SENATOR MATT THISTLETHWAITE, 40, the new Australian parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, has a colourful background across a range of interests – but not one of them has anything to do with Papua New Guinea or the Pacific.
He is the first parliamentary secretary in this portfolio not to have relevant experience in the region.
Thistlethwaite was general secretary of NSW Labor from 2008-2010, having spent 14 years in the trades union movement.
His demise from the general secretary’s job was dramatic.
He quit after what was described by the Sydney Daily Telegraph as a “six-month campaign by union officials to oust him”, only to be parachuted into the Senate ahead of former Bob Carr staffer Graeme Wedderburn who had been promised the position.
Thistlethwaite was subjected to the vendetta after a failed attempt to install Frank Sartor as the Labor Premier of NSW.
But we can suppose that all this nastiness is now behind him as the new Rudd-free Gillard regime settles down to awesomely competent government - its only problem having been removed.
Thistlethwaite is a former director of the State Transit Authority of NSW, the NSW Manufacturing Council, the Racing Industry Participants Advisory Council and the NSW Jockeys Association.
He has been an active surf lifesaver for 27 years and served four years as President of Maroubra Surf Lifesaving Club.
Early in his career he worked with law firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques.
We await his first statement on Papua New Guinea with great expectation.
Unlike his predecessor, Richard Marles, will he succeed in getting Australian breakfast TV to broadcast the Port Moresby weather?
Meanwhile, “insiders” have told the Geelong Advertiser that “Papua New Guinea is saddened by Corio MP Richard Marles's exit from the frontbench role.”
According to the newspaper, Marles’ role was “essentially that of a foreign minister to the region, filling in at one stage for then foreign minister Mr Rudd who, critics say, did not pay much attention to the region.”