Minns brings his party in from the cold after 12 long years

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NSW election 2023

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Barely two hours after the closing of the polls on Saturday evening, it was clear that whatever faint hopes the Coalition might have had of retaining power in NSW had crumbled.

Nine’s decision desk called it for Labor shortly before 8pm. Over on the national broadcaster, the ABC’s resident election guru Antony Green was doing the same.

Labor supporters react to positive results in the NSW state election at Chris Minns’ Labor Party reception at the Novotel Hotel in Brighton-Le-Sands.

Janie Barrett

In a stunning vindication of his strategy, Chris Minns, the incoming Labor premier, had brought his party in from the cold after 12 long years in opposition.

Significantly, and contrary to many predictions, Labor is on track to win enough seats to form a majority government. Minns’ plea to the electorate, that it was time for a “fresh start”, has resonated with voters battered by cost of living pressures, agitated over the state of essential service delivery, and weary of a government that for months has looked as though it was unable to keep its own house in order.

There is no shame in defeat for Dominic Perrottet. He has been carrying the weight of all the baggage any 12-year-old government must inevitably end up accumulating. Yet, his campaign has been energetic, with bold strokes, including the move to set up a government-seeded kids’ future fund, his commitment to fundamental gaming reform in the poker machine industry, and the move to a land tax instead of stamp duty for first home buyers.

But Labor had the more disciplined campaign and appears to have read and ridden the zeitgeist more clearly. With inflation and interest rates on the rise, and pay packets and services under pressure, the allure of Perrottet’s ongoing big-ticket infrastructure program has faded. In its place, Labor’s pitch about the plight of schools that are short of teachers, and struggling hospital emergency rooms, has cut through.

Likewise, Coalition attempts to paint Labor as economically irresponsible for pledging to lift the state’s public sector wages cap fell flat. Instead, what many voters seem to have heard is that Labor felt their inflation pain and intends to do something about it.

As one senior Labor strategist put it, “the Liberals had a punt on infrastructure, we had a punt on people. They had a punt on financial capital and we had a punt on human capital”.

“Chris was saying, ‘it’s time to focus on people, not projects. I’ve got a plan to do it and it doesn’t involve selling assets’.”

Labor also found a clever way to tie arcane arguments about privatisation into a cost of living issue.

Yes, as Perrottet frequently pointed out, the Coalition had provided voters with $178 billion worth of infrastructure over the past decade, much of it funded by selling assets such as key roads, ports and poles and wires.

But in Minns’ hands, this became just another reason why tolls and power bills were going up.

The Labor leader decided on his five key campaign pillars early in his leadership, and never lost focus on them: privatisation, health, education, cost of living and local manufacturing. He has ridden the first three, in particular, all the way to victory.

On the Liberal side, Perrottet was struggling against the weight of history to try and bring the Coalition home to a fourth term, which would have been unprecedented in NSW. “We were trying to hold back the tide and got swept away” as one senior Liberal put it.

‘The day they backflipped on privatisation, the core narrative of their whole campaign sort of collapsed.’

Senior Labor operative

He was up against the loss of key ministers such as health minister Brad Hazzard, cities minister Rob Stokes and Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello, who had opted not to run again. The impression of a government running out of steam was hard to counter.

There were errors on the government side forced and unforced. Some Liberals believe the Coalition left it far too late to start attacking Minns’ economic credibility.

According to another senior Liberal, the revelation that Perrottet had called Hazzard to ask for advice when his wife Helen suddenly became incapacitated by a back injury – instead of calling for an ambulance himself – set the campaign back by several days just at the point when it needed to maintain momentum.

Likewise, Perrottet was forced into ruling out further privatisations to fund the state’s mammoth infrastructure build after Labor’s scare campaign – that Sydney and Hunter Water would be next – started gaining traction.

“That’s when their whole campaign fell over. The day they backflipped on privatisation, the core narrative of their whole campaign sort of collapsed,” a senior Labor operative says gleefully.

Perrottet was gracious during his concession speech, and jokingly borrowed from Labor’s campaign slogan to announce he would be stepping down as leader to give the Liberals a “fresh start”. Minns in turn paid tribute to his defeated rival for his service to the state and for the relatively civilised manner in which the campaign had been conducted.

Labor leader Chris Minns arrives at a reception at the Novotel Hotel in Brighton-Le-Sands after winning the NSW state election.

Janie Barrett

The Labor leader has also won a massive endorsement from his own electorate, taking it from a knife edge to rock solid for his party. It had been sitting on 0.1 per cent knife margin, the equal most marginal going into polling day. He looks to have increased his primary vote by a stunning 20 per cent.

Minns always said that if he lost his own seat, the election was lost anyway, and vice versa – that if he won Kogarah, Labor would win statewide.

His instincts have proven correct.

( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )

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