Education and health issues would appear to be the reason that slick union-backed marketing campaigns headed by mouthy Marxist apologists have convinced electors that they are better off with the high taxing 'consensus' policy choices of the ALP rather than the alternative.
But honestly, where has the centre-right gone wrong in selling the message that it has a better approach based on competency and integrity? Take NSW as an example: the last time NSW had a centre right government the youngest voter was born in 1978. That voter is now 32 and has on average 2.3 children. Why don't they wish to see an alternative government?
The answer it seems, is that they are not inspired. Barry O'Farrell is competency personified but what can he offer that particular 32 year-old that the Labor machine hasn't thought of already? O'Farrell's action plan cites economic growth as the number one goal – a great motherhood statement we all want that but here's the catch – you already are number one! It wouldn't matter if you had the likes of Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott at the helm, NSW is the Premier State and, for the foreseeable future, will outstrip Victoria as the diversified powerhouse of the Australian economy.
So what are O'Farrell's second and third priorities to bring our 32 year-old centre-right friend on board? Quality services and renovated infrastructure. Bullseye! Localised ability to formulate policies that will promote quality services have fallen into desuetude in direct proportion to the increase in a world class economic foundation that we see at the federal level. A fair and equitable taxation system, a fair and equitable welfare system, defence spending at about the right level, infrastructure spending similarly so, industrial relations – pretty good, international relations – all good. So what we see is the Howard-era reforms having left our 32 year-old voter happy as a pig in mud when it comes to these meta-policy issues but dazed and confused, and living in the debris of sour jokes, when looking at their local neighbourhood.
O'Farrell's fourth priority, restoring accountability to government and giving people a real say on issues that affect their lives is laudable but we must ask, is it perceived as sophistic rhetoric by the electorate? Centre-right politicians have been losing government time-after-time because the message is hollow. It is not hard for committed conservatives/libertarians to believe O'Farrell will do this but what of the broad spectrum of electors of NSW?
So why have the Social Democrats, the guilty Socialists, won the debate these past years?
They have won because intelligent, committed conservatives and libertarians have failed to articulate an alternative message that incorporates the fundamental requirements of good hospitals and schools for all, and have failed to articulate commitment to giving our kids a better chance at life. Despite innumerable failures by the Social Democrats, extrapolation of the reason that we need to ensure that our representatives do not embarrass us or show us up to be fools incarnate has not cut through the lowest common denominator media culture. Holding this culture to account has to be high on the agenda of the centre-right parties' executives.
Ultimately, what is wanted at the state level of government – arguably the level of government most worth fighting for – is the ability to deliver quality services and infrastructure. Centre-right candidates, with their variegated life experiences and commitment to personal freedom and liberty, have the unique ability to choose good civil administrators to run the programs that will provide quality services. They also have the ability to tap the public purse and credibly seek the backing of the polity when big ticket items, and hard decisions, need to be made. Selling both these qualities should not be hard. The vagaries of economic growth do not cut it with 32-year-olds happy with a revitalised federal sphere of government, and the blessings of the mining boom, and unaccustomed to seeking accountability from entrenched political elites.
Social Democrats, the guilty Socialists, will be defeated when they are taken on in the contentious areas that we can most make a difference in: services and infrastructure. Rusted-on Labor voters will walk a mile from their traditional representatives if they trust the centre-right candidate to deliver results in these areas.
The elegant solution to the problem of interminable and ordinary Labor administrations at the state level is that parties that deliver these results also have the ability to offer economic growth and accountability in addition to these core competencies to an increasingly desperate electorate. What is certain is that the unconscionable machinations that underlie Social Democratic politics will conspire to ensure that their representatives and their administrations are never able to deliver all of these blessings in the same political cycle.
Matt Kelly is a member of the Tasmanian Liberal Party who has a distinctly libertarian political philosophy. Matt is a businessman focussed on the property and transport sectors and holds the degree of Master of Arts from the University of South Australia. Matt is currently undertaking an MBA at Murdoch University and, appropriately for a resident of Hobart, enjoys the antediluvian past-time of Real Tennis.