McKinnon Political Leader of the Year - State and Territory

Premier Chris Minns and Premier Dominic Perrottet

The Hon. Chris Minns MP, Premier of NSW and The Hon. Dominic Perrottet MP, former Premier of NSW, have been named joint recipients of the first McKinnon Prize for State/Territory Political Leader of the Year, for their civil conduct and respectful leadership during the 2023 State Election Campaign.

There has been widespread agreement that the NSW State Election campaign in March 2023 was one of the most respectful and collaborative in living memory. It was a uniquely refreshing and positive campaign that centered around a true contest of ideas. This represented a significant departure from the typically combative style of NSW politics. Former Premier Dominic Perrottet and current Premier Chris Minns showed a commitment to raising standards and demonstrating a better model of what political contest could look like in the modern era.

The Selection Panel noted that although a joint nomination was unusual, the style of campaigning of the two leaders before and during the 2023 State Election was a powerful example that demanded recognition. The Panel was inspired by the nominees’ conduct during the election, and Minns and Perrottet’s responsiveness to the community’s appetite for true leadership. Both Minns and Perrottet adhered to a respectful campaign based on policies and not personality.

In early March 2023, just weeks before the NSW election, the major parties officially launched their campaigns. Both sides made commitments that ‘converged on a shared political centre’, from energy bill relief, to investment in renewable energy, reform for poker machines, funding for education and housing.

On election night Perrottet remarked on the style of the campaign, saying “elections can get ugly, but I believe this election truly was a race to the top. A genuine battle of ideas. And that’s when politics is at its best.” He said, “I truly believe and have no doubt that (Minns) will make a fine 47th Premier of New South Wales because I believe that he will lead with the same decency and the same integrity that he has led with so far.”

Minns similarly said “it’s undeniably the case that this election campaign perhaps uniquely was a model of respect and civility and neither party took the low road. Neither political party took the low blow. And I think it can be a model for the way democracy is done right across this country. Now, I can’t say that every election campaign in the future will be conducted the same way. But from now on, no one will be able to say that it can’t be.”

The campaigns led by Minns and Perrottet set a new standard for political campaigning that elevated policy and not politics to the fore. Both leaders demonstrated ethical conduct which set a powerful precedent for other Australian election campaigns.

Dominic Perrottet became NSW Premier in 2021, making him the youngest Premier in NSW’s history. He previously served as NSW Treasurer and Deputy Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party, and as Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister for Finance, Services and Property. Perrottet has been the representative for the electorates of Castle Hill from 2011 to 2015 and Hawkesbury from 2015 to 2019, moving to represent the electorate of Epping at the 2019 election. He grew up in north-west Sydney and worked as a commercial lawyer before entering politics.

Chris Minns is the current Premier of NSW, having won government at the March 2023 State Election. He was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly as the member for Kogarah for the Labor Party at the 2015 election, and became Opposition Leader in June 2021. Minns previously worked in the charity sector for a youth mental health charity, as a firefighter, as an advisor in the NSW Government and as the Assistant Secretary of the NSW Labor Party. He was first elected to office in 2004 as a Penshurst Ward councillor of the Hurstville City Council and served for a term as Deputy Mayor in 2007.