Following Gladys Berejiklian’s shock resignation late last week, Dominic Perrottet quickly emerged as the frontrunner to take over as NSW Premier. At age 39, Perrottet served as the NSW treasurer under Berejiklian, and is a leading member of the NSW Liberal party’s right wing. On Tuesday morning, he won the secret ballot by a landslide, defeating his opponent for the leadership Rob Stokes with 39 votes to 5.
BREAKING: Dominic Perrottet has won the ballot. He will become the 46th Premier of NSW. @9NewsSyd— Chris O’Keefe (@cokeefe9) October 4, 2021
So, as he takes on the responsibility of leading Australia’s largest state during a time of great uncertainty, what should you know about Perrottet?
A social and economic conservative, Perrottet was elected to the NSW parliament in 2011, then aged 29. He is a married father of six children and is well-known to be a staunchly religious Catholic. He grew up in a Catholic family, as one of 13 children and attended the Roman Catholic school Redfield College in Dural, a school with links to the conservative Opus Dei order. Perrottet is not a member of the order.
Throughout COVID-19, Perrottet has been a central figure in the NSW government’s decision-making and it has been reported that he opposed the extension of the NSW lockdown in July.
On social issues, he is highly conservative, and in recent days, a social media post from 2016 has been shared widely, where he praised the election of former US President Donald Trump, calling it a “victory for people who have been taken for granted by the elites in the political establishment”.
“If you stand for free speech, you are not a bigot,” he wrote in the post to his official page.
“If you question made-made climate change, you are not a sceptic.
“If you support stronger border, you are not a racist.
“If you want a plebiscite on same sex marriage, you are not a homophobe.
“If you love your country, you are not an extremist.
“These are mainstream values that people should be free to articulate without fear of ridicule or persecution by the Left.”
In 2015, Perrottet made a speech to the conservative think tank the Centre for Independent Studies, noting that he believed the generosity of Australia’s welfare system was partly to blame for declining fertility rates and rising divorce rates.
“While the decline in birth rates is multicausal, there is no doubt the meddling hand of big government is once again at work. Countries with large pension systems tend to struggle with fertility,” he said.
“In essence, the welfare state was acting as a substitute for the family, crowding out its formation, and increasing rates of divorce.”
In the same speech in 2015, Perrottet said a former Labor government’s measures to address climate change were a “gratuitous waste” of taxpayer money.
“Another example of gratuitous waste is the almost religious devotion of the political Left to climate change,” he said. Since then, Perrottet has confirmed that he accepts the science of climate change.
Perrottet also said Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC, was “simply a mouthpiece for Left of centre views and becoming more disconnected from the values of mainstream Australia”.
Perrottet opposed same sex marriage in Australia, and has voted against decriminalising abortion in NSW, and it is widely expected he will vote against voluntary assisted dying laws that are due to come before the state parliament.
In 2019, before the decriminalisation of abortion passed the NSW parliament, Perrottet said those who supported abortion were “on the wrong side of history”.
“I understand people have different views and, while I acknowledge many of the reasons they have for supporting this bill, including deeply personal reasons, I cannot in good conscience support a bill which stops the beating heart of an unborn child,” Perrottet told the Daily Telegraph before the vote.
“While late-term abortions may be rare, that doesn’t necessarily make them right. This bill removes the requirement that late-term abortions are only to be performed to preserve the health and wellbeing of the mother.
“Instead, it allows late-term abortions right up to birth without any real restrictions. Gladys Berejiklian and I agree on most things. On this issue we agree to disagree.”
In 2020, Perrottet criticised NSW Treasury’s Economic Strategy Deputy Secretary Joann Wilkie, after she had asked staff to create a “safe space” for all people, regardless of their gender identity and sexuality. Wilkie had asked employees not to assume a colleague was heterosexual, cisgendered or endosex, and suggested people add a pronoun preference to their email signature.
“We can’t have people get rid of their own identities for other people’s inclusion,” the then NSW Treasurer told 2GB at the time. “We wouldn’t have Father’s Day if we keep going down this path!”
In his inaugural political speech Perrottet, a fierce proponent of “freedom”, said it is “only by exercising freedom that individuals can develop the habits of generosity, hard work, fairness and concern for others”.
Perrottet now takes the reins from Berejiklian as NSW enters an uncertain period over the next few weeks, with restrictions scheduled to ease as vaccination targets are met. As the state grapples with the reality of fewer restrictions, Perrottet will be tasked with reassuring the population that he is the right person to take them forward. Whether he can sell himself to an unsettled public, remains to be seen.