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Perrotet's ominous political gauntlet


New South Wales' new Premier Dominic Perrottet will face a challenging introduction to the job, with by-elections and a key vote on sensitive legislation looming. Not to mention, a Nationals coalition partner under new leadership.


By the year's end, the state's youngest-ever premier will have suffered through three by-elections, a damaging public interrogation of his predecessor Gladys Berejiklian, a cabinet reshuffle and a key vote on sensitive legislation.


On Wednesday, his coalition partner will also decide on a new leader, after deputy premier John Barilaro called it quits saying he didn't have the energy to carry on. Water Minister Melinda Pavey and Bathurst MP Paul Toole will contest the NSW Nationals' leadership ballot.


Mr Perrotet's government's first challenge will be navigating the state out of lockdown, which will have lasted more than 15 weeks in Greater Sydney.


Sworn in as premier on Tuesday after winning the Liberal leadership in a party-room vote, one of the first things Mr Perrottet announced he would do was meet with the state's crisis cabinet to review "issues" with the roadmap out of lockdown.


The state is nearing its 70 per cent double dose vaccination target, which should trigger an easing of restrictions on October 11.


Key to the transition will be a crucial economic recovery plan, which the premier will begin to unveil this week, and the ability of the state's health system to cope with a spike in cases when restrictions ease.


Ms Berejiklian's appearance at a corruption inquiry from October 18 may pose a challenge for the government, with other ministers expected to be called to give evidence.





The Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings - which prompted Ms Berejiklian's resignation on Friday - will probe whether she "exercised public functions" in a position of conflict given her secret five-year relationship with ex-MP Daryl Maguire.


Also due in October is the tabling of a bill to legalise voluntary assisted dying (VAD).


A staunch Catholic, Mr Perrottet opposed the contentious decriminalisation of abortion in NSW, making advocates of VAD nervous a vote on the matter could be doomed to fail under his premiership.


But on Tuesday Mr Perrottet said the issue would be dealt with "delicately", saying he believed Liberal MPs should be granted a conscience vote.

"In the main, conscience votes bring out the best in our parliaments. There is respect from both sides in relation to people's views, and that's incredibly important."

Then will come three by-elections, for the seats of Willoughby, Bega, and Monaro, vacated by Ms Berejiklian, Transport Minister Andrew Constance and retiring deputy premier John Barilaro.


While all are held by the coalition on safe or fairly safe margins, losing two or more could force the government to rely on votes from the crossbench.


Over summer, Mr Perrottet will also have to negotiate a cabinet reshuffle, with colleagues angling for him to boost the number and ranks of women. Just two remain in the coalition cabinet.


But if Mr Perrettot is phased by the challenges ahead, he's not letting on, on Tuesday declaring good times are coming for the state.

"I know it's been a difficult time. But I have complete hope and optimism that our state's future is incredibly bright."