Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

New South Wales: January to June 2005

Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

New South Wales: January to June 2005

Article excerpt

The first half of 2005 saw the leaders of both major parties notch up an anniversary or two. On 27 March, Liberal Party leader John Brogden celebrated three years as leader of the Opposition, just two days after the Premier, Bob Carr, notched up a remarkable ten years in the top job. Then, on 25 May, Carr became the state's longest serving premier, beating Neville Wran's record of ten years, one month and twenty days. The anniversaries motivated both reflection and forward planning, with the 2007 election firmly in both leaders' sights. For Brogden, the time was right for a "big rebuild" (Sunday Telegraph, 27 March 2005) and an opportunity to capitalise on the Carr Government's recent woes. For Premier Carr it was more of the same but with a few surprises along the way, including the resignation of Carr's long-time Treasurer, Michael Egan, which prompted an interesting ministerial reshuffle.

Do the Shuffle

On 18 January, Michael Egan, the state's longest serving treasurer, announced his resignation from politics. Although the Premier had known of his treasurer's plans for over four months, during which time Egan had apparently changed his mind "three or four times" (Sydney Morning Herald, 19 January 2005), the news was a surprise to many. While the Acting Opposition Leader, Andrew Stoner, crowed that Egan was just "the first rat to desert the sinking Labor Party ship" (The Australian, 19 January 2005), Egan left confident that his reputation as the "surplus king" (Sydney Morning Herald, 19 January 2005) would be an important legacy. Certainly his conservative approach to budget-revenue forecasting and economic management, including his policy of retiring state debt rather than investing in infrastructure, has contributed to the nine budget surpluses over which he presided. However, as run-down infrastructure problems start to bite the government in the polls, it seems Egan's legacy may not be judged until 2007.

Egan's resignation paved the way for an important ministerial reshuffle. Contenders for the treasurer's job included Assistant Treasurer John Della Bosca and controversial Transport Minister Michael Costa. However, it was the Deputy Premier, Andrew Refshauge, a senior figure in the Labor Left faction and outgoing Education Minister, who received the nod from Premier Carr (Sydney Morning Herald, 20 January 2005). In-fighting in the right-wing faction meant that the final line up in the new ministry was not announced for a few days. But when the controversial member for Fairfield, Joe Tripodi, found the factional numbers over former ALP State Secretary Eric Roozendaal, (Sydney Morning Herald, 21, 27 January, and 1,2,8 February 2005) the last ministerial position was filled and the way was clear for the premier to announce his new ministry.

It was not only the government that opted for a reshuffle. As a part of their optimistic plan to unseat Labor at the next election, in April the opposition announced a shuffle of their own. John Brogden's new shadow ministry contained no new faces, but did see the former spokeswoman on infrastructure and planning, Peta Seaton, promoted to shadow treasurer (Sydney Morning Herald, 13 April 2005). Brogden had decided to relinquish his own role as shadow treasurer, which he had held since assuming the party leadership in 2002, so that the opposition could pay more detailed attention to the treasury portfolio in the lead-up to the next election. If the Liberal Party were to win government at the next election, Seaton could become the state's first female treasurer (Sydney Morning Herald, 13 April 2005).

New South Wales versus Costello: the GST Row Continues

A change in personnel in the New South Wales treasury did not mean a change in tactics. Following the 2004 stoush that saw Michael Egan take on Peter Costello and John Howard over the allocation of GST revenue to the states by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, 2005 saw the battle continue under the command of Treasurer Refshauge. …

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