• John McDonnell

NSW leadership stays in the club


New South Wales' state politics are very clubby. They are a web of family connections and personal alliances based on shared backgrounds and religious affiliations. All of this is overlaid with factional deals.


On Wednesday, the NSW National party leadership ballot was held, and Paul Toole became leader and deputy premier, while Bronwyn Taylor was elected deputy leader.


This means that the leadership group is dominated by conservatives, with only Stuart Ayres, the deputy Liberal leader, representing the dominant moderate faction of the Liberal party.


The premier Dominic Perrottet and the deputy premier Paul Toole have worked closely together as members of the Berejiklian cabinet. They both come from large Catholic families and have prominent parents. Toole’s father was a state and federal politician and Perrottet’s father is a leading figure at the World Bank in Washington.


The premier made it clear at the press conference after Mr Toole was sworn in, that both of them would make an extensive tour of NSW regions as soon as that was possible, given Covid restrictions.


Perrottet’s deputy leader, Stuart Ayres, is the partner of the federal foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne. Since the swearing-in of the Perrottet government, Ayres has been given responsibility for trade and industry, which is an interesting choice, given that his partner is the federal minister with primary responsibility for international relations.


Paul Toole’s deputy is Bronwyn Taylor, who is a member of the Legislative Council and hails from the Monaro region of NSW. She is the sister-in-law of the minister for energy, emission reductions and industry in the federal government, Angus Taylor. Her husband, Duncan Taylor, runs the property that was the subject of a controversial environmental review when Josh Frydenberg was minister for the environment.


Mr Perrottet has made it plain that he intends to continue his conservative reform agenda as premier. Key among the reforms is the modification of the GST formula. He made it plain at the press conference on Wednesday that he had problems with the formula, introduced by Malcolm Turnbull, that put a floor under GST reductions for Western Australia, regardless of the amount of royalties that WA took from the mining industry. He made the point that the more that WA took from royalties, the less was available in taxation revenue for the rest of Australia. At the same time, WA wanted to take GST revenue from poorer states despite the fact that it was running huge surpluses.


Interestingly, Mr Perrottet said that the new NSW treasurer, Matt Kean, who is a close associate of Mr Turnbull, shared his view about the need for GST reform.


In the meantime, the premier made it plain that he would be putting the emphasis on economic recovery rather than focusing on the pandemic. He told journalists he would not be holding morning Covid press conferences at 11 o’clock but that the daily numbers would be posted online at 9.00 am.


Mr Perrottet said that the key to economic recovery was business confidence. He would push the opening up of the economy and accelerate the completion of infrastructure projects. To that end, he had given Rob Stokes, his challenger for the leadership, responsibility for transport and infrastructure.


As the Chinese would say, we live in interesting times.