| 28.08,09. 08:40 AM |
I'll sack the coup plotters, Premier Nathan Rees warns
August 28, 2009 12:21AM
Returning to Sydney from his holiday to deny he was about to be turfed out of office, Mr Rees outsmarted caucus plotters by forcing Planning Minister Kristina Keneally to publicly pledge support for him.
With Health Minister John Della Bosca already forced to declare his support, Mr Rees appears to have headed off early planning by two separate caucus camps to roll him.
Sources close to the Premier also confirmed Mr Rees could even sack insubordinate ministers if his leadership continues to be sabotaged next week when Parliament resumes.
"It remains an option," they said.
Mr Rees interrupted his holiday in the state's Central West to visit a critically sick friend.
"I am just visiting someone who is very, very sick," a visibly upset Mr Rees said as he left Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
Factional leaders still deny any plans to challenge Mr Rees.
Labor sources also said yesterday there was never any plans for an imminent challenge.
However, succession planning by right-wing powerbrokers Joe Tripodi and Eddie Obeid sparked rumours Ms Keneally was being drafted.
The American-born Ms Keneally flew back from the US early yesterday to hose down the speculation.
She denied having talked with Mr Tripodi or Mr Obeid and declared she would "never" challenge Mr Rees.
"We have one Premier in NSW and his name is Nathan Rees. I want him to be the Premier (who) takes us to the March 2011 election," she said.
With back-room plotters flushed out, Mr Rees has bought himself a reprieve from any challenge, at least until before Christmas.
But some Labor MPs yesterday said the foiling of plots by the Keneally and Della Bosca camps only played into the hands of the other potential challenger - Frank Sartor.
Mr Sartor has refused to rule out challenging, with his only public words of support for Mr Rees being: "He is doing the best he can."
Labor MPs said Mr Rees' leadership was in the hands of the party head office - which is united behind him - and controls many MPs through the preselection process.
''Unless head office suddenly switches, nothing will happen," one well-placed MP said.
Mr Rees confirmed he had spoken to party secretary Matt Thistlethwaite yesterday, who in turn confirmed the party's support for Mr Rees.
Mr Obeid - ironically one those plotting against the Premier - also said yesterday that Mr Rees "has the full confidence" of the party.
"Nathan is doing a good job and he has our full support," he said.
"They (the plotters) have no support in caucus. If they want to (challenge) why don't they test it in caucus instead of in the media."
Other MPs said it was too soon for Mr Rees to be rolled, mainly because there was no obvious replacement.
"None of us are enamoured with Nathan but he hasn't done enough things wrong to be dumped and there's no one that jumps out as his replacement," they said.
"The leadership is a big black hole at the moment and while there's no light at the end of the tunnel as to who could replace him, none of us are going to jump."