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The big news out of last weekend’s State ALP conference is that Premier Nathan Rees has been given the power to appoint his own cabinet, no longer having factions force candidates upon him.

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Cabinet reshuffle

This afternoon Premier Nathan Rees unveiled what I would call a pretty significant cabinet reshuffle.

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Reports tonight suggest that Premier Nathan Rees may reshuffle his cabinet as early as next week to flush out those plotting against him.

The NSW cabinet is a poisonous den comprising of at least half a dozen factions and sub-factions, most of whom are at war with each other. It’s fairly obvious why Rees would want to clean it out. The difficulty he faces is that he doesn’t have the numbers or the personal support to dictate to the party and hand out positions as he sees fit. His tenuous leadership is built on keeping powerbrokers on both sides happy and he simply can’t risk making any more enemies.

Rees’ goal is to crush the plot to unseat him. The problem is, there’s more than one plot. Sacking John Della Bosca or Tony Kelly would escalate tensions and probably bring on a spill sooner. The reports today were predicting that Energy Minister Ian Macdonald is in Rees’ sights. Macdonald has been tainted by an expenses scandal in which he spent $150,000 on various lunches – earning him the title of ‘Sir Lunchalot’. Macdonald is a weak minister and, following the scandal, electoral poison. Rees probably should throw him out but the fact that he’s close to Della Bosca means that any move against him will be interpreted as a warning shot against Della Bosca.

Nathan Rees has to be very careful. Given the continuous undermining of him by various elements within the party, he has a legitimate reason to reshuffle the cabinet and restate his authority. But if he goes too far he risks forcing his enemies to come out from the shadows, knives in hand.

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