Great day for New South Wales

Submitted by Rick Eyre on September 6 2008, 10:34 am

Friday was arguably the most tumultuous day in New South Wales politics since Jack Lang was sacked on May 13, 1932. Firstly Michael Costa was axed as State Treasurer by Premier Morris Iemma, then Iemma himself resigned after his attempt to reshuffle cabinet was nixed by his caucus.

And all this happened two days after deputy premier John Watkins resigned from parliament to become CEO of Alzheimers Australia.

Costa's dumping was long overdue. A cross between Mussolini, Dick Cheney, and an out-of-control steamroller, Costa had become a destructive influence no longer willing to abide by Labor Party policy and obsessed with his idea of "economic reform". Only collective wimpishness had stopped the ALP from expelling him (though, curiously, he was expelled from the ALP in the early 1980's for simultaneously being a member of the Socialist Workers Party... he has moved a long way to the Right since then).

But it was his ferocious temper, possibly a by-product of his (treated) bipolar disorder, that brought him undone, and it seems that a slanging match with Watkins earlier this week was the catalyst for the popular, if soft, deputy premier finally drawing stumps.

Iemma's departure was inevitable, if coming a little sooner than expected. His political style was much like that of a windsock, but on issues where he held firm (such as electricity privatisation), he was the George W Bush to Costa's Dick Cheney. It was on the privatisation issue that he was behaving in an increasingly dictatorial manner, ignoring popular opinion, party policy, and Parliamentary decision. A believer in government by spin, things reached the level of utterly bizarre when he hired a slew of Channel Nine journalists to join his media unit.

Nathan Rees is the new premier, having been elected to State parliament in March 2007! He looked guardedly promising when interviewed on Stateline last night, and it's clear that he has no time for Costa, saying at one stage "he [Costa] brought down two premiers [Bob Carr and Morris Iemma] and he's not going to bring down a third".

Rees is expected to name his new cabinet on Monday. As well as the removal of Michael Costa, it is essential that he moves Frank Sartor from the Planning ministry. If he axes Reba Maugher and Joe Tripodi, that will be a welcome bonus.