The political dysfunction at the centre of the NSW Government now involves a stand-off between the Infrastucture Minister Joe Tripodi and the Infrastructure Coordinator-General Bob Leece.
Under the terms of the job which he began last month, Leece reports directly to Premier Nathan Rees and not Tripodi. Insiders report that the minister and the coordinator-general barely speak to each other even though they are both charged with delivering the desperate infrastructure requirements of the State.
In parliament, Shadow Infrastructure Minister Brad Hazzard asked Tripodi whether he had met with the new Coordinator-General.
Tripodi gave a dismissively scathing reply: “Questions relating to the appointment of Mr Bob Leece should be referred to the Premier.”
Tripodi appears to have had a frosty working relationship with Leece’s predecessor, the then Coordinator-General Dr David Richmond.
Hazzard recalled: “In a Budget Estimates hearing last year, Minister Tripodi admitted he had shared nothing more than a quick hello in the corridors with then Coordinator General. Months later, Mr Richmond was dumped.”
Hazzard also pointed out that Tripodi had made only one speech in parliament this year on the infrastructure portfolio even though infrastructure and job creation were at the centre of the State’s economic needs.
Leece was appointed to the position on the direct instructions of the Rudd Government which was concerned that billions of dollars in emergency federal funding would be lost through incompetence, inefficiency and cronyism unless there was a strong and independent grip on Canberra’s cash (our taxes!).
The dire state of the NSW economy was highlighted in yesterday’s Access Economics Business Outlook:
Bad policies and bad luck dogged the Premier State for a long time, but 2009 should prove close to being as bad as it gets. There is no state economy in worse shape in Australia right now than NSW. Its economic landscape more closely resembles somewhere in the UK or the US, and it almost seems like economists are searching through the rubble looking for businesses with a pulse.
The NSW unemployment rate of 6.9 per cent is the highest in the country and jobs are being lost at the alarming rate of 360-a-day. Today’s Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Supreme Court has issued more than 300 writs per month since January authorizing the repossession of homes.
Shadow Treasurer Mike Baird criticised Treasurer Eric Roozendaal for blaming the dire NSW conditions on the global meltdown saying that was “a cop-out”: “The Access report clearly shows that NSW was on a downward slide well before anyone had heard about the global financial crisis.”
But wait! Help is on the way! There’s a cavalry charge by the NSW Business Chamber led by its chief executive “Little” Patty Forsythe, a former Liberal upper house MP.
Today she’s launching “NSW Reclaiming 1st”, a campaign “to find policy solutions to put NSW back on top”, according to the front-page of the Herald.
Ms Forsythe promised to gather “the best and brightest minds from business, government and the community to develop policies which will turn this state around.”
Let’s hope that there are no more power failures so that the lights stay on and the summit can proceed.