CANBERRA (Reuters) -Dominic Perrottet, a social conservative and economic reformer, was on Tuesday elected as the new state premier of New South Wales, which will within days exit a months-long COVID-19 lockdown that has battered its economy.
Gladys Berejiklian last week resigned as premier of Australia’s most populous state after a corruption watchdog said it was investigating whether she was involved in conduct that “constituted or involved a breach of public trust”.
In a vote of the ruling Liberal Party, Perrottet – the state’s Treasurer – was elected as Berejiklian’s replacement, beating Planning Minister Rob Stokes by 39 votes to five.
“Today, begins a new chapter for New South Wales, and one that we will all write together,” Perrottet told reporters in Sydney.
Perrottet, 39, will now oversee the reopening of the state, which has been in a COVID-19 lockdown since June following an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant that left many businesses reliant of government aid for survival.
Perrottet said his priority was reform and the safe reopening of the state, as he seeks to revive an economy that is larger than Singapore, Thailand or Malaysia.
While Treasurer, Perrottet proposed changing a one-off tax on the purchase of residential properties to an annual fee to improve housing affordability for first-home buyers.
NSW has also adopted a policy of asset recycling, which has seen the state sell infrastructure such as toll roads to fund new building projects.
Perrottet, a devout Catholic and father of six, will also face the challenge of how to manage the issue of voluntary euthanasia, with a bill set to come before the state’s parliament later this year.
Perrottet said he opposes the bill but will not direct his party lawmakers on how to vote.
($1 = 1.3742 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Lincoln Feast)