Government Backdown on Snowy River sell-out
It was good to read in the news today that the Federal Government had decided to pull out of the sale of The Snowy River Hydro-Electric scheme forcing the NSW and Victorian state governments to follow suit, and I think that all though the people protesting over the sale have done a lot of hard work and deserve some credit, I believe that the decision is far more politically motivated than being a great dislpay of "people-power" forcing a Governments hand.
So what politically did the government gain by back flipping on this issue. Well, since the last election where Howard won control of the senate he has set about enforcing a very aggresive policy agenda. He has pushed through a number of bills that have been extremely unpopular. From attacks on personal liberties under the guise of fighting terrorism, to the extremely unpopular IR reforms, as well as others such as Voluntary Student unionism which will essentially bring about the end of the Student unions, and refugee policy that is motivated not out of what's best for Australia and what our international obligations are, but born from foreign pressure. All of which had equally vocal, community movements against them as did the sell-out of the snowy mountains scheme. So why this one and not others? Why not a backflip on the full sale of telstra for instance?
I think this needs to be looked at in the context of how easy a backflip it was. Firstly it wasn't an election promise, secondly the investment by the Federal Government in the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme was minimal (13%), and thirdly it was unpopular with an already jaded electorate. So not only does the Government get to spin it their way "yes people... we are listening to you", but they also get to make things tough for the New South Wales and Victorian Labor Governments as they grapple to deal with the buget short-falls from what would have been a more significant money eraner for them, all while looking like a knight in shinning armour riding in on a white horse to save the day. As the political analysts have mentioned, it is a politically astute move, but I believe that the unpopularity of the sale was merely an easy out for political objectives that are much more sinister.