Anyone who votes for Labor at the State Election on Saturday will probably have a fairly good reason for doing so.
On face value, Labor tells a good story.
It wants to save TAFE, re-introduce the M4 Toll cashback and stop what it calls an unnecessary splurge on stadium infrastructure in NSW.
Meanwhile, the current government has introduced an expensive toll on the M4, is accused of leading an over-development mantra in our suburbs and has overseen the destruction of Sydney’s nightlife, the light rail fiasco and the troublesome new train timetable.
But like most things in politics and indeed life, it’s not quite that simple.
The Coalition has delivered
Despite all the negative hyperbole surrounding Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her Coalition government, it’s hard to deny that plenty has been achieved in NSW since we last went to the polls, and a lot more is planned.
The economy is in excellent shape, while unemployment figures are the envy of the rest of the country.
The strong financial position of the government has allowed it to invest in infrastructure at record levels, as evidenced by the number of cranes in the sky and bulldozers on the ground.
This is a government delivering unprecedented spending on health and education, and yes the positive financial position of the government also allows it to invest in stadium infrastructure, which desperately needed an overhaul in Sydney and will provide an economic return well beyond the money being spent.
Progress had stalled under the previous Labor government but there is no question it’s been revived by the Coalition.
We’re benefiting here, too
Locally, fixing Nepean Hospital won’t happen overnight but it will happen, and is happening. The State Government has committed record funding to the health facility, which is all but collapsing under the pressure of a rising local population and increased demand.
For too long both State and Federal governments on both sides of the fence failed to adequately invest in Nepean, but that is now finally changing. Thankfully Labor hit the cut and paste button on this one and the upgrade will happen regardless of Saturday’s result.
Penrith MP Stuart Ayres also ensured the much-needed pedestrian bridge over the Nepean River was built, delivering on a commitment both parties made at the 2010 by-election. It was costly, but is an impressive piece of infrastructure used by thousands of people each day.
But while families across all three local electorates are benefiting from a range of programs and initiatives instigated by the Coalition, there’s been a few missteps too.
One was the clumsy handling of Jordan Springs Public School, promised four years ago and with an opening still way off in the future. Regardless of the specifics and the fine print, when a commitment like that is made as part of an election campaign the community expects to see it delivered in the next term of government, or at least very close to being completed.
The local area was also harshly treated in the 2017 train timetable shake-up, but recent commitments during the campaign suggests much of that will now be corrected.
Labor has made progress
Eight years ago Labor was a shambles, and returning to government would have seemed light years away. It seems an age since John Robertson was leading the party in the wake of the 2011 election defeat; in fact even the Luke Foley era – which only ended in November last year – feels like ancient history.
Labor has made significant strides, and there are real talents in the party including the sitting Londonderry MP Prue Car, who is a standout in opposition.
Labor may not be ready for government, but it is heading in the right direction.
A battle at the top
I believe that Michael Daley has out-played Gladys Berejiklian during the campaign, at least until things started to go off the rails this past week.
Despite the impressive story her government has to tell, Ms Berejiklian failed to deliver a meaningful campaign that voters latched on to.
She failed to articulate properly the benefits of the stadium strategy, which plagued her campaign.
For the most part Mr Daley stuck to his messaging throughout, and was much clearer on where he stood on a range of issues, including the stadium issue.
Mr Daley won the battle, but the Coalition’s overall efforts over the last four years means Ms Berejiklian won the war.
The final word
I can’t look at the position of New South Wales and say that the Coalition deserves to lose government.
Nor can I look at Labor’s commitments and its performance in opposition and declare it deserves to take power.
Gladys Berejiklian and the Coalition should be re-elected this weekend.
It has been far from a flawless four years, but it has hardly been stagnant.
The Coalition should get the opportunity to finish the job it has started.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.