Politics

Fast Lane: The Coalition’s win in NSW throws Abbott a lifeline

Cara Waters /

Mike Baird’s win in Saturday’s New South Wales election is widely seen to have occurred despite Tony Abbott, not thanks to him.

Abbott managed to avoid too many clangers during the Coalition’s NSW election campaign but the embattled Prime Minister still had an impact at the ballot box despite being conspicuous in his absence on the hustings.  

A Sky News exit poll of voters on Saturday showed 44% of voters agreed Abbott’s performance had hurt Baird’s campaign while 39 % said it had not.

Read more: What the NSW election will mean for your SME

Baird’s comfortable victory in Abbott’s home state takes the heat off the Prime Minister for the time being.

Another routing like the Queensland election would really have inflamed those spill supporters.

Baird’s victory also paves the way for more ambitious policy from the federal government after Baird won despite his controversial plans to privatise the state’s electricity network. 

The Baird government will lease 49% of the state’s electricity assets to provide a $20 billion boost to infrastructure investment.

The policy has been praised by business groups, with the Australian Industry Group releasing a statement congratulating Baird. 

“The result was an endorsement of sensible economic policies such as for greater investment in infrastructure for our regions and clogged cities and for the lease of a share of state-owned electricity transmission and distribution businesses,” Ai Group NSW director Mark Goodsell said.

Privatisation was strongly opposed by the Labor Party and Baird’s victory here shows if a government makes a good enough case ambitious and divisive policies can succeed.

“The NSW election result shows that if you’re prepared to make out a case for reforms, explain it properly and show how it’s properly thought through and funded, people will give you their support,” Businesss Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott told Fairfax.

Alongside electricity privatisation, Baird’s win will mean a reduction in payroll tax for NSW businesses.

Baird has offered small businesses that employ extra staff a $2000 tax rebate while the existing $5000 payroll rebate will be extended for another four years.

The Coalition has also promised $27 million for 40,000 government school students to help them undertake structured workplace learning as part of the HSC in a package called Reskilling NSW.

Perhaps it’s time for Abbott to rethink his “dull” May budget.

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Cara Waters

Cara Waters is the former editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter at the Financial Times website FT Adviser in London and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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