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April 21, 2024

What’s changed in NSW?

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Wallum urban development back in court

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Dom bows out. Photo David Lowe.

On the night it looked like a Labor landslide. A few days on, the dreams of majority have slipped away and we’re looking at the much more interesting prospect of a progressive minority government in NSW.

The Liberals’ Dominic Perrottet, the friendly face of an increasingly corrupt, destructive and tired coalition government, has been replaced in the top job by Labor’s Chris Minns, who seemed happy to spend most of the election campaign as a bit of an unknown. Both men are similar in some ways; middle-aged, white, hetero, Catholic, energetic and with young families.

Perhaps heralding a less savage political era in NSW, some were shocked when outgoing Premier Perrottet suggested that the people of the state should get behind his replacement, no matter who they voted for. Chris Minns might not be able to play Thunderstruck on guitar, but as Mr Perrottet has put it, he does have ‘awesome hair’.

From small target to premier

So what does Mr Minns stand for? He’s a big fan of Paul Keating, has given up drinking (since COVID), and opposed the voluntary euthanasia bill. He is also fiercely opposed to the privatisation of public assets. Apart from short stints as a firefighter and stay at home dad, he appears to be an entirely political animal, moving from Hurstville Council to state politics.

When he arrived on the political stage in 2015, he attacked the unions, probably delaying his ascension as leader, but on election night he thanked the union movement in his first speech as premier. Nurses and teachers are relieved. The pokies industry will also be grateful – the cashless gaming card will only be trialled by Labor in a small number of venues at this stage.

Lismore MP Janelle Saffin briefs NSW Labor leader Chris Minns during a recent visit to Lismore.

Mr Minns has already had a brush with ICAC, which resulted in him giving back thousands of dollars donated by a banned Chinese billionaire.

His new ministry includes the champion of Sydney’s western suburbs and Deputy Premier Prue Car (Education), unionist and activist Daniel Mookhey (Treasury), former teacher Ryan Park (Health), Penny Sharpe (Environment)  and former NSW ALP leader Michael Daley (Attorney-General). Mr Daley is the only one of these with ministerial experience.

While ministries are already being divvied up, four lower house seats remain on a knife edge as vote counting continues, with three likely to go to the Liberals, not enough to change the result. Former Liberal, now independent Gareth Ward managed to get re-elected in Kiama, despite having sexual assault charges hanging over him.

It was a very successful election for The Greens and independents, with all their seats being held and margins increased in many cases. Former NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro’s old seat of Monaro went to the ALP, as did Liberal Victor Dominello’s former seat of Ryde. Gladys Berejiklian’s leafy ex-seat of Willoughby was also almost lost by the Liberals, with a strong challenge from independent Larissa Penn.

In Barwon, anti-CSG campaigner and independent Roy Butler was returned with an 11 per cent swing in his favour, which didn’t stop incoming Environment Minister Penny Sharpe from announcing on television that night that the Narrabri gas project (in the centre of the electorate) would be continuing full steam ahead under the Minns Government.

More encouraging environmental news came in the form of the chainsaws falling silent in what may soon be the Great Koala National Park, and Labor’s promise to stop the LNP plan to raise the Warragamba Dam wall, which would have damaged World Heritage areas.

Chris Minns’ first trip as premier this week was to visit the scene of the massive fish kill near Menindee, where he vowed to listen and take action to prevent this happening again. Hopefully this will mean taking on the big cotton irrigators.

Legislative Council

The details of the latest NSW upper house line-up will remain a mystery wrapped in an enigma until the Electoral Commission boffins press the distribution button, but with 21 positions up for grabs this election, there will be 7 to 9 Labor MLCs elected and 6 or 7 spots for the Coalition.

Jeremy Buckingham, lead candidate in the NSW upper house for the Legalise Cannabis Party. Photo supplied.

Jeremy Buckingham looks likely to be returning to parliament, this time under the Legalise Cannabis Party banner, along with his old Shooters, Fishers and Farmers foe Robert Borsak, of elephant-eating fame.

Two Greens are definite, led by Cate Faehrmann (there could be three), and the Nationals’ Ben Franklin has been returned. The Animal Justice Party’s prospects remain unclear.

Fred Nile is gone after 41 years, but Mark Latham remains, carrying the One Nation flag.

Buried deep in the election statistics are some even more disturbing results, with large numbers of informal votes and entirely empty ballots. In many electorates, these ghost votes would have been enough to change the result.

Think of that next time someone tells you it doesn’t matter how or if you vote.

David Lowe
David Lowe – photo Tree Faerie

Originally from Canberra, David Lowe is an award-winning film-maker, writer and photographer with particular interests in the environment and politics. He’s known for his campaigning work with Cloudcatcher Media.

Long ago, he did work experience in Parliament House with Mungo MacCallum.

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  1. ‘…these ghost votes would have been enough to change the result’.
    How so frustratingly true !
    A most informative article – good journalism.


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