Toole and Grant elevated to ministry, Gee remains on backbenches

FOR the first time since 1965 the people of Bathurst have a NSW government minster as their local member. 

On Tuesday it was announced that member for Bathurst Paul Toole will be Premier Mike Baird’s new local government minister. 

Gus Kelly was the last local member to be awarded a ministerial role, and that was back in the 1960s. 

Mr Toole said he received the surprising phone call at 6.30pm on Monday night. He spoke with his wife Jo and then accepted the role.

“What a great honour and opportunity I’ve been given,” Mr Toole said yesterday.

At 43 Mr Toole is one of the youngest ministers in cabinet, although Mr Baird himself is only 46. 

Mr Toole believes he was chosen for the ministerial position because of the hard work he has been doing in his electorate and because of his extensive local government experience.

“It’s also about renewal and freshening up the government,” Mr Toole said.

“Today it was announced that five new ministers would be coming into the cabinet to bring in some energy and help transform NSW.”

Member for Dubbo Troy Grant has also been elevated to the position of Minister for Hospitality, Gaming and Racing, and Minister for the Arts.

Mr Toole said this would give the central west a strong voice. 

“As members of the National Party, regional areas will always be at the forefront of our minds,” he said.

“However the job is also about being brave and ensuring decisions made are in the interest of the future of the state.”

Mr Toole believes he is a good fit for the local government portfolio because of the number of years he has spent in local government as a councillor, a deputy mayor and as a mayor.

One of the greatest challenges Mr Toole will face in his term as Local Government Minister will be the controversial issue of amalgamation.

He said the NSW government had a policy of no forced amalgamations. 

“This reform is about making sure we lay the foundations for a stronger, sustainable local government sector,” Mr Toole said. 

“At times tough decisions have to be made, just as they have been made over the past three years, and as they will continue to be made when necessary.

“At the end of the day I am someone who engages with people.

“I will listen to councils across the state and support them in delivering infrastructure and services to the communities they represent.”

Mr Toole said having a minister as a local member will be an advantage for the Bathurst electorate.

“What it does is it gives me a greater voice in the caucus where the real decisions are made,” he said.

“I will be at the table where the premier and ministers are involved in any decision making.

“While I like to win every argument, there will be times I won’t, but it won’t be for lack of expressing an opinion.”

Mr Toole said being elevated to the role of government minister will not mean his electorate will suffer.

“My electorate comes first and I will make sure my constituents here will not be disadvantaged,” he said.

“I am also a strong family man and my wife and three children will be at the forefront. I will make sure I always have time for them. 

“I don’t want to miss the opportunity to see them grow up, and I will always be mindful of that in any commitments I undertake.”

Mr Grant said his elevation to the cabinet in his first term was “humbling”.

“I'm very excited to get the opportunity to work with the new Premier in cabinet,” he said. “He's got a lot of good ideas to rejuvenate the state and I’m looking forward to being part of that.”

Gee not disappointed

MEMBER for Orange Andrew Gee says he’s not disappointed he missed out on a place in Premier Mike Baird’s cabinet announced on Tuesday. 

“A number of people have asked me whether I’m disappointed not to have been included in the latest round of cabinet appointments,” Mr Gee said in a statement.

“The answer is not in the least.

“I have always taken the view that local members need to stand up and fight for the people who put them there - particularly in country seats. 

“Over the past three years I’ve taken a strong stand on issues like the new Gulgong MPS (hospital), the need for a second linear accelerator (for radiotherapy), preservation of DPI jobs in Orange, the need for a 24-hour rescue helicopter, not breaking the promise on the poles and wires sale, the need for a Central Tablelands Local Land Service, Orange Linen Service jobs, and the need to ring-fence prime agricultural land from mining.”

Mr Gee suspects his stance on some issues may have been the reason he was overlooked for a place in the cabinet.

“My opinions have probably put a nose or two out of joint in the Macquarie Street political machine, but the priority should always be electorate first,” he said.

“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to achieve for the whole electorate to date, and I’m looking forward to continuing this important work.”

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