Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Friday, March 30, 2007

New Blood

What surely must be an unprecedented number of new faces make up the new NSW Cabinet, including a few that didn't figure in anyone's rumours. Nearly half of the cabinet are new Ministers, while three of those - again, surely unprecedented - are newly elected MPs. Several years of painstaking reconciliation between the two dominant factions seems to have paid off, with the Left particularly benefiting from the reshuffle.

As previously reported, Deputy Premier and Minister for Transport, John Watkins has been given the further responsibility of Finance. This makes a lot of sense when you think about it, and it's further evidence that Watkins doesn't plan to act as a mere figurehead.

Finance is one of several portfolios that has been removed from John Della Bosca's previously unwieldly list of duties. He retains Industrial Relations as well as picking up Education from the departing Carmel Tebbutt.

David Campbell will take Police. Campbell is, as I mentioned, someone who has been on a rapid ascendancy since his initial elevation. He's done a decent job of the difficult water portfolio and has proven a surprisingly effective media performer, so this new role is not the surprise it might have been. Despite some rumours of a serious demotion, Tony Kelly has retained most of his portfolios, aside from Justice and Juvenile Justice. As predicted - and in line with most other states - these have gone to the new Attorney General, former barrister John Hatzistergos. His former portfolio of Health has meanwhile gone to Reba Meagher.

Believe it or not, that's more or less it from the previous cabinet. The duties of Eric Roozendaal, Ian Macdonald, Joe Tripodi and Frank Sartor remain largely unchanged, though Sartor has shed a few duties and picked up Arts (his retention of Planning coming as a surprise, given his heavy-handed style has proven unpopular with many). Macdonald's adoption of Energy is not the promotion it sounds, as much of the portfolio duties will be moved to the new Climate Change portfolio.

Amongst those promoted on the Right are Kristina Keneally, who takes Della Bosca's former portfolios of Ageing and Disabilities; Graham West (Gaming and Racing and Minister Assisting the Minister on Citizenship) and Matt Brown who, in one of the biggest surprises, replaces a demoted Cherie Burton in Housing.

Controversially, Paul Gibson has been elevated in Burton's place. Gibson's relationship with the former wife of fellow incoming Minister Phil Koperberg has, not surprisingly, been the subject of friction between the two men. It's just as well their portfolios are not likely to bring them in to contact; nevertheless, Gibson's eccentric behaviour makes him an odd choice for cabinet. Amongst his new duties are the newly created portfolio of Minister Assisting the Minister for Roads (Road Safety).

In an earlier post, I named six members of the Left who had been rumoured to be elevated, and predicted about half actually would. In the event, all six were (Peter Primrose to President of the Legislative Assembly, replacing Meredith Burgmann) - and largely at the expense of a number of incumbent Ministers for the Right. Long serving MP Paul Lynch has been given Kerry Hickey's Local Government, Aboriginal Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Mental Health). As predicted, Diane Beamer has also been demoted, and her Fair Trading portfolio given to Linda Burney, who has also taken Tourism, formerly held by Sandra Nori.

Given the fact that Burney has already served in Parliament, it's somewhat surprising the three first-termers - all from the Left - have taken jobs usually given to (and in most cases, taken from) more experienced colleagues. This is particularly true of Nathan Rees, who takes Emergency Services from Tony Kelly Water Utilities, like Energy, is likely to be largely subsumed by the new Climate Change.

In perhaps one of the biggest risks of all, this important and high profile portfolio has been given to newcomer Phil Koperberg. Koperberg's experience leading the state's firefighters is legendary, but will he be able to find his feet in politics swiftly enough? I imagine the learning curve has already been very steep. He will be assisted in this role by Verity Firth, the former Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney, who has also taken her predecessor's portfolio of Women, as well as two areas previously held by Frank Sartor. Ironically, her disagreements and negotiations with Sartor over local development issues that helped secure her win in Balmain.

Now, if that's not an influx of new blood, I don't know what is - the changes virtually constitute a new government. Certainly, it's a clear and final break with the Carr era. The question remains as to whether inexperienced Ministers will be more accident prone as they find their feet - but it should also be noted that a number of genuine talents will genuinely enrich a Cabinet that was looking threadbare by last weekend's election.