In many ways, this is the worst time for a new premiere in New South Wales. The resignation of John Barillaro as Deputy Prime Minister creates an even greater mood of uncertainty and perhaps insecurity.
The state is due to open up at least partially next week, and with the end of the lockdown will require a different kind of leadership than has been displayed in the past few months. Gladys Berejiklian has done a fair job during the pandemic, as can be seen from her support, even grief, over her decision to call it a day.
However, there have also been several complaints about his government’s actions, especially in Sydney’s western suburbs. She sometimes appears to be dominant to the north coast and eastern suburbs. For any Liberal Premier of New South Wales, such an assumption is extremely dangerous as elections are won among outlying suburban and regional voters.
In the 18 months before the next election, especially given the coalition’s weak majority in the Legislative Assembly, the new prime minister would need to ensure or at least create the impression that the government was acting on behalf of the entire state. .
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Considering that Dominique Perrot becomes the next premier, it is worth asking what he brings to that position and how it will affect state politics next year. It is also worth noting that Perrot, along with Planning Minister Rob Stokes, are from the North Shore. This is probably why he chose to contest with Stuart Ayres, who represents the western Sydney seat of Penrith.
Both Perrot and Ayres are quite young: Perrot is 39 years old; Ayres 41. They represent a new generation of leaders.
Perrott grew up on the North Shore, where he attended Redfield College and Oakhill College. Interestingly, no school plays rugby league more than St Dominic’s College, Penrith, which Ayres participated in and which counts its alumni Nathan Klee, Des Hustler and Brad Fitler.
Perrot’s father works for the World Bank and is one of 12 children. The families are religiously Catholic.
Perrot’s further education and career indicate that he followed in his father’s footsteps the other way round. He studied economics and law at the university before working as a business lawyer.
He was elected to the state parliament in the 2011 landslide at the young age of 29. He quickly moved up the ministerial ladder mainly in the economic departments. He began with industrial relations and then the Treasury and finance in 2015 before moving to the Liberal Party deputy leadership in 2017.
Perrot’s rise shows that he is very capable and intelligent, and that he has “topped the class” of candidates who went to parliament in 2011.
But his career also says something about what it means to be on the right in the modern Liberal Party. In some ways, he resembles former liberal leader Nick Greiner, a highly financially literate technocrat who views the world through a business lens. While Greiner’s policies resonated on the North Shore and secured Liberal seats, they were his Achilles heel everywhere. So in the 1991 election, Greiner increased his vote share in secured Liberal seats, while losing significant seats in other regions, forming a minority government.
Another important aspect of Perrot’s personality is his orthodox Catholicism. One of his original sponsors was MLC David Clarke, a noted conservative Catholic and leader of the Conservatives in the Liberal Party. He is pro-life and opposes assisted dyeing.
Perrot has claimed that his personal religious beliefs do not affect his work in public life. In any case, it requires the support of moderates who, through the law, hold vastly different moral and social values.
His economic and financial experience will be of far greater importance to his role as Prime Minister. He focuses heavily on the economy and, as treasurer, is aware of the huge debt incurred by the state. Back in July, he reportedly opposed the extension of the current lockdown. He has also indicated that he may change the existing roadmap out of the lockdown in the state.
What seems to have been the perennial issue of the pandemic – public health versus the economy – no doubt favors the Perrotate economy.
Certainly, as the state comes out of the worst phase of the pandemic, the economy will be bigger. It is also the case that the focus on the economy will bring it praise from the north coast, which has faced fewer COVID cases than other areas of Sydney.
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The problem is that the state still has to work its way through the lifting of restrictions and the consequences of that action. Despite the high level of vaccination, it is not clear that all will be simple sailing.
Berejiklian honed his public relations skills during the pandemic and demonstrated his ability to reassure the wider population that there was light at the end of the tunnel. Still, she did not reach everyone.
Parrot is largely unhelpful in these cases. They will need to reassure the people of New South Wales that their focus is not just economic and financial. He could well have imagined the fate of Nick Greiner.
Barillaro’s resignation will not make this situation easier. It is still a mystery why he resigned. Could he really have been pushed into resignation by a rowdy YouTuber?
Whatever the reason, this will make the new Prime Minister’s job more difficult as it will be a new leadership team that seeks to guide NSW through largely unknown waters.
How this new team handles those situations may well determine the outcome of the next state election.