The cavalry has arrived to provide some relief for the besieged Nathan Rees Government in the form of Graham Wedderburn, the Premier’s chief of staff, and Bob Leece, the Infrastructure Coordinator-General.
Wedderburn, who was former Premier Bob Carr’s chief of staff for eight years, has been wooed back to Governor Macquarie Tower on the promise of a winnable Senate spot down the track.
Leece is the former CEO of Tenix Group, Deputy Director-General of the Olympic Coordination Authority (OCA) and CEO of the Olympic Roads and Traffic Authority (ORTA), the two bodies which delivered the “best ever” games in Sydney in 2000.
Leece should have been welcomed into the highest levels of the State Government as soon as the Olympic closing ceremony was over, but he wasn’t.
Apart from his epic contribution to the Olympics, Leece proved his organising skills in 1999 in the wake of the hailstorm that swept south Sydney suburbs from Redfern to Botany.
Carr paid tribute to his efforts in post-storm construction, telling MPs:
He has met with a range of industry associations and major construction companies, such as A W Edwards Pty Ltd, Multiplex Constructions and Grocon, to arrange for tradespeople to work in the area. Mr Leece matched up those companies with insurance companies and they are now working in the area. The result is that one construction company, A. W. Edwards, has signed up to work on 300 houses. That has come about by Bob Leece bringing builders and insurance companies together to meet the needs of the people whose lives have been devastated.
In his new post, Leece succeeds his old boss at the OCA, David Richmond. When they worked together on the Olympics they were “like salt and pepper”, recalled Michael Grealy, a senior communications officer.
“Richmond was the veteran public service mandarin who knew the ropes of government and Leece was the crash-through construction man. Despite some spirited discussions they were peerless at one thing — they delivered.”
In the NSW Parliament yesterday the National Building Jobs Plan (State Infrastructure Delivery) Bill was introduced to give statutory effect to Leece’s new job and to give him sweeping powers to spend the NSW share of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s $42 billion stimulus package.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell’s business adviser, Max Moore-Wilton, has started inauspiciously. Rees reminded MPs that former Prime Minister John Howard’s chief headkicker, nicknamed “Jabba the Hut”, had slashed 24,000 transport jobs when he worked for the Greiner administration at the Urban Transport Authority and the State Rail Authority.
The front page of today’s Sydney Morning Herald would have provided more pain for Moore-Wilton with a report headlined “Sydney Airport flies into the red” revealing that the Macquarie Bank owners had reported a $146 million loss and a blow-out in the interest bill on its $8.1 billion of debt.
In his post-government career, Moore-Wilton moved office to Macquarie Bank where the airport profit-making became his “baby”.