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Third NSW minister to retire at election

NSW Infrastructure Minister Rob Stokes has announced his resignation from politics, prompting a leading Liberal woman minister to nominate for his seat.

September 30, 2022
By Phoebe Loomes
30 September 2022

NSW Infrastructure Minister Rob Stokes will not contest his seat at the upcoming state election, becoming the latest of a number of high-profile Liberals to bow out ahead of the poll.

“It’s time to make room for a different perspective and a new voice,” the member for Pittwater said in a statement on Friday.

“We now need a contest to elect a new representative to serve the Pittwater community in the parliament of NSW.”

Mr Stokes, who also holds the cities and active transport portfolios, was elected in 2007.

He’s held numerous portfolios throughout his political career including education, planning, heritage, Central Coast and environment as well as a short stint as transport and roads minister.

Mr Stokes’ retirement has been rumoured since the moderate Liberal was easily beaten by Dominic Perrottet in a leadership ballot in 2021, prompted by Gladys Berejiklian’s resignation.

Almost immediately after his announcement, upper house MP and Pittwater resident Natasha Maclaren-Jones announced she would contest Liberal preselection for Mr Stokes’ seat.

“It is from my love for Pittwater and my commitment to continuing to serve our community that today I announce I will be putting myself forward,” she said in a statement.

The search for an independent challenger for the seat began shortly after Mr Stokes’ announcement, with Independent Pittwater campaign spokeswoman Rebecca Clarke saying the search for the right candidate had begun.

“The NSW Government has been rocked by integrity scandals and is out of touch with the real concerns of the Pittwater community,” Ms Clarke said.

“We have seen the federal electorate of Mackellar, that includes Pittwater, choose an independent in Sophie Scamps. 

“We know there is an appetite for a different kind of candidate amongst local voters.”

The Liberals will have to nominate candidates for at least seven other seats before the March election due to a series of retirements and two separate scandals.

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean was confident voters would see the government, which has been in power for 11 years, as a fresh team with a bold vision for women’s empowerment.

“Why would you vote for a Teal when you could vote for the real deal here in NSW?” he asked on Friday.

The treasurer committed to boosting female numbers in parliament, revealing the moderate wing of the Liberal Party has committed to a quota of at least 50 per cent female candidates across all vacant Liberal seats in NSW

“I want to see as many female candidates as possible,” Mr Kean said.

“I want to see more talented females coming into parliament and I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure that happens.”

Mr Kean said Ms Maclaren-Jones was tremendously talented and he was hopeful another upper house MP, Women’s Safety Minister Natalie Ward, might make a run for the seat of Davidson, set to be vacated by the retirement of lower house Speaker Jonathan O’Dea.

Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello, Corrections Minister Geoff Lee, Riverstone MP Kevin Conolly, Vaucluse MP Gabrielle Upton and Mr O’Dea have called time on their political careers.

Preselection polls will also be held in the seats of Kiama and Drummoyne, currently held by Liberal-turned-independents Gareth Ward and John Sidoti.

Ward, the member for Kiama, was removed from the party after he was charged with sexual and indecent assault.

He remains before the courts.

Mr Sidoti was booted from the Liberal Party and temporarily suspended from parliament after the Independent Commission Against Corruption found he engaged in serious corruption in August.

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