Sydney Every school student in Sydney knows the story of the Rum Rebellion, a chaotic but bloodless 19th century coup by disgruntled army officers against William Bligh, governor of New South Wales. Exactly 200 years after Bligh's ignominious removal the state's Labor premier, Morris Iemma, suffered a similar fate. Last Friday Mr Iemma, a well-meaning but ineffective leader, announced he was standing down after losing the support of fellow Labor MPs. The outgoing premier - nicknamed 'Dilemma' due to his insipid style - had tried unsuccessfully to revamp an unpopular cabinet. Clearly shaken, the 47-year-old career politician said he would leave Parliament for a full-time job as 'husband and father' - the first NSW Labor premier to be removed by his own party. Hard on the heels of this bombshell came the news that the party had elected political novice Nathan Rees, 40, to replace Mr Iemma. After just 18 months in Parliament, the new premier was virtually unknown outside his own electorate. It is one of the ironies that Australians - who live in the world's most over-governed nation - don't get to elect their own state or federal leaders. That is a role given to faceless party apparatchiks. As one political commentator put it: 'After 13 years of Labor government, the people of NSW have in Nathan Rees a second premier they did not vote for, heading a cabinet whose members were selected by unelected Labor officials, promoting policies voters have never been asked to endorse.' No surprise, then, that our new premier - a former rubbish collector with an honours degree in English literature - spent his first days in office looking hopeful but bewildered. Having promised to have a 'red hot go' at turning around the government's abysmal performance, Mr Rees started delving into the state's finances. After a briefing from Treasury officials, M Rees revealed that instead of a forecast A$300 million (HK$1.88 billion) surplus, the government is A$1.3 billion in debt. 'We've got a series of significant challenges we hadn't anticipated,' said a stony-faced premier. The finances of Australia's largest state are in a deplorable condition, threatening future spending on hospitals, schools and public transport and the state government's AAA credit rating. For a man who has taken the helm of a sinking political ship (only to discover more holes below the Plimsoll line), Mr Rees looks remarkably cheerful - upbeat, almost - saying the long-running 'soap opera' of Macquarie Street is now over. 'It's been an unholy mess,' he admitted. 'We need to deliver much better.' Mr Rees says he is determined to break the modern political mould, which relies heavily on public relations, and reconnect with people. 'The public are fed up to the back teeth with spin,' he says. 'I'm going to move away from that. If that means that ... a few feathers are ruffled, well, I'm sorry ...' The new premier has three years until the next state election. A former ministerial adviser, Mr Rees knows Labor will not hesitate to remove him unless he fulfils at least some promises. Today's political plotters may no longer resort to armed insurrection, but their methods are equally unpleasant, humiliating and decisive. Just ask Mr Iemma, Sydney's best-paid house husband.