MOST commentators agree that the results of the local government election on September 10 were a clear message to the NSW state government that the voters are not happy.
The swing to the Labor Party across the state showed some remarkable results, including areas where the swing was as much as 20 per cent.
There seems to be general agreement, even among Liberals, that this was a protest against the state government’s recent actions on the number of issues.
The first big concern to the people appears to be the NSW government’s plan for the amalgamation of local councils across the state and in particular the lack of consultation with the community about these plans. Interestingly the councils that went to an election this month were only those councils that weren’t being amalgamated.
In 12 months it can be expected that the people in amalgamated councils are likely to be even more angry about whatever the outcome of forced amalgamations are in their area.
Secondly, there seems to be quite a backlash building to the sale of government assets across the state. People are beginning to realise that there are a lot of things being sold and now it’s starting to effect things that matter to the community.
It is often said in regional areas that very little is coming back to the community particularly outside metropolitan Sydney. Rightly people believe that generations have worked hard towards gathering assets that seem to be disappearing at an alarming rate and the returns to the local community are questionable.
Finally, the sudden closure of the dog racing industry has created considerable angst in many communities. Whilst the merits of greyhound racing is an individual thing, a growing group of people are concerned that almost overnight an industry can be closed without due consideration of the consequences to those people losing their livelihood.
This action reinforces the view that, like the local government amalgamations and the sale of public assets, the government is acting quickly with little concern for public opinions.
Not surprisingly there is the question about whether this was done for short-term political gain and possibly votes in the legislative council.
The Premier might like the mantle of “action man” but the public is coming to the view that action without appropriate consultation is not a positive thing.
The most unusual thing about the voting result this month is the way in which the votes have gone. At the recent federal election the protest vote had been focused on the view, “a pox on both your houses” and voters turned to minor parties or outspoken minority groups.
It appears that the community of NSW has been more sophisticated at this election.
This time around the voter message is different, it seems to be saying that in this time of angst and distrust, “we’ve had enough this has to stop” and voted for the only group they believe can stop it.
If this message continues, in 12 months time when the remaining councils election are held there will be an even stronger message to Macquarie Street that we are not happy Mike and at the next state election in 2018 the voters might send a very direct message through the ballot box.