When the Joe Hockey-for-Premier story broke last weekend, the federal Liberal MP for North Sydney’s spokesman Trent Zimmerman was thrust into the spotlight.

Zimmerman’s response to the inspired leak by News Ltd’s Glenn Milne was so ambiguous that it didn’t kill the speculation but inflamed it. Thus The Sydney Morning Herald’s state political editor Andrew Clennell wrote:

The federal Liberal frontbencher Joe Hockey has refused to rule out a tilt at the state Liberal leader’s job, failing to quash speculation he could enter NSW politics should the Opposition Leader, Barry O’Farrell, falter over the next few months.

Mr Hockey failed to mention Mr O’Farrell directly in a statement released by his spokesman, Trent Zimmerman, yesterday. He also refused to rule out an attempt to stand for state politics.

Who is Zimmerman? Hockey’s fulltime staffer also doubles as a councillor on North Sydney Council. Since 1996 he has represented the Wollstonecraft ward, home of the political vagrant John Howard, a former prime minister.

He is also a former vice president of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association and has spent his career in a series of jobs for the Liberal political apparatus.

He was president of the NSW Young Liberals in 1991-92 when he worked on the staff of Max Willis, president of the Legislative Council and brother of the late Sir Eric Willis, a former premier.

In his valedictory speech on December 3, 1998, Willis told MPs:

I owe a special thanks to my three executive officers: first, Trent Zimmerman; second, Shayne Mallard and last, your executive officer now, Madam President, Jason Collins.

As Young Liberal presidents from time to time they were really quite pains in the butt, but overall they demonstrated to me the future politicians of my party in this State and they exemplified the very high quality of young people who are coming up through its ranks.

The “Madam President” referred to in his speech was Virginia Chadwick, a former education minister in the Greiner Government. She replaced Willis after he appeared tired and emotional in the chair and the offending television footage was played across all networks creating much merriment among NSW voters.

Upon her retirement in 1999, Chadwick was given a plum job by her factional ally in Canberra, federal Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill. He made her chair of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority based in Townsville.

The annual report of Environment Australia 2001-2002 records that Trent Zimmerman received $10,770 to conduct a review of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975.

By this time, Zimmerman was developing his Canberra career. He joined the staff of Senator Hill and later became an electorate officer for Peter King, the MP for Wentworth.

When King controversially lost pre-selection to merchant banker Malcolm Turnbull in 2002 and decided to stand as an independent, Zimmerman was parachuted out of King’s Double Bay office and into Joe Hockey’s team on the other side of the Harbour Bridge.

In more recent times the ambitious Zimmerman has been developing his North Sydney local government profile in the hope of moving to a safe seat in state parliament. But with North Shore MP Jillian Skinner committing herself to standing at the 2011 state election, his chances of a Macquarie Street sinecure are fast evaporating.

Keep watching the “Glimmerman’s” role in the NSW Libs.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey