Two Liberal NSW ministers have escalated their public fight over a sensitive union negotiation, resorting to name-calling and making extraordinary comments about each other.
Treasurer Matt Kean delivered the latest salvo against his factional opponent, Transport Minister David Elliott, on ABC’s Radio National on Monday morning.
“I’m not going to provide running commentary on these embarrassing outbursts,” Mr Kean said.
It came after Mr Elliott told The Sydney Morning Herald that Mr Kean was to blame for stalled negotiations with a rail union.
“No wonder the union is sceptical of us. Hard to put the genie of distrust back in the bottle when it’s so freely moving among us,” Mr Elliott said.
“It’s very hard for me to look (the unions) in the eye and expect them to believe me after I had the rug pulled out from under my feet last time, but that’s what you get when you send a boy in to do a man’s job.”
Mr Elliott claimed Mr Kean’s intervention into the rail negotiations earlier in the year had ruined the progress the government was making.
Mr Kean declared in May the government would refuse to make any changes to a new train fleet that’s been sitting idle because the rail union won’t staff it over safety concerns.
Mr Elliott was not present when Mr Kean made that vow and claimed it was a “ridiculous question” to ask why the Transport Minister wasn’t involved.
Since then, the government has been forced to back down, promising to make modifications to the New Intercity Fleet.
The union hasn’t accepted that promise and has demanded to see it in writing.
Meanwhile, the threat of industrial action continues to loom over Sydney’s rail network, which has been repeatedly disrupted over the past few months.
Mr Kean said on Monday the situation wasn’t his responsibility.
“David Elliott is the Transport Minister, he has responsibility for that area of government,” he said.
“I’m the Minister for Energy and the Treasurer. I’m focused on my responsibilities.”
He added Premier Dominic Perrottet had “made it clear about the behaviour he expects of his ministers”.
“I intend to meet my obligations that the Premier set out,” he said.
Mr Kean, a leading figure in the NSW Liberal Party’s moderate wing, and Mr Elliott, a pillar of the centre-right faction, recently said they would both like to replace the party’s outgoing deputy leader.
Mr Kean won that battle after the Premier asked Mr Elliott to back off.