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Canberra Today 4°/7° | Monday, October 25, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

NSW to face three byelections

Barilaro’s seat of Monaro is on a 11.6 per cent margin. Berejiklian’s Willoughby electorate has a 21 per cent buffer. Constance’s Bega seat is on 6.9 per cent, writes political columnist MICHELLE GRATTAN

THE fallout from Gladys Berejiklian’s resignation has continued with Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro announcing he will quit parliament.

This comes a day after NSW’s Liberal Minister for Transport Andrew Constance declared he was leaving state politics to seek preselection for the marginal federal seat of Gilmore, held by Labor.

Dominic Perrottet, treasurer under Berejiklian, is set to become the new premier. Stuart Ayres ­ – whose partner is foreign affairs minister Marise Payne – is to be his deputy, under a factional deal.

Berejklian announced her resignation as premier and from parliament on Friday after the Independent Commission Against Corruption said it was conducting a probity investigation arising from her relationship with former boyfriend and ex-MP Daryl Maguire.

The NSW government, which is in minority, now faces three byelections.

Barilaro’s seat of Monaro is on a 11.6 per cent margin. Berejiklian’s Willoughby electorate has a 21 per cent buffer. Constance’s Bega seat is on 6.9 per cent.

The byelections in the two Liberal seats present some potential problems for Scott Morrison.

They will deplete party funds in a state where Morrison needs to win seats at his election in the first half of next year.

Also, a swing against the state Liberals would be read – rightly or wrongly – as partly a reflection on the Morrison government.

Although it is a longer bow, the byelection in Monaro might also have some implications for Barnaby Joyce, recently restored to the Nationals federal leadership. The seat is dominated by Queanbeyan, and also takes in small towns in the district. It was held by Labor before being won in 2011 by Barilaro, who has increased the Nationals’ vote to a solid margin.

Barilaro, who has been deputy premier since 2016, has been a volatile political operator. In 2020 he indicated he was likely to run for the Eden-Monaro federal byelection, but then stepped back. The same year he and the Nationals were at the centre of a major blowup over state policy to protect koalas.

Barilaro told a news conference Berejiklian’s resignation had not caused his decision. He had intended to announce his resignation soon, and had a date in mind, not far off. But he had brought this forward, believing it would be unfair on the new premier to be sworn into the new ministry and then soon after say he was going. He said Perrottet had tried to get him to stay.

He ruled out running for Eden-Monaro.

He cited a defamation action he has launched against YouTube personality Jordan Shanks over videos as a reason for his resignation, condemning what he described as “a vile and racist attack” on him.

He also said, “I don’t have the energy anymore”.

Constance is very popular locally and will give the Liberals a very good chance of regaining Gilmore. He lives in Gilmore, which takes in part of his state electorate.

He was critical of Morrison during the bushfire crisis but Morrison will be delighted to have him as a strong candidate. Labor holds Gilmore by 2.6 per cent. Last election the Liberals ran prominent Indigenous figure Warren Mundine, who was seen by many local Liberals as a candidate imposed on them.

Michelle Grattan is a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra. This article was originally published on The Conversation

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Michelle Grattan

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