Stuart Ayres faces world of financial Payne

Just three months ago,they were the NSW Liberal Party’s premier power couple. But it’s been a swift fall from grace for SenatorMarise Payneand her partner,former NSW deputy Liberal leaderStuart Ayres.

Yesterday,Ayres quit as deputy leader and stepped down from cabinet over his role in appointing former deputy premierJohn Barilaro to a cushy trade posting in New York.

Marise Payne and Stuart Ayres photographed in 2015.

Marise Payne and Stuart Ayres photographed in 2015.Tim Bauer

Payne’s party was battered at the federal election,and as one of the few moderates left standing,she’s gone from foreign minister to a regular senator sidelined fromPeter Dutton’s shadow cabinet – unless the consolation prize of a shadow cabinet secretary appointment counts for anything.

With that comes a dramatic fall in their joint salary. Almost overnight,Ayres’ earnings have tumbled from $333,072 to $172,576. Payne also loses her $364,410 ministerial salary,and is now on a humble $217,060 – at least the federal pollies just got a pay bump.

So what next for Australia’s Aldi-brand Underwoods? Well,there are plenty of pretenders jostling for Payne’s Senate spot,even if Australia’s longest-serving female senator hasn’t yet expressed a desire to quit.

Ayres,now a backbencher,holds his seat of Penrith by a 1.3 per cent margin. And if the swing is on next March,he might be worried.

Broadway Barilaro

Speaking ofJohn Barilaro and disgraced NSW pollies,the ongoing fallout from the former deputy premier’s New York appointment is a political sagaalmostworthy of Broadway.

And while you might be forgiven for assuming Barilaro isn’t much of a theatre guy,think again. Last year,the VIP bar at the Sydney Lyric Theatre in The Star casino was renamed the “Bara bar” in honour of the former Nationals’ leader.

It was,apparently,a tribute to Barilaro,and then-treasurerDominic Perrottet’s efforts in bringing back live shows during year one of the pandemic,with a commemorative plaque noting that the duo “were instrumental in guiding Australian theatre out of crisis”.

This week,CBD’s spies brought word that the plaque was nowhere to be seen. So has Barilaro been cancelled? Not,so,according to Foundation Theatres impresarioStephen Found,who told us the plaque hasn’t been removed and never would be. Hmm.

Jen heads west

Western Sydney University has a new chancellor,with veteran Business Council of Australia bossJennifer Westacott appointed yesterday.

The former KPMG partner,senior public servant and member of more boards than we care to name succeedsPeter Shergold,who moves on after 11 years as chancellor of the institution formerly known as the University of Western Sydney.

Westacott said she was drawn to the role by WSU’s “enduring connections with the diverse and vibrant communities of western Sydney”.

As a hugely influential voice for the big end of town,Westacott is quite a big coup for the sprawling,multi-campus institution known for spending $20 million marketing its change of name,and which has long lived in the shadow of its Group of Eight rivals. She might just have to give up her spot on the UNSW council,though!

Meanwhile,don’t expect a changing of the guard at the BCA just yet. Westacott remains chief executive,as she has since 2011. While rumours of her departure have been circulating for years,who would want to miss the excitement of a new government?

Forgotten Farage

We brought word yesterday that Britain’s “Mr Brexit”Nigel Faragewas shaping up as one of the stars at October’sConservative Political Action Conference,along with various others whose glory days are behind them.

Turns out that right-wing nostalgists don’t have to trek it to the harbour city to catch Farage’s act,after he announced on Wednesday that his solo tour next month will take in Melbourne and Brisbane too.

Now that the former UK Independence Party leader’s greatest triumph – Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union – is both getting old and not looking so flash these days,Farage has found other things to talk about.

The show, An Entertaining Evening with Nigel Farage,promised audiences insights gained in both the UK and the US,where Farage shared a CPAC platform in February with former presidentDonald Trump about how Western civilisation is under threat and how “we” can “believe in who we are as a people once again”.

But there’s more;Farage will also dispense some advice for the conservative political parties who came a cropper in May’s federal election. The diagnosis is not that original – “When conservative parties fail to be conservative,they lose elections” – which might come as news to the Coalition.

Fixer is in

Scott Morrison’s former principal private secretaryYaron Finkelstein forged a reputation as the Mr Fixit of the prime minister’s office during the last government,generally regarded as a force to be reckoned with.

So tongues were set wagging on Wednesday morning when Finkelstein was spotted in the vicinity of Coalition Senate LeaderSimon Birmingham’s office,raising the question,in the gossipy hot-house on the hill,of whether a comeback to politics was on the cards?

Calm down,Finkelstein advised CBD. He was “just saying hello from the outside world to some people who didn’t make parole”.

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news,views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley.Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.

Kishor Napier-Raman is a CBD columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Previously he worked as a reporter for Crikey,covering federal politics from the Canberra Press Gallery.

Noel Towell is Economics Editor for The Age

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