Perrottet’s Policy-Led Reset

New South Wales has effectively seen a brand-new government ushered in today with the anointing of Treasurer Dominic Perrottet as the 46th and youngest-ever NSW Premier. He can be expected to drive a business-friendly, policy-led agenda ahead of the next election in March 2023. 

Mr Perrottet is widely viewed as an ambitious policy-focused leader who is likely to take a much bolder line on key policies than his predecessor Gladys Berejiklian. Where she was cautious and focused on detail, he is a big-picture man. 

After the State was rocked by events on Friday, the signal sent at his first news conference was clear: the immediate priority is stability and continuity, with the focus firmly fixed on the plan to reopen the State, as flagged by Ms Berejiklian. If anything, he is likely to move more quickly to stimulate the economy, having been a strong advocate for risk-managing COVID-19 within the Government’s crisis cabinet. 

The generational change in Macquarie Street is essentially complete with very few faces left who were part of the original Coalition team. While the 39-year-old Mr Perrottet represents both a step change in approach as well as generational change, the shake-up in NSW politics is not the implosion some media coverage suggests it is. Mr Perrottet has been at the heart of the Government for years, making him the continuity candidate. His sweeping 39-5 win in the party room indicates strong cross-factional support, most of it coming from the moderates. 

Mr Perrottet has flagged he will seek to minimise changes to Cabinet for now. This will enable the current team to focus on a rocky road of several public and parliamentary inquiries, multiple by-elections and local government elections through to Christmas. After this, Mr Perrottet is expected to have a further frontbench reshuffle in readiness for a tough election battle against Labor.

The Perrottet style

Mr Perrottet is a business-oriented fiscal conservative who has been known for championing significant and sometimes controversial policy reform. He has been prepared to drive a switch from stamp duty to land tax in pursuit of greater housing affordability, sought to include electric vehicles in the fuel tax envelope and driven privatisation including the recent WestConnex transaction. He has been a critical player during the COVID-19 crisis, winning federal financial support for NSW, strongly promoting stimulus measures and representing the rational voice on keeping the economy open as much as possible.

While Mr Perrottet is not widely known outside NSW, he can be expected to quickly make his presence felt on the national stage on both speeding up reopening of the country and on tax reform, where he supports reform of GST. Mr Perrottet also indicated that NSW will not be shifting from its net zero emissions and pro-sustainable energy policies.

In his first news conference as Premier, he made it clear that he will continue to be focused on economic growth and ‘crucial and tough’ reform. He downplayed the influence of his religious views which have been a focus of social media commentary over the weekend, saying he respected diversity and wanted more women in the Ministry.

Nationals vote tomorrow

The changes within the Government are still playing out. Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s decision to step down from the Nationals leadership leaves the way open for further renewal in tomorrow’s Nationals party room meeting. Transport and Roads Minister Andrew Constance is also departing to run for Federal Parliament. Matt Kean’s move to the Treasury leaves the Energy and Environment portfolio open.

Four key takeouts
  1. The coming period will be about policy over personalities in NSW politics. Having lost the popular figurehead, the Coalition will switch to its policy strengths all the way to the March 2023 poll. Expect pro-business policies, bolder policy positions, a ramped-up approach to stimulus and a strong focus on jobs and Western Sydney.
  2. Expect to see the Perrottet Government get moving quickly. The new Premier likes getting things done and is likely to spend his first months in the job setting his priorities out ahead of starting on the road to the election after the summer holidays. This could include sweeping aside current projects and policies that are not on his personal to-do list. He has an ideal partner in new Deputy Liberal Leader Stuart Ayres who is known as an effective and active Minister who can push through reform. Mr Ayres will also be key to convincing Western Sydney, battered by the Delta strain, to stay with the Coalition.
  3. For Labor, there are positives and negatives. While the race to win the next election has narrowed without Gladys Berejiklian’s personal vote, it will also mean more attention and scrutiny on relatively new Opposition Leader Chris Minns. If this pans out as a policy contest, there is an opportunity for Labor to also strut its stuff. It’s an election that will represent a complete generational transition in NSW politics.
  4. The Government has a lot to deal with through to Christmas. It will be a period packed with issues it will need to manage with an energised Opposition hot on its heels

 

Related News: ‘Gladys Goes’

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