Resignation of Minister for Sport and Recreation

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SpeakersAnnesley Mr Graham; O'Farrell Mr Barry; Deputy-Speaker (Mr Thomas George); Robertson Mr John
BusinessMinisterial Statement

Page: 22932

Ministerial Statement

Mr GRAHAM ANNESLEY (Miranda—Minister for Sport and Recreation) [3.16 p.m.]: As the Premier advised earlier today, I have submitted my resignation as the Minister for Sport and Recreation effective immediately and I will be resigning as member for Miranda in due course. I have done so because I intend to relocate to Queensland and return to my former profession as a full-time sports administrator. This decision, which I do not take lightly, follows an unsolicited approach from the Gold Coast Titans Rugby League Club to join the Queensland-based organisation as the chief executive officer. Whilst I accept my decision to leave Parliament mid-term will attract criticism, it is important I place the reasons on the public record.

As most members would be aware I am not a career politician. I became involved in politics during the 2007 election, having been encouraged to contest preselection for the seat of Miranda. I did this because I felt I had something to contribute. I genuinely believe, as with most things in life, if you are not satisfied with the status quo you can sit around and complain or get involved and try and do something about it. I chose the latter course of action and following a narrow defeat in 2007, after which the electorate of Miranda became the most marginal seat held by the former Government. I decided to run again in 2011 to finish off what I had started four years earlier. I am proud to say that over the two elections we achieved a cumulative swing of around 30 per cent.

After the O'Farrell Government was elected in 2011, I was honoured and privileged to be asked to take on the role of Minister for Sport and Recreation. I have undertaken this role to the best of my ability and have thoroughly enjoyed it. However, throughout my time in this place I have never really considered myself to be a politician; more of a sports administrator working in politics. Self-praise is no recommendation but I believe I have been a good Minister. Equally, I do not consider myself to be a very good politician. In fact, there are many aspects of politics I do not really care for. However, I have the utmost respect for anyone who enters political life because it is a very tough commitment—far tougher than most would appreciate. Sport, in particular rugby league, has been in my life. It has been in my blood since I was a kid. As an adult I had 15 years on the field at the top level and a further 15 years as a full-time administrator, including close to a decade as National Rugby League Chief Operating Officer.

Whilst the Titans' approach was unexpected, it forced me to contemplate whether my future should be in politics or whether I should return to my lifelong association with rugby league. In the end, I felt if I committed to a further term in politics and was re-elected—another five-and-a-half years in Parliament—it would be too late to return to my former career. It would have been unreasonable to expect to remain in the Sports portfolio long term if I had stayed. I acknowledge the magnitude of my decision and accept that I am letting a lot of people down, including the Premier, my colleagues, my staff, and the constituents of Miranda. For that I am genuinely and extremely sorry.

It is fair to say that as a local member of Parliament I have been gratified—even perhaps a little surprised—at just how many people my staff and I have been able to help in the Miranda electorate. Whilst I have given my responsibilities as the member for Miranda and my ministerial duties 100 per cent of my effort, everyone in my local community deserves a representative who is able to maintain that level of commitment in that role in the future. Our system of government will always be bigger than any one individual. We should never forget that everyone who serves in this House is simply a representative of their local community—no more, no less. The system is designed so that each representative elected by their local community comes here to make a contribution on behalf of that particular community, and I believe I have done that to a high standard. Some members will make a very significant contribution over many years in Parliament but it is not always necessary to be here for a long time to make a difference. In fact, a reasonable turn-over can be a good thing in some cases so that members do not forget why they are here or who they are representing.

Politics is a brutal game, and ultimately everyone who comes here will leave this place either by personal choice or by the choice of others. One of the hardest aspects of my decision was the impact it would have on my staff, who have been unbelievably loyal and hardworking. I understand the potential consequences for them and it troubles me greatly but that is how our system of government works. I am very confident they will all continue to do well because of their skills and experience. Regrettably my actions will also force a by-election. This is an automatic consequence of the system applying to this House, as opposed to the other place, where casual vacancies are filled along party lines. I place on record that before making this decision, as required, I sought the advice of the Parliamentary Ethics Advisor. I seek leave to lay that advice on the table for the information of members.

Leave granted.

Documents tabled.

I fully understand, and commit to observing at all times, the legal and ethical restrictions placed on me as part of my post-separation employment obligations. In fact, I have asked the Titans to include a clause in my employment agreement that acknowledges the prohibition period placed on former Ministers as to lobbying the New South Wales Government about matters related to a former Minister's portfolio—not that I can foresee any circumstances where that would arise in my new role with a Queensland-based club.

I thank my Cabinet and Liberal-Nationals colleagues for the friendship and assistance they have unhesitatingly offered me at all times. I also thank Opposition members for the courtesy and respect they have afforded me. I hope I have reciprocated in kind. Regardless of what people may think of my decision, I assure the House that I am leaving with a heavy heart. This State has a great future. It will continue to grow and prosper under the leadership of the Premier and my former Cabinet colleagues. I will be forever grateful to the Premier for everything he has done for me. I am sure he is disappointed and upset that I have let him down but in time perhaps he and everyone else I have let down will forgive me. In closing, I thank the people of Miranda and New South Wales for allowing me the opportunity to serve you. It has been an honour and a privilege.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL (Ku-ring-gai—Premier, and Minister for Western Sydney) [3.25 p.m.]: The member for Miranda should in no way feel that he has let me down. I could not have asked for a better sports Minister over the past 28 months. I do not say this in any partisan fashion but the member for Miranda has brought to this place the undoubted skills of a sports administrator, which he gained whilst working for the greatest code in this country. In all that he has achieved in so many sports—whether in relation to stadia policy, his successful introduction of legislation to deal with match-fixing, or his work with former Federal Minister for Sport Arbib in securing funding to upgrade the Sydney Cricket Ground—he has acted in a way that would please any Premier. My only concern was that at one stage Graham seemed to be attending every sporting event around and, regrettably, would drag his wife Erica along with him. It was a standing joke in my house that he would even go to a tiddlywinks competition if he was not told he could relax.

I understand his great passion for rugby league. I understand also—as I think the public does—that that was his career before he came to this place. I am obviously disappointed that we are losing him, not only as a colleague, friend and member of Parliament but also as someone who was making a real difference through his portfolio to this State, but it is absolutely understandable that when an offer of a lifetime comes along—presumably the sort of offer he dreamt of in his previous life—he would give that offer consideration and weigh it up. I will now reflect on a couple of points he made. He said that he was probably more of a sports administrator than politician. People say things like that at times but in relation to the member for Miranda it is true for all the right reasons. Others pretend they are not politicians but when one tracks their records one sees they are. I wish the member for Miranda and Erica well. The only real regret I have is that had I known he was going to leave early I might have engineered his leaving to occur before this year's State of Origin series. We might have put him on the field as a referee and he might have done a Barry Gomersall—that greatly biased Queensland referee—and delivered us a series win!

The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George): I am sure he will still wear a blue jumper.

Mr JOHN ROBERTSON (Blacktown—Leader of the Opposition) [3.28 p.m.]: I assure the member for Miranda that this side of the House will give him no grief about this decision. I had the privilege of dealing with Graham Annesley a long time before he and I set foot in this place. We even sat across the table from each other in our first dealings and the one thing that struck me about him was his integrity and decency. His speech this afternoon demonstrated that he has continued to be someone who acts with decency and integrity—something that all of us in this place could aspire to in our behaviour from time to time. The member for Miranda has not allowed this place to change him nor has he allowed politics to interfere in how he interacts with people. He should go with all our best wishes.

The Premier was disappointed about one thing. I too have a disappointment. I was hoping the member for Miranda was going to announce that he was going to Parramatta. The member for Miranda has always been a decent person—prior to politics and in this House. He has interacted with all of us in a very professional and dignified way. I speak on behalf of all on this side of the House in saying that he goes with our best wishes. I once again assure him that he will get no grief from us about the decision he has taken. I have watched the member for Miranda many a day during question time and wondered what he was thinking. In one way it does not come as a surprise that he has taken an offer to get back into sports administration. He is a very good administrator, as my early dealings with him proved, and I am slightly envious that he is going to the Titans and not the Eels.

The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George): I am sure that all members aspire to match what the member for Miranda has achieved in such a short time in this place. I am equally sure that every member of Parliament, every staff member and everyone else associated with the Parliament wishes the member for Miranda health, happiness and success in the future.