HEATH ASTON August 12, 2012
Steady as she goes ... Premier Barry O'Farrell. Photo: Jon Reid
HANDS up who read the 425-page review of government spending in NSW, released last week?
Really, that many. You'd think the greatest sporting show on Earth had been reaching its climax or something.
The timing of the release of Kerry Schott's public service audit was pure Barry O'Farrell, a Premier with all the love of the spotlight of a prisoner making a midnight dash for the perimeter wall.
He even waited until Australia's gold rush had begun before lifting the lid on Schott's 132 recommendations and the government's response to them. Now that's timing.
It is the lot of a state political roundsman to wade through these reports - in between the men's K4 and the dressage, anyway.
The government didn't provide a table to help decode it's responses to Schott's suggestions, but it is basically this:
''Supported'' means, ''yeah that one looks pretty easy and we were doing it anyway''.
Recommendations that fall into this category are heavy on ''benchmarking'', ''reviewing'' and ''investigating'' - the core strengths of the O'Farrell government.
Supported recommendations include ''Treasury reviewing the allocation of general government current expenditure to check that it is reflecting government policy and priorities''. Shouldn't that have been happening, say, 200 years ago?
The government also embraced the call to close underperforming renewable energy schemes. Perhaps because there aren't many green programs it hasn't already put a bullet in.
The term ''noted'' appears to mean ''gee, that one will kick off a monumental shitfight, but we like the sound of it''.
Recommendations that were noted include trains without guards, higher public transport fares and reducing long service leave entitlements for teachers. All of which will entail an epic brawl with unions before they are implemented.
Recommendations that were ''noted'' invariably come with the phrase ''this is not current government policy'' - O'Farrell government shorthand for ''we don't want to talk about that one yet''.
Most interestingly, Schott's call for a full $30 billion privatisation of the electricity industry was greeted with a split response of ''supported'' but not current government policy ''without an electoral mandate''. That's the firmest sign yet that the big sell-off is definitely on in the second term.
All signs are that the government is moving towards the other tough love challenges of gutting RailCorp and taking on teachers - if at a glacial pace.
It is a mystery why these reforms are taking so long. Labor will be able to mount a serious scare campaign before the 2015 election, when most of the heavy lifting could have already been achieved.
Polls suggest O'Farrell is a genius for the steady as she goes approach but this column notes harder days ahead if the government is to enact Schott's more meaningful recommendations.