Jodi McKay’s honesty wins her a gig on NSW Labor’s new front bench

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Originally published: The Daily Telegraph, 7 January 2015.

By Miles Godfrey and Alicia Wood

Jodi McKay was handed a spot on new state Labor leader Luke Foley’s refurbished frontbench, capping a ­remarkable return to prominence after she was betrayed by a former Labor colleague.

Ms McKay was named as Mr Foley’s new planning spokesman yesterday and will take her spot on Labor’s reshuffled frontbench if she wins the seat of Strathfield at the March election.

The former cabinet minister served as Newcastle MP for four years before losing her seat in 2011.

Stunning revelations at the Independent Commission Against Corruption last year outlined how former Labor powerbroker Joe ­Tripodi ran a dirty tricks campaign against Ms McKay during the 2011 election — with the aim of getting her dumped from office.

The smear campaign, ­including a damaging leaflet drop, was allegedly funded by a company that tried and failed to bribe Ms McKay, which former premier Kristina ­Keneally later described as “the ultimate act of betrayal”.

It was that refusal to ­accept a bribe, when so many other politicians around her were allegedly pocketing wads of illicit cash, that landed Ms McKay her new job.

Mr Foley said dodgy ­developers would not try to bribe Ms McKay.

“I take the corruption risk that ICAC has warned us of very seriously,” Mr Foley said in Strathfield yesterday.

“That’s why I’m appointing the woman they couldn’t buy — the scourge of the spivs in Newcastle — ­Jodi McKay as my (Opposition) planning minister.”

Ms McKay admitted she was surprised by the appointment, which comes in the middle of her battle to win Strathfield back from the Liberals. If she does not succeed, Mr Foley will have to rethink the appointment.

There were few other ­unexpected changes in the shadow cabinet rejig. ­Michael Daley stays on as the shadow treasurer and Linda Burney remains as deputy opposition leader.

John Robertson was not on the list, having indicated his decision to take a step back from frontline politics following his resignation as Labor leader last month.

A senior Labor source said yesterday there were mixed views about whether Mr Robertson would recontest his Blacktown seat, with some in the party concerned that he would force a by-­election in the next term.

It is understood Blacktown mayor Stephen Bali has the numbers in the area, and would be next in line if Mr Robertson chose to bow out.

Barbara Perry, who has spent the past four years as shadow spokesman for ageing and disability, was also not named on the frontbench after she reportedly asked not to be considered.

She is expected to stand aside from her lower house seat of ­Auburn to allow Mr Foley to run for it.

The areas she was looking after — ageing, disability, mental health and heritage — will be shared among Ms Burney, Sophie Cotsis and Ron Hoenig.

Mr Foley currently sits in the upper house but must run for a lower house seat having been named Labor Party leader on Monday.

Originally published as: Jodi McKay’s honesty wins her a gig on NSW Labor’s new front bench