Labor has launched its bid to win another term of government at the March 24 NSW state election.
About 100 people, including members of the state cabinet, family and friends of the Premier Morris Iemma and south west Sydney community leaders are attending the launch at the Civic Theatre in the Sydney suburb of Hurstville.
Local primary school students opened the event by singing the national anthem and Australian Idol winner Damien Leith sang a number of songs including Alleluia.
Mr Iemma was due to address a gathering shortly to outline some of his election policies including boosting water with a desalination plant off Sydney.
AUSTRALIAN Idol winner Damien Leith sang his No.1 hit at Morris Iemma's campaign launch - but protesters had their own tune for the State Government.
As ministers and guests walked into Hurstville Civic Centre yesterday, they were greeted with the "Protest Song'' written by a group of Sydney residents.
You can hear it by clicking here.
As the song was played more than 50 protesters showed their anger at the Government's planning laws.
The sight of Planning Minister Frank Sartor sparked a wave of booing, with some protesters charging towards their focus of hate.
Surrounding streets were cordoned off while a heavy police presence kept control of the protesters.
Trust me, I'm not Bob Carr By Joe Hildebrand
February 19, 2007 12:00
PREMIER Morris Iemma has pinned his election hopes on distancing himself from Labor's decade in power - and his own ministers - as well as a desperate move to kill off the water debate.
Launching the ALP's election campaign yesterday, Mr Iemma thrust education and domestic violence to the forefront of the debate and unveiled the party's own water recycling scheme in an effort to neutralise its losing stance over the desalination issue.
He pushed the "yuck'' factor, reminding voters that they would be forced to drink "recycled sewage'' under a Coalition government.
He also gave a commitment to boost police numbers, but refused to reveal more details.
Mr Iemma opened with a tribute to his family, friends and mentors in a bid to focus attention on himself as a new leader rather than his party's 12 years in power.
"This is no traditional launch, packed with elder statesmen and Labor faithful,'' he said. "It's a community gathering that reminds us of who we are and what we stand for.''
Mr Iemma made almost no reference to the decade Labor was in power before he took over in mid-2005.
Mr Iemma stressed three times in his short speech he had been Premier for just 18 months.
Pointedly absent from the crowd was Mr Iemma's predecessor Bob Carr - said to be privately furious at the snub - and the usual line-up of Labor luminaries.
Mr Iemma's most senior frontbenchers were hidden in the crowd and barred from the stage.
Only Deputy Premier John Watkins, the two-hatted police and transport minister, addressed the audience, stressing Mr Iemma's image as "an ordinary man with a warm heart''.
The campaign launch, under the slogan "There's more to do but we're heading in the right direction'', was billed as a low-key affair, but police cordoned off an entire block around the venue, the Hurstville Civic Centre.
Arriving ministers were heckled by about 50 protesters, but Mr Iemma already had been spirited inside.
There was also a bit of star power, with Australian Idol pop star Damien Leith, asbestos-fund hero Bernie Banton and the parents of burns and car crash victim Sophie Delezio all in attendance.
After striding to the stage to the song Shine by Australian Idol Shannon Noll, Mr Iemma unveiled just three main policies in his speech.
First was Labor's answer to the Coalition's water recycling plan: A scheme to recycle 100 billion litres a year - more than four times current levels.
In a clear sign the Government has accepted it has lost the argument on desalination, Mr Iemma barely mentioned the unpopular $1.9 billion plant.
And in an effort to shift the debate away from water, Mr Iemma announced a $2 billion package to fix the state's crumbling schools, although it later emerged only $280 million was new money.
He also unveiled new laws to name and shame perpetrators of domestic violence.
The launch suggested an election campaign the Government will fight on economic responsibility and attacking the Opposition.