CATHERINE Cusack has spectacularly resigned as parliamentary secretary to the Hunter after a nine-page email she wrote to Premier Gladys Berejiklian criticising the government was leaked to the public.
After barely a month in the job Ms Cusack has been forced to quit after she became the very public face of the growing anger within the government over Ms Berejiklian’s cabinet picks.
The Premier’s office confirmed on Thursday afternoon that Ms Cusack had handed in her resignation after an explosive email she sent to the Premier was leaked to sections of the media.
After a factional meeting of moderates on Wednesday night, Ms Cusack fired off an email to Ms Berejiklian in which she threatened to “join the crossbench” if the Premier continued to insist her ministry was appointed “on merit”.
“If you ever say again you made these decisions on merit I swear I will resign from the Liberal Party and join the crossbench,” Ms Cusack wrote to Ms Berejiklian.
It comes as tensions within the government grow following Ms Berejiklian’s first cabinet reshuffle as Premier in January.
Since taking the top job Ms Berejiklian has been forced to repeatedly defend the reshuffle against claims that it rewarded her moderate allies and the right-faction powerbrokers who helped elevate her to the premiership.
Moderate Liberal MPs Matt Kean and Don Harwin, who helped Ms Berejiklian secure the numbers to become Premier, were both been promoted into Cabinet.
In her nine-page email attack, Ms Cusack took aim at Mr Harwin, now the leader of the upper house for the government, who she described as “dreadful”. “easily flustered” and being “wafer-thin skinned”.
“We are working with Don’s dreadful performance as you know he is no orator ... he is easily flustered, he is wafer thin skinned and this is all resulting in gross embarrassment in the Upper House,” she said.
Ms Berejiklian issued a one-line statement on Thursday afternoon that offered no explanation for the Parliamentary Secretary’s decision to step down.
Ms Cusack took the reins from Scot MacDonald in the January cabinet reshuffle following Mike Baird’s departure from leading the state.
Labor’s shadow minister for the Hunter Kate Washington said Ms Cusack had “called the government on what we’ve been saying from the get go”.
“The appointments made by Gladys Berejiklian were made not on merit but on factional lines and we’ve been asking her about that in parliament and she’s been refusing to respond,” she said.
“Catherine Cusack is the only one in the government willing to call it like it is.”
- with Matt Carr