It only took about 24 hours for new State Labor Leader Jodi McKay to hit her first speed bump.
It came via the way of some old-fashioned ‘gotcha journalism’ from The Daily Telegraph, which asked the former newsreader some key questions about the economy.
Ms McKay clearly didn’t know the answers to the questions about GST revenue or the state’s unemployment rate, but she had a stab in the dark anyway – making the situation worse.
In the long run it matters little and Ms McKay can surely be forgiven for not being across those figures on her first day in the job, though that honeymoon period won’t last for long.
One of the issues that brought Michael Daley unstuck at the last election was his lack of detail on key economic issues, which came most into the spotlight during a debate in Penrith just days out from polling day. The new leader must ensure she distances herself from that ‘lack of detail’ tag as much as possible.
Ms McKay’s first task is to unite the party and give Labor some much-needed relevance after Gladys Berejiklian’s decisive election victory in March.
Luke Foley’s demise, Michael Daley’s election loss and an obsession with a stadium debate that was never as fierce as Labor made it out to be has taken the party well and truly off course.
In addition, by the time the next State Election rolls around in 2023, many of the game-changing projects that the Coalition Government has championed will be complete.
While plenty can happen in politics in the space of four years, there is every chance Gladys Berejiklian will be in the box seat to win yet another term in government. It makes Labor’s task to find the right message even more difficult.
Another Federal Election will also be held before the next State poll and that could well help determine the eventual result, given the national picture is so often at the forefront of people’s minds at any election.
There is little doubt that Ms McKay was the right choice to lead Labor over the next four years.
So far, Chris Minns and his supporters appear to have accepted the result and wish to move forward, an important point given leadership instability is the last thing Labor needs.
In her first statement after securing the leadership on Saturday night, Ms McKay said: “If I can leave one message to the people of NSW tonight – it is that you matter. Tomorrow – Labor, under my leadership, starts its journey in rebuilding faith and trust with you.”
New State Opposition leader @mckay_jodi has changed her frontbench lineup with former health spokesman @WaltSecordMLC now the Shadow Treasurer. He’s swapped with former Shadow Treasurer @RyanPark_Keira. #nswpol #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/sOSmBo2sF9
— 7NEWS Sydney (@7NewsSydney) July 1, 2019
While they are carefully crafted words of public relations experts, they couldn’t be more accurate.
We’re witnessing at the moment the Federal Labor Party almost in denial that the public overwhelmingly rejected their plans for the nation at the May election. Such an attitude is poison for Anthony Albanese who needs to somehow find a way to convince the public that Labor heard their message loud and clear at the ballot box. So far, he’s failing miserably.
Ms McKay appears to have accepted Labor’s failings at the March election and is now tasked with developing a fresh approach that will keep the government honest and earn the public’s respect.
With four year terms and most of the state’s attention on the federal political scene, an opposition party at state level can often be forgotten between elections. The hard work is done behind the scenes, work the public only sees in the months before election day.
At the last election we saw that Labor simply didn’t do the hard work. They allowed Luke Foley to stay in power too long, despite knowing those allegations would eventually catch up with him. When Michael Daley finally took over, it was too late – he hadn’t done the four years of hard work and was never going to fool the public into thinking he had.
There is much for Jodi McKay to do over the next four years, but for now the job is to focus on ensuring stability of her party and cutting out any cancers that still linger from the election loss. The work she does now will determine Labor’s fate in four years’ time.
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.