First published in The Daily Telegraph, 25 March 2019
The NSW election result is a personal triumph for Gladys Berejiklian — the first woman to win an election in our largest state. It’s also a great result for the government, which has won a third term despite the aborted greyhound racing ban, the local government amalgamations mess and a (much-needed) infrastructure build that’s so far meant more disruption than public benefit.
It’s a reassuring sign that the Liberal Party has not suffered lasting brand damage from the leadership churn in Canberra.
Most commentators will attribute Labor’s poor result (its vote actually dropped by 1 per cent) to leader Michael Daley’s final week from hell. There’s no doubt that his stumbling debate performance, apparent jibe against Asians and inability to get his story straight about stadiums confirmed he wasn’t really up to being premier. But it wasn’t just that Berejiklian was helped by the contrast. The election gave voters a deeper appreciation of her competence and decency and confirmed their judgment she wasn’t just better than the alternative, she was actually good at the job.
It would have been a travesty had the government lost against an opposition that had always been much better at glib slogans than useful policy. “Schools before stadiums” was just clever spin given the government’s massive investment in schools, hospitals and transport and the fact Sydney’s stadiums needed upgrading to avoid losing major events to other cities. Berejiklian won because she was going to build the big projects that NSW needs just to keep up — while Labor was going to cancel them.