Despite his trademark even-handedness, the magnitude of Minns’ success can’t be downplayed

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If anyone was expecting overt displays of euphoria from Labor’s premier-elect Chris Minns on Sunday morning, they would have been disappointed.

That is not how Minns rolls.

Instead, at his first full media conference after Saturday night’s resounding victory, Minns remained his trademark even-tempered self, venturing to say that the positive results for Labor in some seats were “a surprise but in many ways a pleasant surprise”. It was the closest he got to a moment of self-congratulation.

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns at his first press conference as premier-elect on Sunday.

Edwina Pickles

That self-assessment is to downplay the magnitude of his success in steering the party to a position where it not only takes government after 12 years, but is on track to do so without needing to rely on the Greens or crossbench for support. The party’s successes were not confined to seats it picked up in the outer suburban mortgage belt. There were seats picked up in the regions as well, notably Monaro (formerly held by one-time Nationals leader and deputy premier John Barilaro) and South Coast, with the Central Coast seat of Terrigal also a likely Labor gain. With around half the vote counted, Minns looks to be riding in on a statewide swing of over 6 per cent.

Such an outcome defies the many pundits who tipped that a minority Labor government was the best Minns could hope for. The ALP looks set to gain at least the 47 seats required for a working majority, while the Coalition, down a putative 13 seats, faces a long haul to rebuild amid the unresolved internal factional tensions that contributed to its downfall and an outbreak of recriminations that was already starting on Saturday night.

Minns refused media invitations to speculate on the mess his rivals have been left in. Instead, on Sunday he was still doggedly plugging the core messages he’s ridden to victory: that NSW voters want a government that will fix problems in the delivery of essential services, they want an end to the privatisation of state assets, and they want practical answers to the cost-of-living crisis.

Declaring there was not a “moment to lose”, he said he and his leadership team would be meeting on Sunday afternoon to get the ball rolling on key promises such as lifting the wages cap and resolving staff shortages in schools and hospital emergency rooms.

Minns has been derided in some quarters, internal and external, for a small-target strategy that deviated little over the course of the campaign: fixing front-line services in health and education, tackling cost of living, and putting an end to the Coalition’s program of privatising state assets to fund infrastructure builds.

He also pledged more local manufacturing of key transport assets such as ferries and trains.

The last fell into relative obscurity as the campaign progressed, but the other themes have resonated with voters weighed down by cost-of-living pressures, agitated over the state of essential service delivery, and seemingly tired of a 12-year-old government that – for all the energy Dominic Perrottet put into the campaign – could not keep its own house in order or accurately read the mood of the electorate.

Minns’ explanation for his victory was straightforward, and it’s similar to the approach that got Peter Malinauskas to victory in South Australia a year ago.

“Labor had its ear to the ground,” he said. Unlike the government, his team did not have a large bureaucracy at its disposal, or much in the way of staff or other resources, he added.

But “myself and my senior shadow ministers were very close to the ground, speaking directly to nurses and teachers, speaking directly to community organisations … there was never a buffer between us and the people of this state. We crafted our policies based on the here and now and what we were hearing from the community.”

He wanted to keep those lines of direct connection open even while in government, he said.

“I don’t want a big layer, whether its bureaucratic or ministerial staff between us and the people of NSW … In many ways we have been successful on Saturday because we were very close to ordinary people … I don’t want to lose that now that we have won.”

It’s a worthy aim, but as the realpolitik of day-to-day governing begins, it will be interesting to see how far the Labor leader can adhere to these principles.

Minns can relish the huge personal margin he has built up in his own seat of Kogarah, which was the state’s equal most marginal on a 0.1 per cent going into the election, but is now among Labor’s safest. That is testament not only to Minns but also to Morris Iemma, the former Labor premier and a key mentor to Minns who has been overseeing the ground campaign in Kogarah for months as well as providing broader strategic advice.

Minns’ greatest challenge will be the inexperience of his front bench team. Only former leader Michael Daley had had ministerial experience going into the election. Minns’ own shadow portfolios before becoming leader – water and transport – did not include either of the heavyweight economic portfolios, treasury and finance. Iemma says despite this, the incoming front bench are “very competent people who will run a proper administration … It will not be a profligate government and it won’t be about the egos of individual ministers, it will be a collective effort. It will reflect Chris.”

Minns swears by the “energy and ideas” of his relatively youthful team. They will need all that, and more, to navigate the perilous shoals of the early months of government.

( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )

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