STATE opposition leader John Robertson deserves some credit for thickness of hide and persistence.
Even with the government inflicting pain on the electorate and making itself unpopular in a variety of ways, Mr Robertson’s Labor Party remains a long way behind.
The lurid daily evidence reported from the ICAC inquiry into allegations around the granting of coal exploration licences makes it painfully clear why that is.
Labor was in power too long. It became dominated by machine-men who grew arrogant and treated the apparatus of government as personal fiefdoms.
By the time it was turfed out, the ALP in NSW had become a laughing stock and, worse, a textbook example of how once-proud political parties can become stale, tainted and undemocratic.
But as true as all this may be, it is equally true that politics moves in cycles and Labor – when it can recover enough credibility and when the Coalition is, in turn, on the nose – will some day be back in power in NSW.
It is Mr Robertson’s job to work towards that day.
That’s why he must continue to pound the pavement in winnable seats, drawing attention to the government’s failings and trying to sell his alternative.
That’s why he was in Newcastle yesterday, hammering the Coalition over some of the more outstanding disappointments it has so far meted out to the city.
Most notable, at the moment, is the widely condemned failure of the O’Farrell government to commit funding to the vital redevelopment of Newcastle Art Gallery.
Novocastrians have worked hard to raise money for this long-awaited project, with many pledging big sums from their own pockets. The city council, constantly under pressure to pay for regional assets from its rate income, has committed $7million. And the federal government has demonstrated its willingness to back Newcastle’s cultural needs by matching that sum.
The NSW government has made itself conspicuous by its refusal to put its money where its mouth was before the state election and the disappointment of voters is becoming tangible.
Newcastle bought Mr O’Farrell’s promises and, while many voters are still hoping his government will deliver, pessimism is growing.
It might stretch credulity – given state Labor’s dismal record – for Mr Robertson to be trying to harness this swelling tide.
But if the Coalition was doing the right thing by Newcastle, the opposition leader wouldn’t have so much to talk about.