NSW Planning Minister Frank Sartor addressed the annual Local Government Association conference in Coffs Harbour yesterday in what is likely to be his swansong.

“Cranky Frankie” berated the assembled councillors and CEOs for the length of time it takes to approve development applications and told them to raise their game. This from a government which, after 12 and a half years in office, has just commissioned an American consultancy – at a cost of $10 million – to tell it what’s wrong with Sydney’s shambolic rail network!

With a NSW Cabinet reshuffle due after the federal election, perhaps early in the New Year, Sartor is for the high jump from the planning portfolio. He has upset just about every stakeholder in the planning pie and, with local government elections due next September, Labor is facing a wipe-out if Coalition, Green and Independents campaign against Sartor’s authoritarian and confrontational approach to planning controls.

His place is likely to be taken by Ian Macdonald, current Primary Industries Minister. Sartor is desperately keen to replace the hopelessly inept Reba Meagher as Health Minister, but Premier Morris Iemma is aware that Sartor’s boundless energy is easily matched by his uncontrolled ego.

The Premier fears that Sartor would turn the health portfolio into a fight club with the minister pitted against doctors, surgeons, area health boards, nurses and ancillary staff. The question Iemma is asking himself is this: where can I slot Frank to minimise the political damage that accompanies him?

Others have suggested that it is time for the former Sydney lord mayor to terminate his mercurial political career and move into the private sector. Some of the big developers would be delighted to have him on board.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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