FOR a government that had effectively cruised through its first term in office, the NSW Coalition government has made heavy weather of things in recent months. If the resignation of once popular premier Mike Baird was supposed to act as a circuit breaker to the Coalition’s fortunes, it has not proven to be the case.
Gladys Berejiklian might have been the obvious replacement for Mr Baird, but she has had trouble marshaling her troops in the weeks since taking the top job. Under attack this week over a $550-million blowout in the Sydney light rail budget, Ms Berejiklian is now juggling another hand grenade, thanks to a vitriolic attack by experienced upper house member Catherine Cusack, a Member of the Legislative Council since March 2003.
Unhappy with the makeup of Ms Berejiklian’s ministry, Ms Cusack let fly in a lengthy email that seems to have quickly found its way to the media.
How this happened is unclear, but Ms Cusack has now resigned her position as Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, stopping on the way out the door to “apologise to all the people I have let down”.
Ms Cusack had only been in the Hunter job since February 1. So brief was her tenure that is practically impossible to appraise her performance in the role. But if Ms Cusack is concerned – as seems to be the case – about factional politics playing too great a role in the creation of the ministry – then maybe she should spare a thought for the person she replaced as the Hunter’s representative, Liberal Party MLC Scot MacDonald.
Mr MacDonald, who hails from Guyra, just north of Armidale, had been the Hunter’s parliamentary secretary since April 2015. Mr MacDonald had the Hunter bailiwick for one year and 9 months and in that time he showed himself to be a dedicated, hard-working and approachable representative for the region.
The dynamics of the situation make the job an important one.
The Coalition may have lost the Hunter seats it gained in 2011, but the light rail project and the broader “Revitalising Newcastle” program amount to one of the biggest government spending commitments that Newcastle has ever seen.
Labor – as an opposition will – is broadly opposed to everything the government does, even if there are benefits for the Hunter.
In such a situation, the government needs a capable advocate in a region that is once again “tiger country” for the conservatives.