With the shock resignation of New South Wales’ leadership team, the state’s stewardship has been passed to the next generation of Coalition talent.
The new NSW Premier the Hon Dominic Perrottet MP has proven to be a shrewd political operator, becoming the youngest NSW premier in history at age 39.
However, it will take more than popularity in partisan party politics to lead Australia’s largest state in a crisis effectively.
Who is Dominic Perrottet?
What does he stand for, and what are his relationships with key stakeholders?
The team at Nexus have collated a quick summary of Premier Perrottet’s biography, an outline of his political leanings and a sketch of his political network to forecast this brave New South Wales.
Premier Perrottet followed the conventional route to politics – only at an accelerated rate.
Graduating from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Law and Commerce, he rose to the heights of NSW Young Liberal President in 2005.
Prior to entering parliament, he worked as a political staffer and as an insolvency lawyer at Henry Davis York.
In 2008 he sat as a member of the Liberal State Executive and remained a member until his parliamentary debut in 2011.
Mr Perrottet quickly progressed through the parliamentary party, attaining the role of Minister for Finance and Services in 2014.
He continued his career as an economic reformer, becoming the Treasurer of NSW on January the 30th, 2017.
It is important to note that Premiers are not a power unto themselves; they must maintain the support of electors and their party, not to mention the factional figures who facilitated their career.
For instance, Premier Perottet was initially supported in his early career by a range of conservative powerbrokers in the NSW Liberal Party and is the leader of the NSW conservative faction. Last week he was the preferred candidate for the top job with the backing of the moderate faction leadership in NSW.
It can be expected that these factors will play a moderating influence on any Premier of any particular ideological persuasion.
Premier Perrottet‘s well documented social conservatism is moderated by a commitment to libertarian ideals, including vocal and robust support for freedom of speech and the ideals of free and open markets.
Like his Federal counterpart, his actions as Treasurer during COVID reveal a pragmatic nature that will be instrumental in keeping together the “broad church” of the NSW Liberal Party.
The new Premier is the leader of the Right faction in the NSW Liberal party and the first to become Premier, despite the moderates holding a majority of the State Party room.
His 39-5 vote election result reveals that he has earned his parliamentary colleagues’ support despite his factional pedigree.
Relationship with the Prime Minister
Despite a sometimes chilly early relationship, Prime Minister The Hon Scott Morrison MP and Premier Perrottet will likely develop a better working relationship as both leaders’ election cycles near.
The Premier and PM are not naturally opposed and it is apparent that a heated exchange between the men relating to a financial support package has been sensationalised beyond its proportional significance.
Both leaders note their ability to work together supersedes real or imagined animosity; the Premier noted “Scott and I have a good relationship; it’s robust,” while appearing on Sky News on October the 5th.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister told Sunrise on Monday the 4th: “When we disagree, we disagree. But the next day we get back to work. That is how normal people get on with each other when they know each other well. And we do.”
Infighting within political parties is never popular with the public, and considering the PM’s electorate is situated in Sydney, an effective alliance between them would make perfect sense politically.
Necessity, not amiability, has forged some of the most potent and influential partnerships in Australian political history – there is no reason yet to believe that the NSW Premier and the NSW-based Prime Minister will be an exception.
Relationship with other Premiers & The National Cabinet
A new NSW Premier will change the personality-driven dynamic of the National Cabinet, the working group of state and territory leaders which has coordinated the emergency response plan to COVID-19.
It has been noted that Premier Perrottet favours a fast-tracked approach to reopening and is averse to state borders.
Therefore, it is expected the PM has gained an important ally in his push to convert the COVID-19 free States [Currently: WA, NT and Tasmania] into supporting his plan.
While Premier Perrottet is eager to avoid the pitfalls of inter-state conflict, he will likely align himself with the PM in the National Cabinet, where their interests align.
Relationship with new cabinet/ministry team
Considering his colleagues’ overwhelming support, which led to a landslide result, the new Premier will likely enjoy a “honeymoon period”” at the very least with his new and old colleagues.
As a veteran frontbencher, Premier Perrottet has had years to develop a working relationship with his colleagues in the ministry. This familiarity is bolstered by the unity often enjoyed after a peaceful power transition. He will work hard to ensure that his party room is unified after a challenging time.
Whilst the Premier has announced a relatively unchanged ministry and foreshadowed some additional changes this Summer, there will be several colleagues who will want additional changes for the upcoming State Election in early 2023.
Relationship with the Nationals and the Crossbench
With a minority government, Premier Perrottet can only ensure supply (the ability to pass budgetary measures) by virtue of an agreement with the crossbenchers (independent members of parliament).
The crossbenchers have expressed their intention to renegotiate these agreements to take advantage of the Premier’s tenuous grip on government.
The recent process of crossbench renegotiation is compounding the upheaval the new Premier has inherited.
While the discussion has focused on the Liberals, it is important to note that the NSW government is a coalition.
Deputy Premier and Nationals leader The Hon John Barilaro MP has also resigned. Mr Barilaro was often noted for his adversarial stance within the Nationals-Liberal partnership.
This tactic has been succeeded by the more collaborative style of the new Nationals leader, The Hon Paul Toole MP.
Mr Toole, however, has been at pains to explain that his collaborative style should not be confused with compromise when it comes to standing up for his parties regional constituencies.
The only poll that matters: Relationship with constituents
While polling on the new Premier is yet to be released, it is evident that Premier Perrottet has big shoes to fill.
The enduring popularity of his predecessor, The Hon Gladys Berejiklian MP was resistant even to an ICAC inquiry and allegations of pork barrelling.
While her approval had declined in recent months, the new Premier will likely have to contend with the shadow of his predecessor in the short term.
Only time will tell if Premier Perrottet can lead his new team to victory in the next state election – the poll that matters most.
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