New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said her new-look cabinet represents a “fresh approach” that will give communities their “fair share” of the state’s economic success.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro was alongside the Premier at a media conference at Queanbeyan as she announced a cabinet reshuffle that sees some of the government’s most experienced ministers axed.
The Premier announced that Rob Stokes will take over the education portfolio from Adrian Piccoli, who is among those being dropped from the frontbench.
“Rob Stokes will do an outstanding job, and he’s as passionate about education as I am and as Minister Piccoli was,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“There is absolutely no doubt how strongly we feel about the Gonski reforms, and it’s not just about the money – it’s about making sure it goes to where it’s needed most.”
In a statement, Mr Piccoli said he was “particularly proud of our reforms to support students in some of the state’s most disadvantaged communities”.
“It has been a great privilege to have served as minister for education in NSW for nearly six years,” he said.
“I can look back over my time as minister satisfied with what I have achieved.”
Brad Hazzard has been moved into health after Jillian Skinner quit Parliament on Friday, sparking a potentially difficult by-election for the government.
Nationals MP Melinda Pavey is one of seven new faces to be promoted to the frontbench, replacing Duncan Gay as Roads Minister.
A complete list of the assigned portfolios can be viewed below.
Merit, not faction, behind promotions: Premier
With Hornsby Liberal MP Matt Kean and former Upper House president Don Harwin rewarded with frontbench positions, the Labor opposition has accused the Premier of using the reshuffle to promote her allies and reward Liberal powerbrokers.
“You can tell the Premier’s not in charge,” Oppostion Leader Luke Foley said.
“She’s had to do deals with every backroom power broker in the Liberal party … rather than putting the interests of the people first.”
Ms Berejiklian denied some MPs were promoted because of their factional allegiances.
“Every person that we’ve appointed is there because of the merit” she said.
“Of course, the Deputy Premier and I have had to make some difficult decisions, and they are because we believe this is the best team moving forward.”
Right-wing powerbroker Anthony Roberts has been given the planning portfolio, which will be crucial to the Premier’s plans to make housing affordability a top priority.
As the Premier spoke, she was surrounded by a number of protesters demonstrating against less popular policies brought in by her predecessor, Mike Baird.
Ms Berejiklian asked that her new cabinet be given a fair chance.
“I say to the community judge us by our actions,” she said.
“Judge us by what we are going to do.”
Counter-terrorism and WestConnex ministries added
For the first time, there will be a dedicated minister for counter-terrorism as well as a portfolio for Australia’s largest infrastructure project, WestConnex.
Counter-terrorism has been assigned to David Andrew Elliott, while Stuart Ayres will take over WestConnex alongside his responsibilities for Western Sydney and sport.
The opposition criticised the addition of the counter-terrorism portfolio to the cabinet in addition to the existing police portfolio.
“I’ll tell you who keeps us safe from terrorism at the state level, it’s the police officers, and how dare the premier split that responsibility?” Mr Foley said.
“[NSW Police] Commissioner [Andrew] Scipione now has to report to two ministers on counter-terrorism [issues].”
Tipping her hat to the Nationals
Ms Berejiklian’s decision to make the announcement in Mr Barilaro’s marginal seat of Monaro is being viewed as a conciliatory gesture to the Nationals after recent bumpy times in the Coalition partnership.
Mr Barilaro seized on the resignation of former premier Mike Baird earlier this month to demand that regional New South Wales become more of a priority for the government.
He is also pushing Ms Berejiklian to walk away from unpopular forced council mergers in the bush.
The Deputy Premier will take on the role of Minister for Regional NSW, along with the skills and small business portfolios.
The new cabinet will be sworn in at Government House on Monday afternoon.