Sunday, 2 March 2014

Public will not cop Barry O'Farrell's breach of trust Nielsen Poll shows

Chris Holstein MP, Darren Webber MP, Barry O'Farrell MP, Chris Spence MP (2nd from right), Chris Harcher MP (right)  Liberal candidates before 2011 election.
The public collectively never gets it wrong. The Nielsen Poll published by Fairfax Media yesterday shows a 14% swing against the O’Farrell government with the 2 party preferred poll showing the Liberal/Nationals on 49% and the ALP on 51%.

Before anyone gets carried away with one poll it is worth considering why has the O’Farrell government lost public so spectacularly?

An article by Sean Nicholls in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday sums it up.

Mr. Nicholls identifies a major reason. It is trust. The public will not cop dishonesty. They will not tolerate politicians trying to manipulate them by not being truthful and straightforward. The proposed Wallarah 2 coal mine is a case in point.

In 2009, Mr O’Farrell as Leader of the Opposition attended a community protest at the proposed coal mine on the Central Coast with two Shadow Ministers. Whilst addressing the residents at the meeting he said:

The next Liberal National Government will ensure that mining cannot occur here – will ensure mining cannot occur in any water catchment area and will ensure mining leases and mining exploration permits reflect that common sense. No ifs, no buts, a guarantee.”

The video of that assurance can be seen here.

Now it transpires that since Mr. O’Farrell’s government has been in office, his Ministers, officials and he himself have met with the proponents and a chief Liberal Party fundraiser. This is in breach of his own Ministerial Code; and the proposal is now recommended for approval.

Mr. O’Farrell is trying to distance himself from that recommendation for approval by saying the coal mine is to be determined at arms length by an Independent Planning and Assessment Commission.

The problem with that excuse is that the Planning and Assessment Commission is not seen to be independent. It comprises of government appointed people, it is a government body, and has recently been exposed for approving 94% of all applications submitted to it.

It is within the power and authority of the O’Farrell government to adhere to his explicit guarantee and not permit the coalmine to proceed. To try and manipulate his words to say otherwise is dishonest.

I am not in a position to determine the merits of the Wallarah 2 coal mine.  I cannot give the residents of the Central Coast, nor can I give the proponent any comfort in respect of the application. What I can say is that Mr. O’Farrell’s personal unequivocal guarantee given in 2009 has been discarded.

In my view the public will understand if circumstances change, a politician might have to change his or her position. It is the elected government’s responsibility to govern and make decisions in the interests of the community, pursing positions consistent with its principles and consistent with its undertakings. When government’s breach those undertakings, and don’t explain why, then the public will rightly reject them at the earliest opportunity. Yesterdays poll is a judgment by the public that they do not trust the word of Barry O’Farrell.

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