Troy Grant: the one NSW minister who should resign

Deputy Premier Troy Grant has been criticised for a lack of consultation Photo: Jessica Hromas
Deputy Premier Troy Grant has been criticised for a lack of consultation Photo: Jessica Hromas

Deputy Premier Troy Grant stood up in the parliament on Wednesday and proceeded to heap praise on himself.

The reforms he has overseen in the regulation of liquor licensing in NSW, he informed the house, have led to a drop in the number of days it takes to have a liquor licence application processed in NSW.

Eighty per cent of applications are processed within 120 days, he said, down from the previous 170 days.

There were a couple of problems with this - the first, and most obvious, being the timing.

Grant decided to talk up an acceleration of liquor licence approvals one day after the Callinan report into the lockout laws and alcohol related violence.

The government is trying to argue the case for its controversial restrictions on alcohol sales. What better way to confuse the message.

What he didn't tell the parliament was that the reforms – which restructured the Office of Liquor and Gaming and Racing into Liquor and Gaming NSW – have caused deep concern within the affected agencies.

In the most high-profile example, the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority – stripped of staff and some functions – subsequently lost its respected chairman Chris Sidoti.

It was the latest question mark raised about the capacity of the former Dubbo policeman who rose to become deputy premier and leader of the Nationals after only three-and-a-half years in parliament.

In recent weeks and months much of the heat has been on health minister Jillian Skinner over how she has managed her responsibilities. There have been calls for her to quit.

In fact if there's one minister in NSW who should resign, it's Grant.

Not from cabinet altogether. But it's becoming abundantly clear that he needs to seriously reconsider the areas for which he has responsibility – something even some of his supporters concede.

The kind view is that he is overstretched; the less generous view is that he is simply not up to the jobs he has set himself.

Grant's ministerial responsibilities cover police, justice, racing, liquor, gambling and the arts.

Under a restructure overseen by his predecessor, as minister for justice and police he sits above the office of attorney-general Gabrielle Upton.

This has left significant players in the legal community deeply worried about a policy conflict of interest.

Bar Association president Noel Hutley has warned the arrangement left Grant as police minister with "unprecedented power in determining legal policy without the historical checks and balances".

In drugs policy, Grant has displayed either astonishing arrogance or incompetence.

At a harm minimisation summit at parliament house in August, an exasperated Harm Reduction Australia president Gino Vumbaca revealed that he had written to Grant inviting him to discuss issues of pill testing at music festivals.

Grant has previously waded into the drugs area wearing jackboots, dismissing any consideration of pill testing and then attacking a proposal to allow pregnant women and 16 year olds to access the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre at Kings Cross.

Each of these interventions was made without any discussion with health policy experts.

Despite also extending a guarantee of confidentiality, Vumbaca – a former Executive Director of the Australian National Council on Drugs advising prime ministers John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott – revealed to the summit that Grant rejected his invitation.

While Grant has been over reaching in his police and justice portfolio – exactly why is a police minister setting health policy? – he has failed to fix a core issue.

The question of who will succeed police commissioner Andrew Scipione remains unresolved on his watch, while a replacement for deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas is yet to be announced six months after his departure.

Premier Mike Baird is planning a reshuffle as soon as the end of this year, which is likely to be the first opportunity Grant has for some serious self-reflection about his various roles.

The problem is that, as leader of the Nationals and deputy premier he gets to decide his portfolios. In effect, he will need to sack himself.

Perhaps Grant should try doing something he apparently finds difficult: consulting, this time with his colleagues, on the matter.

This story Troy Grant: the one NSW minister who should resign first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.