The widely predicted knife-edge election result in NSW did not eventuate, though at the close of counting – and before the million or so pre poll and postal votes are counted – the Berejiklian government is one seat short of a majority. Even so, Ms Berejiklian’s team has some historic achievements to boast: the first woman in NSW to lead a party to victory, and a third election win for the Liberals, not seen in about four decades.
It is likely that the Coalition will pick up seats to rule in majority. If not, there are friendly Independents who will lend support for a minority government. What this means for NSW is likely to be changes in the Berejiklian ministry as the cautious and hardworking Premier will now be emboldened to put her own stamp on the leadership team and sideline under performing – and duplicitous – ministers. It is also likely that there will be more focus on projects for regional NSW, which punished the Coalition in favour of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (the polls got that bit right).
Ms Berejiklian’s campaign team look to have survived the widespread criticism (much of it from within) in the face of Labor’s more experienced, ‘dream team’ head office advisers who simply could not make up for the inexperience of their leader.
As commentators are saying, not much changed and a lot changed. Campaign watchers will note that a slick, smart strategy like Labor’s will always be undone at the eleventh hour by some clever, negative tactics. An opponent’s sheer stupidity will make it even more successful. For almost four months, the Coalition has been quietly sitting on the tape of Labor leader, Michael Daley’s comments about Asians taking jobs and houses from ‘our kids’. Releasing it in the last week of the campaign, when the electorate was waking up and finally paying attention, was an oldie but a goodie. And it did hurt. NSW has a sizeable Asian population who made their feelings known to Labor booth workers on Saturday. Proving bad week’s can get worse, Mr Daley dug his own grave when he put in a dreadful performance in a debate that showed him to be inept, while Ms Berjiklian shone like the over achiever she has always been.
The winners of the night are – as was predicted – the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, which did well in the regions, soaking up many of the Nationals voters. Indeed, the National Party did poorly with its voters leaving in droves, not to Labor (which seems to have given up on the bush), but to the Shooters and conservative independents.
The other losers (besides Labor, which looks to have picked up only two seats) are the Polls and the NSW Electoral Commission, which was widely slammed last night for mismanaged prepolls (voters gave up), electronic and telephone voting failures and a lack of basic security at the booths. At the close of voting (6PM) last night, exit polls were screaming 50:50 . Within an hour, that was shown to be way off the mark.
Federally, the Coalition government, which has been consistently behind in the polls such that it dumped two Prime Ministers in panic, might be reassessing April’s budget ahead of its own election in May. Its NSW representatives at least have reason to be more confident. Likewise, Labor will be ensuring its leader is kept in check, and trawling through past comments for Daley-like mine fields.
By Jacquelynne Willcox, MD & EVP, Powell Tate Australia