Liberals split on value of O'Farrell's old guard in cabinet

Liberals split on value of O'Farrell's old guard in cabinet

Heath Aston

Sun-Herald state political editor

A LIBERAL MP has broken ranks to demand Barry O'Farrell liven up his ageing cabinet with some ''fresh blood'' - a move that has earned him the displeasure of the Premier's office.

The frank views of Charles Casuscelli, the member for Strathfield, have stirred up simmering concern on the Premier's backbench over how long younger members of the government will wait for a changing of the guard.

The O'Farrell cabinet contains eight ministers over the age of 60 and all insist - publicly, at least - they are staying on to contest the 2015 election.

Breaking ranks ... Charles Casuscelli MPMember for Strathfield.

Breaking ranks ... Charles Casuscelli, MP Member for Strathfield.

Mr Casuscelli told his local newspaper, the Inner West Courier, that Mr O'Farrell risked ''losing some great talent'' at his disposal if he did not make some decisions on a reshuffle ''at some point''.

''I think the people of NSW would say there is a lot to be said from getting some new blood out front,'' he said.

Mr Casuscelli, an Italian migrant who worked for the Roads and Traffic Authority and NRMA before setting up a transport consultancy, took a thinly veiled swipe at Mr O'Farrell's decision to reward career politicians who toiled with him through 16 years of opposition before MPs who came to Parliament with private-sector experience.

''The people of Strathfield voted for me not based on my political pedigree but because I was the guy whose experience resonated with them,'' he said.

Fairfax understands that Mr Casuscelli was swiftly disciplined for his dissenting comments.

In less bullish statements on Thursday, he said: ''I've been a five-minute politician and it would be foolish for me to give any advice to the Premier on what he should do with the broad range of talent at his disposal.

''I'm still learning the ropes and I probably need to do a bit more listening and a little less talking. This is best dealt with in the party room, not out in public.''

But his words have struck a chord with other backbenchers. Concern about the long wait for promotion was heightened in December when Fairfax revealed Jillian Skinner had announced to colleagues she intended to stay on as Health Minister until 2019. She would be 74 by then.

A government MP said Mr O'Farrell should try and cement his party's foothold in former Labor areas.

''We don't need a minister for western Sydney [Mr O'Farrell's self-appointed role], we need ministers in western Sydney,'' the MP said. ''We're not a north shore and eastern suburbs party any more.''

At the head of that list is Stuart Ayres, the 32-year-old Penrith MP. The inner-west MPs John Sidoti and Mr Casuscelli have worked hard in former Labor strongholds, as has Andrew Cornwell in the southern Newcastle seat of Charlestown.

But the most likely candidates for promotion are still in traditional Liberal areas: Rob Stokes (Pittwater), Gabrielle Upton (Vaucluse), Mark Speakman (Cronulla), Dominic Perrottet (Castle Hill) and Jai Rowell (Wollondilly).

In the Nationals, those with the strongest claim are Troy Grant (Dubbo), Melinda Pavey (MLC), Paul Toole (Bathurst) and Niall Blair (MLC).


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