can keep the Liberals under control.

There is only one problem with the NSW Liberals that I can see: Fatty O'Barrell looks up to Kennett & Greiner as his role models.

Don't forget what happened to Victoria when the Kennett Liberal government was elected. And the Greiner government lost to Labor for very good reasons.

It has taken a new generation who don't know what the Liberals really stand for to make a change of government and make the Labor Party see the error of their ways.
0 #8 Hi Graham - I see what you mean, and Mr Rob Anderson 2011-04-08 17:15
Hi Graham - I see what you mean, and Mr O'Farrell is certainly empowered to govern after this crushing win. But for any government to govern well and long, they have to continue to justify their agenda and I think it is important for ANY government to not get carried away thinking that the people love them. This has been a common problem for many governments in Australia & around the western world, whether they got in by a hair's breadth or a landslide.
Good luck with the research - its always interesting!