It has all the hallmarks of the last throw of the dice for NSW Premier Morris Iemma. He has been galvanised into action to stage a Channel Nine-led recovery.

No less than four ex-Channel Nine News staffers have been recruited to renovate Iemma’s image and protect his premiership from implosion.

Former Sydney news director John Choueifate starts next Monday as the Director of State Strategy. It’s a new title and a new unit within the Premier’s Office.

In the new pecking order, Choueifate will out-rank Iemma’s chief of staff, Josh Murray, which sets up an interesting bureaucratic interface.

Adam Walters has resigned as Nine’s NSW state political reporter in the press gallery to join Iemma’s office as media director. This is his second tour of duty with the Labor Government since it was first elected in 1995.

Two other seasoned Nine News reporters, Brad Schmitt and Dale Paget, recently joined the Iemma Government — Schmitt working for Treasurer Michael Costa while Paget has been on the staff of Tourism Minister Matt Brown.

Both are likely to be re-located to the premier’s newly centralized media team.

To take up his position with Iemma, Choueifate has resigned as co-director of CMW Media, the consultancy he established last year with former Ten political correspondent Paul Mullins.

Iemma has been premier since mid-2005, and by recruiting a Director of State Strategy at this late hour it looks as if he has only just recognised the need for some strategic planning.

While Choueifate heroically directed Nine’s top-rating six o’clock news bulletins for more than a decade filling them with crime, courts, crashes and celebrities behaving badly, he will find that giving advice on how to run NSW will be a little more challenging.

Embattled Iemma appears to have decided that Sydney’s print media and radio are against him and that the best way for him to communicate with NSW voters is via commercial television.

He has hired the four amigos — Choueifate, Walters, Schmitt and Paget — to rescue his image and credibility following opinion polls showing that his approval rating has sunk to an abysmal 26 per cent.

While all of them they have highly professional commercial TV news skills, their knowledge of ALP politics, factions and government administration is questionable.

For their sake, let’s hope they have signed watertight contracts which will given them nice pay-outs if, as expected, Iemma is either dumped or quits.

It is an abysmal commentary on this disgraceful government that it has trawled through the Nine newsroom to find the personnel to rescue it. Iemma seems to believe that nice pictures on the telly will save him. They won’t.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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