Bumpy ride ahead for Cabinet reshuffle

New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma is expected to use Friday's Labor caucus meeting to carry out a major cabinet reshuffle following the shock exit of his deputy, John Watkins.


The 52 year old's announced a decision to end his 13-year career in state politics which he's described as exhausting and exhilarating.

The member for Ryde who also manages the transport and finance portfolios told media he's decided to leave politics because the job's taking a high toll on his family life.

After a career in local government, Mr Watkins was elected to the now abolished seat of Gladesville in 1995, when he became a member of the Labor government under then premier Bob Carr. A redistribution switched Mr Watkins to Ryde, which he won in 1999.

Mr Watkins said an unexpected offer to become chief executive of the Alzheimer's Association of NSW.

The former Deputy Premier is expected to take to the role very well after having a personal experience with Alzheimers. Both of his parents suffered from the condition before their deaths in 2004 and 2005.

Reshuffle madness

However the reshuffle isn't expected to be a smooth one.

Mr Iemma is already suffering a huge lag in the polls amid a damaging rift between Treasurer Michael Costa and Labor backbenchers over electricity privatisation.

He says he'll use Friday's Labor caucus meeting as an opportunity to freshen up his government.

Several changes are expected to be made in the new line up, including the return of suspended education MP John Della Bosca, after police announced he would escape commonwealth charges against him or his federal MP wife, Belinda Neal over the Iguanagate incident.

The reshuffle could also include a possible frontbench promotion for Emergency Services Minister Nathan Rees.

Future uncertain for some MPs

Questions remain over the futures of Mr Costa and Health Minister Reba Meagher.

Mr Iemma's only comment on the new line-up was that he would ask Carmel Tebbutt, who opted out of a frontbench role for family reasons, to return to cabinet.

“What I won't be doing is providing a running commentary on ministers and their positions,” he said.

“I've always said I thought it was a matter of great regret that Carmel couldn't, for family reasons, recontest the cabinet positions after the election,” Mr Iemma said.

“This is an opportunity, and we'll be taking that opportunity to freshen up the government.”

Labor a 'sinking ship'

NSW Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said Mr Watkins' resignation was a signal of Labor “disarray”.

“This is a blow to the Iemma government. Whatever measure you want to use, Mr Watkins was their best media performer,” Mr O'Farrell said.

“He's smart enough to have seen the writing on the wall; he's no longer going to put up with the nonsense going on within the Labor Party.”

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said Mr Watkins was “one of the first rats to leave Labor's sinking ship”.