- by Anna Pha
- The Guardian
- Issue #2048
Chris Minns. Photo: nswlabor.org.au
The message from NSW voters on 25th March was loud and clear. The Perrottet Coalition government took a hit, losing twelve of its 47 seats in the 92-seat Legislative Assembly. Its loss was Labor’s gain. At the time of writing, the Minns Labor government looks to be two seats short of a majority.
Labor made gains of up to 18 per cent in different seats, barely losing ground in any electorates. The Greens held onto their three seats, with another nine MPs on the cross-bench – unchanged from the 2019 election. The teal-style independents failed to win a seat. Three former Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party members were re-elected.
The Coalition’s defeat hardly came as a surprise. Teachers, nurses, aged care workers, and early childhood education and care workers had been fighting for a wage rise. Public servants have been subject to arbitrary caps on wage rises that were driving their real wages down. These mainly female workforces were applauded as frontline workers during the peak of COVID, but their value was not recognised in real terms wages and working conditions.
The public health system is in crisis as is the public transport system. Buses had been privatised, routes and services cut. Train services could no longer be relied on.
Public housing is in tatters. What little the Coalition state government did in housing was geared towards people who could afford to buy a home. There was no relief for tens of thousands on public housing waiting lists. Neither major party offered any prospect of tackling the rental crisis.
In the lead-up to the elections, Perrottet went to great lengths to try to buy off the electorate with schemes such as children’s savings accounts and action on gambling. After 12 years in government, it was too little, too late.
Labor committed to no further privatisations of essential public assets, including Sydney Water, which the Coalition had earmarked for sale. It promised to increase staffing levels for public hospitals and paramedics, and remove the cap on public sector wage increases. The ALP left it open as to what that would mean in practice. At present there is a wage cap of three per cent this year and two per cent in the coming two years – less than a third of inflation.
Minns made it clear that while lifting the wage cap, wage rises would not match inflation.
The Greens had by far the most progressive program. This included no new coal or gas projects, an end to logging of public native forests, banning no-cause evictions, rent controls, mandated ratios for nurses and midwives, scrapping the public sector wage cap, and delivering real wage increases.
Importantly, the Greens called for the repeal of the repressive anti-protest laws which can be used to criminalise peaceful protests with the possibility of fines or even imprisonment for exercising a fundamental democratic right.
They advocated for the commencement of a community-led Truth and Treaty process, led by First Nation people in NSW.
Labor has been left with a budget deficit of more than $12 billion with net debt forecast to reach $118 billion by mid-2026. It remains to be seen what it actually delivers.
Counting was continuing at the time of writing for the Legislative Council, but it appeared that the Coalition had lost a seat, Labor gained one. The Greens’ result was unchanged winning two. One Nation lost one of its seats, Animal Justice lost its seat, the Liberal Democrats gained a seat as did the Legalise Cannabis Party.
Meanwhile in Victoria, to add to the Coalition’s humiliation, it lost the federal seat of Astor in a byelection; the first party to do so in 100 years while in opposition.