NSW shake-up: Berejiklian only wants to see her cabinet every two weeks

By Stephen Easton

Monday April 15, 2019

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. (AAP Image/Paul Braven).

After New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s post-election cabinet’s first meeting today, it might not convene again for a fortnight.

Berejiklian only wants to hold cabinet meetings every two weeks instead of weekly and meet with an inner-circle of senior ministers in between, The Australian reported over the weekend.

Currently, most legislative authority is centralised in the premier and her seven main portfolio ministers but she plans to change this soon and allocate legislative responsibilities more evenly among the 24-strong cabinet, according to the report.

In contrast, South Australia’s Liberal Premier Steven Marshall went the other way after his election last year, getting cabinet and senior public servants to meet twice weekly while also centralising authority in a smaller number of ministers, restructuring the public service substantially and making significant departmental leadership changes.

The dust is still settling after the extensive and largely unexpected machinery-of-government overhaul that followed the recent NSW poll, but it’s quite clear the public service workforce will get smaller under the re-elected Coalition government while its 2.5% cap on yearly pay rises remains in place.

The shake-up will result in significant change in the offices of the NSW government, but Berejiklian has promised not to cut public sector jobs from regional areas or from front-line roles like teachers, nurses, firefighters and so on. Jobs in offices, away from public view, are more likely to be cut but it’s not yet clear exactly where.

The Public Sector Association has been hastily trying to find out as much as it can, both through official channels and directly from its members, and is telling public servants not to expect “significant change” until the turn of the financial year.

With “the combination of a government-wide restructure of departments, and the scheduled 12 per cent cuts over the next four years built into the budget” the PSA is telling its members to be “vigilant” in coming weeks.

The union has been holding talks with the relevant department heads about several aspects of the MoG changes and relaying complaints from members about a lack of consultation in several cases, including the transfer of Revenue NSW staff to Treasury, and the merger of Roads and Maritime Services with Transport for NSW.

A Thursday update on meetings about the transport restructure highlights union frustrations, and concerns from rank-and-file staff that parts of RMS “do not readily sit within the current proposed Divisional structure” and there could be disruption as the agency’s functions are integrated into TfNSW.

“The RMS has an obligation to consult on workplace change. Be under no misapprehension, this is major workplace change. By announcing change in this way, TfNSW has already provided the combined unions with a taste of what it believes is consultation. The PSA and combined unions have made it clear that this is not and will not be accepted as consultation.”

Unions complained that bedding down the changes by July 1 created “an unrealistic timeframe that could artificially curtail proper and meaningful consultation on this massive workplace change” and wants consultation overseen by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, according to the meeting report.

“This process is meant to run in tandem with the current consultation activities that TfNSW is obliged to follow. This gives some level of comfort that the process will not be rushed. The next conciliation date is 15 April.”

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