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   Sep 14

No love lost in Parliament on Valentine’s Day

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (centre), Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton hold a press conference in State Parliament House. Photo: Louise Kennerley NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian fielded her first question time as Premier on Tuesday. Photo: Louise Kennerley
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The questions came thick and fast to and from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, but bouquets weren’t given out. Photo: Louise Kennerley

 

Gladys Berejiklian’s first question time as Premier fell on Valentine’s Day, and love was in the House.

It was written in the eyes of Opposition Leader Luke Foley as he introduced his new Labor members to the house. It oozed between the backsides of an overflowing new government frontbench (and actually off the side in the case of Multicultural Affairs Minister Ray Williams).

It even softened the Greens into allowing the freshly sworn Shooters, Fishers and Farmers member Philip Donato to share their crossbench, albeit with the tactful placement of red-carded Liberal Glenn Brookes sitting between them.

And then there were the unlucky in love, those who had been relegated to the backbench in the January shuffle, who glowered and yawned behind the ebullient honeymooners.

But if Berejiklian had dared to hope that the spirit of love, peace and harmony would extend to the opposition, she was to be disappointed.

Her own ascension to the job, along with the cabinet shuffle and midday announcement that arranged marriages between councils in rural and regional areas would not go ahead provided her opponents with ample fodder for the opening of the season.

The man who had a PhD in planning had been moved to education, which he confessed was not his area of expertise, Mr Foley needled, while the man who was an expert in education had been shunted to the backbench “because the new leader of the Nationals hates him”.

“And in health they take the person who’s been in the portfolio since 1994 to refresh the cabinet and replace her with the guy who’s been here since 1991.”

Mr Foley taunted that the Premier had been elevated to her position by factional lobbyists and lurking machinists, and he challenged why she had reversed council amalgamations in the bush but was sticking to them in Sydney.

Ms Berejiklian parried.

“I appreciate the question from the Leader of the Opposition but I ask him to actually, by the end of question time, to have his position made clear,” she said.

“The rumblings of that side of the house have become apparent, Madam Speaker. They support mergers, they know they have a leader who has no policy and no principle.

“The Leader of the Opposition has had a lot to say about this but the sad thing is he still doesn’t have a position.” She wagged her finger. “You have until the end of question time.”

Mr Foley: “I would like to move the motion and let’s get it on.”

If Ms Berejiklian considered his comment a little forward on this of all days, she gave nothing away.

“But if I did that you would have a different position by the end of question time.” She smiled triumphant, glanced around the room, resumed her seat. There was no love lost.

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