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ELECTION PROSPECTS

, -.- . ' !

Campaign. Lacks Force

^ DISCORD IN OPPOSITION

BY A STAFF CORRESPONDENT ,

Unusual circumstances give the New South Wales elections to be held on Saturday a character entirely different from that of any previous appeal to the people. Yet during the five weeks since the Premier, Mr. McKell, almost casually announced the date of the poll what, because of the time factor, should have been a whirlwind campaign has spent its force on the stone-wall of indifference of the public.

Most of the peculiarities of these elections spring from disorganisation of the feeblest opposition any Gov- ernment of the State has ever en- countered. The return unopposed of eight Ministers and five of the Offi- cial Labour rank and file is evidence of that weakness and apathy in a public which believes defeat oí the McKell Party improbable can, there- fore, be easily understood.

From the point of view of interest, how- ever, variety in the Opposition forces more than compensates for lack of strength, and, if attacks on the occupants of the Treasury benches have been largely inef- fectual, much ammunition and energy has been expended on internecine strife.

Strongest in resources of the forces ar- rayed against Official Labour, the Demo- cratic Party, which rose, although not exactly Phoenix-like, from the ashes of the U.A.P. after its defeat at the last . Federal elections, has put only 35 men in

the field, and allowed 13 unopposed Gov- ernment candidates to fling their consid- erable weight into threatened sectors of the Labour battle front. The appeal to the country caught this party unprepared. It had not been able to organise fully.

Unsuccessful unity conferences with the Liberal Democrats consumed much pre- cious time, and not until Mr. Weaver suc- ceeded Mr. Mair as leader did the reformed party really start to put its house in order. Whatever his qualifications, Mr. Weaver, in politics since 101?, became a leader for the first time in his long career on Feb- ruary 10, while the U.A.P. fought the last elections with the Premier, Mr. Mair, at its head. Moreover, all the U.A.P. parliamen- tarians have not Joined the Democratic Party. For example, Major FltiSimons, former Minister for Health, did not nomi- nate at all. Mr. Jackson, Nepean, formed himself into a one-man party, the Nat- ional Liberal. Mr. Storey, Hornsby, figures among the Independents, and so does Mr. Reid, Manly, who failed to get party endorsement.

C.P. "GOES ALONE"

j To make matters worse for the Opposi-

tion, the Country Party not only "goes alone" after long partnership with tho U.A.P., but it seems unable to Inspire many of its members with a fighting spirit. It failed to contest Monaro, which Mr. W. W. Hedges had held from 1927 until Mr. Seiffert captured it for Labour by the narrow margin of 181 votes in 1941. Yass, which the popular Mr. Bill Sheahan won by 1,578 votes the same year, could not produce a O.P. candidate to oppose him. A candidate lodged his nomination Just a few minutes too late for Lachlan, held Tor many years by the party until lost to Labour at a by-election. Altogether the C.P. contests 23 seats, with two candi- dates in each of the two electorates.

To a large extent weather has adversely affected the Country Party's campaign. Drought entails Increased work on the farm, and man-power decrees that the farmer shall do it himself. Consequently, innumerable chores crowd politics out of his days, and sometimes he dares not risk neglect of his property to contest a seat. When the man on the l°nd could steal an hour of darkness to attend a political meeting, he often finds himself impris- oned there through lack of petrol. For this reason the range within which elec- tors irmy vote by post has been reduced from 10 to five miles, and the party has sent out more postal voting forms than ever before In its existence.

Last year a brand new party, the Lib- eral Democrats, came up over the political horizon to contest the Federal elections held on August 21. It did not gain a seat, but, although it had started to organise only five weeks before the poll, 42,000 primary and a large number of secondary votes encouraged it to fight anothor day. It now contests 17 seats, and «xpects to win between three and six

of them.

LANG VERSUS THE REST

It lost some months, however, in unity conferences during which it seemed, for a time, that the Liberal Democratic mouse would swallow the Democratic lion. It also suffered other drawbacks. Its leader, Mr. E. K. White, has never been a parliamentarian; although several of its candidates possess youth, energy, local backing, and military distinctions, it has, with the exception of Mr. N. Thomas, a former U.A.P. member for Bondi, no political experience to guide it in its fight against seasoned parlia- mentary veterans.

Lack of financial support by any outside organisation, exclusion from national broadcasts, and confusion caused by the adoption of the title "Democratic" by another party, also hinder them from effectively presenting their views to the public. They possess courage, however, and have already called for nominations for next Federal elections, and made plans to establish organisations in each electorate. In accordance with the historical precedent that civil wars are the most bloodthirsty, the fiercest fighting has been in the Lang Labour sectors of the line. Expelled from the A.L.P. in March, 1943, because of his alleged disruptive tactics against the Mckell and Curtin Governments, Mr. J, T. Lang formed what he called the "Australian Labour Party," qualified in

advertisements by the words, "With J. T. Lang, Party Leader." Labour leagues make up the bulk of his following, but to their number must be added many individual unionists and numerous women who remain grateful for the widows' pensions and child endowment he Introduced when Premier.

One of these, Alderman Lillian Fowler, standing for Newtown, sacrificed her posi- tions of Mayor and Chief Warden of New- town in the Lang cause. She is one of many whose fanatical loyalty to the "big feller" has entailed personal loss. Another, Mr. W. O'Neill, secretary of the party, was so well established in' the Official Labour Party two years ago that only one vote kept him out of the office of president. On Mr. Lang's expulsion, he followed him, and in consequence lost the presidency of the Australian Railways Union, and with It control of 40,000 men. Railwaymen, however, feel grateful to Mr. Lang for restoring seniority rights to all Involved In the 1917 strike, the biggest in the Industrial history of New South Wales.

But hatred, a more powerful emotion than gratitude, was fanned into flame in the hearts of Langites by the McKell Government's vigorous campaigns against their leader at the last Federal elections and at the State by-election for Auburn which followed his defeat. More bitterness was aroused by this policy than by any issue raised between the Government and other parties. Of the 24 Lang candidates, Official Labour expects only the Big Chief himself to be elected, but the resuscitation of the Lang Party has forced the Govern- ment to fight for 11 otherwise uncontented seats.

INDEPENDENTS' HOPES

Opposed to the leader "greater than Lenin," as well as to the "Fascist" parties, the Communists, with five candidates, enter the fray greatly heartei.ed by victory in Queensland, where their candidate, Mr. F. W. Paterson, won Bowen from the Govern- ment Whip, Mr. E. J. Riordan, on April 16. In South Australia on April 29, the preferences of one of their two candidates defeated the Lang candidate for Adelaide and put in Official Labour. Three of their , nine candidates at the Victorian elections

last October polled over 6,000 votes each. At the Federal elections their 17 nominees met the same fate as those of other parties In the Official Labour landslide. Amalga- mation with Hughes-Evans Labour in January Increased their party strength by another 1,000 or 1,500 members.

Some observers interpret the national broadcast for all Independents by Mr. D. P. Macdonald, member for Mosman, as the Indication of a definite grouping of the bulk of the 33 Independents, including nine sitting members. This inference may not be justified, but several of the candi- dates believe that theirs will be the biggest group elected outside Official Labour, and see no reason why they should not work together, if strong enough to be effective. They say that once the greater portion of the public rightly believed that the TJ.A.P. represented all sections. Otherwise Labour would have been In power continuously. That faith is no longer felt in the Demo- crats, and support for Independents has consequently increased. Mr. Weaver, they assert, hopes for gains not from Labour but from Independents.

LABOUR'S CONFIDENCE

Such are the forces throwing themselves, more or less, into the attack on the McKell party, but they dissipate much of their martial ardour. Democrats and Liberal Democrats attack each other, while In- dependents and Democrats carry on a war of their own. At the same time Langites and Communists continue their perpetual feud with unabated vigour.

Believing that easy victory lies ahead, Official Labour, unruffled by the ßur roundlng turmoil, proudly points to Mr. McKell as the first New South Wales Labour Premier to complete a full term of office; to a Cabinet in which the Ministers have remained unchanged; to achievements for the State and to co-operation with the Federal Government In the war effort.

For three years, however, the State Government has languished in obscurity while the spotlight played on the Com- monwealth sphere. __Now it has no desire to bask in the reflected glory of-or in any reflections on-the Federal party. So it keeps Commonwealth matters discreetly out of the campaign.

(Interesting seats will be discussed In

a following article.) '

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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