Labor told donations will fall if brawling continues
Brian Robins, smh
July 14, 2008
LABOR Party officials at its Sussex Street headquarters have invited the Premier, Morris Iemma, to meet them in a bid to end the stand-off that has developed since the push for electricity privatisation.
Ten days ago Mr Iemma snubbed the powerful administrative committee by refusing to attend its regular meeting on the first Friday of the month, citing scheduling difficulties.
Now, Sussex Street says it is willing to meet him at any time of his choosing. "We're totally flexible," one senior source said.
The bid to meet follows opinion polling that showed Labor's primary vote had fallen below 30 per cent since the brawl over power privatisation, which runs counter to Labor policy.
It also follows concerns that political donations could suffer unless the brawling stops.
"There is total despair in NSW at the moment over electricity," said the head of the Tourism and Transport Forum, Chris Brown. "Every major project in this state is dependent on proceeds from the electricity sale. No power sale, no M4 east, no new convention centre, no metro rail, no mojo.
"That sense of despair rarely ends up seeing rivers of donations flowing into political parties. That's a timely reminder to those Labor Party forces opposing this. The business community is usually swift with its reactions."
Mr Brown said brawling between the Coalition leadership and party machine led to a fall in donations before the last election.
The state director of the Property Council of Australia, Ken Morrison, said the failure to privatise electricity would result in a loss of confidence. "The Government is using up precious political capital doing something unpopular, but which is clearly the right thing to do," he said.
Sussex Street's sustained attack on Mr Iemma is thought to reflect in part the influence of the NSW party president, Bernie Riordan, and the head of Unions NSW, John Robertson, who strongly oppose the electricity privatisation.
Mr Riordan also heads the Electrical Trades Union, whose members will be transferred to the private sector if the power industry is sold.
But party insiders say the drive to unseat Mr Iemma is a result of disastrous opinion polls, and until electricity is resolved it is difficult to see that any alternative leader would come forward.
"Morris has probably bought himself some time at the moment, with the Pope visiting Sydney this week, which will be followed by the Olympics, and with Parliament not resuming until September," said one.
By then, the issue will have been resolved, as the Auditor-General is expected to report to the Government early next month whether he supports the sale process.