It is one of Barry O’Farrell’s big challenges — not winning the election, but resisting a jobs-for-the-boys push from the Coalition’s far right.

Upper House right MP David Clarke, whose hand on the wheel with Peter Debnam cost the Liberals the last election, and his cohorts are pushing for their “people” to be handed plum departmental jobs.

Having had to wait an extra four years since the Debnam debacle, languishing in right-wing think tanks and advisory groups, a workforce of conservative men and women is said to be clamouring to take what they believe is their due.

Senior public servants occupying manager positions in NSW government departments have reason to be nervous during the countdown to the Coalition shoo in.

Staff in the SES or Senior Executive Service bands 1-3 earn salaries ranging upward from about $180,000 and usually act as section heads, of IT, HR and the other common department divisions such as legal and parliamentary support sections

There are about 700 SES positions in the NSW public service. (Heads of departments on chief executive service salaries earn about $400,000)

While ministerial offices will soak up staff numbers, the capacity for the public service to absorb incoming party nominees is greater and left and moderate Liberals are worried about O’Farrell’s powers to stop the influence of the right.

The moderates fear David Clarke’s influence as a religious far rightist will expose O’Farrell to early criticism in his premiership, shorten the new government’s “honeymoon” with voters and the media and leave the door open for the extremists to replace O’Farrell with a candidate closer to their own arch conservative views.

*Candace Sutton worked for six years as a NSW government media adviser, and more recently spent three months in the office of lord mayor Clover Moore,.

Peter Fray

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