Barry O’Farrell has taken over the collapsed state of NSW and set his unique mark on the new regime. As in the past, there’s bravado, some logic and specific pratfalls. People who know him are not surprised and are setting a safety zone, a no man’s land, around him which looks surprisingly like “circling the wagons”.
Barry’s latest announcement is the appointment to a critical position of the man who gave palpitations to Federal Minister Albanese and Infrastructure Australia (with heavy criticisms of the quality of NSW submissions), O’Farrell himself and his transport minister Gladys Berejiklian. Rodd Staples designed and managed the CBD Metro project.
In June 2009 O’Farrell described the project as “a train to nowhere, the carriages will be as empty as Nathan Rees’s promises, an irresponsible contract”. He fully supported the cancellation in February 2010. Staples kept saying the project was just deferred.
O’Farrell was supposed to have a carefully considered transition plan, now one wonders. His other announcements have included
- Demotion of speculated leadership hopeful Mike Baird, engineer of much of BOF’s campaign promises, who at #11 is the lowest ranked treasurer in history. Baird is also the highest qualified front bencher
- Removal of his spokesman on intergovernmental relations, Chris Hartcher, at a time of massive intergovernmental housing, health, education, local government and transport challenges
- Endorsement of the planning spokesman, Brad Hazzard, leaving the two best candidates for the role sitting on the sideline, at a time of crisis in planning legislation, population growth, housing unaffordability and industry disgust at planning approval processes and land releases
- Appointment without advertisement of a head of his own Premiers and Cabinet super ministry of a man who has given good and faithful service to Labor governments in Victoria and South Australia
- Sidelining of the man who got the roads agenda right but might have miffed the motorist lobby, the deputy premier Andrew Stoner
- Deletion of a water ministry at a time of massive debate and community concern over the Murray Darling Basin (in the hands of a Labor eminence grise), river undermining and a complete lack of commercial access to untapped stormwater and brown water flows in the eastern seabord
- Placement of environmental policy-making units exactly where the shooters and fishers want them, in industry departments together with the dumping of the environmental spokesman Catherine Cusack who established BOF’s faux credibility in environmental policy
On the other hand, removal of the head of education, Michael Coutts Trotter, and placing him in the finance super ministry has been applauded.