The bizarre situation where Victorian ministers of the Crown are entrusted with running multi-billion dollar portfolios but not able to select their own private office staff is on the verge of creating instability in the new Baillieu government.
One minister â€“ the highly regarded and ambitious Michael Oâ€™Brien â€“ is understood still not to have a Chief of Staff despite nominating no fewer than five people for the role, including the deputy federal director of the Liberal party, Julian Sheezel.
Many are blaming Baillieu Chief of Staff Michael Kapel for the “disgraceful overzealousness” of the Star Chamber as one critic put it but he is clearly obeying orders from his boss.
So Oâ€™Brien is the Minister for Gaming (including the hotly sensitive area of pokies), Consumer Affairs (a potentially high profile gig if itâ€™s used properly) and probably most critically Energy & Resources. Each of them enormous responsibilities, certainly politically delicate ones.
As capable as Oâ€™Brien is, the man needs staff. So too does Matthew Guy, the Minister for Planning apparently also labouring without a full complement of staff (although patriots point out he has had a COS since December 3rd) and he’s not alone in that, with many ministers unable to get their staff approved for hire, even appointments few ever thought would be controversial. Some Liberals wonder whether it could be that these two prospective leaders are being nobbled by the current one?
Instead, O’Brien is encountering what some Liberals describe as a Rudd-esque level of meddling and interference.
Thatâ€™s not even true, we know of no purported veto exercised by Kevin Rudd against any prospective ministerial staff. He wasnâ€™t that petty, even though he knocked off a prospective DFAT appointee as Ambassador to Germany for dissing him back at ANU.
Itâ€™s nearly March. The government was elected to â€˜fix the problems, build the futureâ€™. A slogan that promises much. The good people of Victoria will cut Baillieu plenty of slack. But if they cannot appoint ministerial staff in three months, then we think theyâ€™ll struggle to keep both developers and NIMBY residents satisfied, electricity prices down, train services punctual and safe, Police from complaining, teachers from striking, the dodgy Ombudsman from defaming and speeding motorists from being angry about getting fines in the mail.
If you snooze, you lose.
As ever, VEXNEWS thanks its small army of fact-checkers, from all walks of life.