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NSW Premier battle: Catholic father-of-six treasurer set to replace Gladys Berejiklian

Dominic Perrottet looks set to be NSW Premier after a key ally switched sides when an endorsement by ex-PM John Howard gave the Treasurer an unbeatable edge.

A formal handover of power could be announced as soon as Sunday evening. 

The right-wing Treasurer had already secured the support of many Liberal moderates by initially selecting environment minister Matt Kean, 40, as his running mate.

Mr Kean is now said to take over the Treasurer’s job while one-time potential rival, tourism minister Stuart Ayres, 40, has now joined Mr Perrottet’s campaign as his deputy. 

‘We believe it is a team that will provide stability, unity and experience to continue the great work of Premier Gladys Berejiklian and our entire team to ensure that NSW comes out the other side much stronger,’ Mr Perrottet said on Sunday. 

Dominic Perrottet (pictured) is set to be NSW Premier after a key ally switched sides when an endorsement by ex-PM John Howard gave the current Treasurer an unbeatable edge

The party’s centre-right have also swung behind the 39-year-old dad-of-six after Mr Howard’s kingmaker seal of approval. 

Planning minister Rob Stokes was the only other contender to formally put their hand up for the Premier’s job 

Ironically Mr Stokes is a close friend – and literal running mate – of Mr Perrottet. The pair go jogging together around Sydney’s city centre Domain park.

‘Rob Stokes is not just a friend,’ said Mr Perrottet on Sunday, extending an olice branch to his rival. ‘He’s an incredibly talented member of our team. 

‘We promote competition but I’ve been incredibly impressed in the difficult circumstance that our party has found ourselves in.

The party's centre-right have also swung behind dad-of-six Dominic Perrottet, pictured here with his family, after Mr Howard's seal of approval

The party’s centre-right have also swung behind dad-of-six Dominic Perrottet, pictured here with his family, after Mr Howard’s seal of approval

‘The maturity, the discipline, the professionalism that every single member of our party room has acted during the last 48 hours where we have a party vote on Tuesday, and then we are back at work looking after the people of our state.’ 

Mr Stokes was relying on numbers from the centre-right to bolster his bid for the top job.

However that faction, led by police minister David Elliott, is now said to have switched allegiances after the nod from Mr Howard, effectIvely gifting power to Mr Perrottet.

With the additional numbers from Mr Ayres’s support, Mr Perrottet’s lead is now looking insurmountable and may not even go to a vote in the party room on Tuesday.

Mr Ayres – partner of Foreign Minister Marise Payne – added: ‘This is a leadership ticket that every person across NSW can support.

The tide rose behind Mr Perrottet on Saturday afternoon when ex-PM John Howard (pictured here with Gladys Berejiklian) put the good word on his bid for the top NSW job

The tide rose behind Mr Perrottet on Saturday afternoon when ex-PM John Howard (pictured here with Gladys Berejiklian) put the good word on his bid for the top NSW job

‘From the city to the suburbs, from the coast to the bush, we are about representing every single person in NSW.’

The tide rose behind Mr Perrottet on Saturday afternoon when Mr Howard put the good word on his bid for the top NSW job.

The endorsement came just 24 hours after Gladys Berejiklian, 51, announced she was quitting over the ICAC probe into her relationship and dealings with dodgy MP Daryl Maguire. 

‘A number of talented MPs have been suggested as her replacement [but] I hope that Dominic Perrottet becomes the new Liberal leader, and therefore the next premier of NSW,’ Mr Howard said in a statement.

‘He has the intelligence, experience and commitment to reform that the state needs at this time.’

On Sunday, Mr Perrottet paid tribute to his former leader for her service to the state.

At 39, Dominic Perrottet (pictured here with his wife Helen) would be the youngest leader in the history of NSW and Australia's youngest state premier since Labor's Lara Giddings governed Tasmania aged 38 in January 2011

At 39, Dominic Perrottet (pictured here with his wife Helen) would be the youngest leader in the history of NSW and Australia’s youngest state premier since Labor’s Lara Giddings governed Tasmania aged 38 in January 2011

‘I think there is no doubt that New South Wales is a much better place today because of the tireless dedication of our premier, Gladys Berejiklian,’ he said.

YOUNGEST STATE LEADERS IN HISTORY

Lara Giddings, Labor, Tasmania: age 38 in 2011

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‘Particularly during the last 18 months and I, as her deputy and as Treasurer, worked very closely with her as we navigated through droughts through fires and through this pandemic.

‘New South Wales is stronger today because of her tireless servant leadership to the people of New South Wales.’

Mr Ayres added: ‘This is a unique point in time. For our state, we need stability, we need focus.

‘That’s exactly what Dominic Perrottet and Stuart Ayres will deliver for the people of New South Wales.’

At 39, Mr Perrottet would be the youngest leader in the history of Australia’s most populated state, making him a year younger than Nick Greiner, Nathan Rees and Kristina Keneally when they rose to power. 

He would also be Australia’s youngest state premier since Labor’s Lara Giddings governed Tasmania aged 38 in January 2011.

Mr Perrottet, who became Treasurer in January 2017 when Ms Berejiklian replaced Mike Baird as Premier, is also a devout Catholic and hails from the Liberal Party’s Right faction.

As Treasurer, Mr Perrottet was reportedly more opposed to lockdowns within the NSW crisis cabinet.

One-time potential rival tourism and jobs minister Stuart Ayres, 40, (pictured) has now joined Mr Perrottet's campaign as his deputy

One-time potential rival tourism and jobs minister Stuart Ayres, 40, (pictured) has now joined Mr Perrottet’s campaign as his deputy

He was first elected to Parliament in March 2011, when Barry O’Farrell’s Coalition swept to power in a landslide ending Labor’s 16 years in office.

During that decade, he has held three different electorates, Castle Hill, Hawkesbury and now Epping in Sydney’s north-west, switching seats at each election in 2015 and 2019 to the dismay of his Liberal colleagues.

Mr Perrottet became NSW Young Liberals president in 2005, three years after future Immigration Minister Alex Hawke spear-headed the right-wing takeover of the party’s youth wing.

He studied law at the University of Sydney with future Labor senator Sam Dastyari and the two were friends when they respectively led the youth wings of their parties. 

Matt Kean (pictured) is now said to take over the Treasurer's job

Matt Kean (pictured) is now said to take over the Treasurer’s job

On Sunday, Gladys Berejiklian’s top two health advisers praised her dedication and leadership as they continue the Covid fight without her.  

Health Minister Brad Hazzard and chief health officer Kerry Chant have spent 18 months in the trenches with the premier since the state’s first outbreak.

The three foxhole buddies stood shoulder-to-shoulder at daily briefings, especially during the Delta outbreak that sent Sydney into lockdown three months ago.

Ms Berejiklian’s decision to stand down sparked speculation NSW’s Covid map’s roadmap may be in jeopardy once a new premier takes over.

However, Mr Hazzard on Sunday confirmed the state’s Covid roadmap would not be changed by new leadership, but admitted the government was ‘sorting out’ some issues.

On Sunday, Dominic Perrottet (pictured with Sturart Ayres) paid tribute to his former leader for her service to the state and formally launched their leadership campaign

On Sunday, Dominic Perrottet (pictured with Sturart Ayres) paid tribute to his former leader for her service to the state and formally launched their leadership campaign 

‘In the last 24-48 hours I had discussions with a number of senior ministers about a number of health issues,’ he said.

‘We are focused on trying to make sure that our – our government is focused on making sure the community stays safe.

‘This roadmap is part of that work and commitment and it will be only subject to change if the health advice is such that should be changed.’

Mr Hazzard admitted he was ‘saddened’ by the sudden departure, but Dr Chant maintained it was ‘inappropriate’ to share her feelings.

‘She has been an amazing premier, a person of high integrity and somebody that I would place my trust in completely,’ Mr Hazzard said.

Brad Hazzard (pictured on Sunday) confirmed the state's Covid roadmap would not be changed by new leadership

Brad Hazzard (pictured on Sunday) confirmed the state’s Covid roadmap would not be changed by new leadership

‘And I think that is what the community of NSW has done as well during these last 20 months. It is awfully sad that it is come to this situation.

‘It’s a very sad situation. I feel so sad that the premier is not going to be the premier after Tuesday.

‘She has done a job which has been unbelievable. I think we are as a community forever grateful to Gladys Berejiklian.’

Mr Hazzard said she would not want her colleagues to mourn for her and instead they should stay focused on finishing what she started.

‘But at the end of the day, she would be the first person to say that our government must continue to govern for the community, and we all know that,’ he said.

‘We’ve heard that from her so many times but there is not one person in our government who won’t be doing everything absolutely for the community going forward.’

Dr Kerry Chant (pictured) said it was 'not appropriate' to comment for her to share her feelings, but would address the question in 'her own way'

Dr Kerry Chant (pictured) said it was ‘not appropriate’ to comment for her to share her feelings, but would address the question in ‘her own way’

By contrast, Dr Chant said it was ‘not appropriate’ to comment for her to share her feelings, but would address the question in ‘her own way’.

She instead lauded the outgoing premier’s ‘tireless’ work ethic and dedication to her state during the time the pair worked together.

‘The premier has worked tirelessly since the pandemic commenced through this most difficult time and I think her clear commitment to the community is so evident,’ she said.

‘I don’t think it’s really appropriate for me to go into any further issues but just to recognise how hard and how committed the premier has been.’ 

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