UPDATED 10:30 am There’s been further chaos in the NSW State Government as Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro John Barilaro announced this morning that he will quit politics.
“I just don’t have the energy anymore,” Mr Barilaro told a snap press conference.
Public life had taken a considerable toll, he said, making particular note of the defamation case the is currently fighting against YouTube figure Jordan Shanks.
Mr Barilaro is suing Jordan Shanks, known as FriendlyJordies, in the Federal Court over two videos that he claims defamed him in “racist attacks”, alleging he is “a conman”. He has also taken legal action against Google, the publisher of YouTube, over the two videos.
“I feel for the young men and women who are bullied on social media … it’s made it difficult for me, seeing this disgusting, vile, racist content,” he said.
The announcement comes just days after Gladys Berejiklian quit as NSW Premier in the shadow of an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) investigation, but Mr Barilaro was emphatic that there was no link between the two events.
Questioned on whether he would appear before ICAC himself, Mr Barilaro would not comment and had made it a rule not to do so.
“We will see what happens in the weeks and months ahead,” he said.
Mr Barilaro took leave for mental health reasons last year and also lost his father in August 2020.
“I enjoyed every single day but it has taken a toll. It is tough on anyone in public life, especially under so much scrutiny, especially media scrutiny,” he said.
“I have been thinking about this for a long time … it is the right time for the state, for the government and for me.”
High profile Transport Minister and Member for Bega Andrew Constance also announced his intention to run for the Federal seat of Gilmore on the weekend, but Mr Barilaro also said he had no intention of seeking Federal pre-selection.
“I rang Andrew yesterday and said, we can be friends again,” he said, referring to the much-publicised stoush between the two over the Federal seat of Eden-Monaro in the wake of Mike Kelly’s retirement last year.
He also regretted the fallout from the Nationals’ stance on koala protection legislation, which divided the NSW Liberals and Nationals on habitat protection and development issues.
Mr Barilaro has endorsed current NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrotet as leader in a deal that will likely see current Environment Minister Matt Kean became Treasurer, and Jobs Minister Stuart Ayres assume the deputy Liberal leader’s role, although Planning Minister Rob Stokes is still a leadership contender.
The NSW National Party will hold a party room vote on Wednesday and Mr Barilaro said that he would be happy to see any of his colleagues take on the leadership. The current deputy leader is Paul Toole, but it’s unclear who the current contenders are for the role.
Mr Barilaro also paid tribute to Upper House MP Bronnie Taylor from Nimmitabel, whom he described affectionately as “the unofficial Member for Monaro”.
At the last State election, the government had a three-seat majority, including support from two crossbenchers. As a result of the three high-profile resignations in recent days, there are now three vacancies, but as NSW has fixed terms, an election is not due until March 2023.
A formal vote of no confidence followed by a cooling-off period would be required to overturn the government but convention dictates that this does not occur when seats are vacant. By-elections will now be necessary in Monaro, Bega and Willoughby.
Mr Barilaro sat on a comfortable 11 per cent margin in Monaro but also enjoyed a strong personal vote and it’s unclear whether the urban Queanbeyan population will remain solidly conservative.
9 am: NSW Nationals leader and Member for Monaro John Barilaro has resigned as Deputy Premier and will quit state parliament this week.
Mr Barilaro released a statement at around 8:30 am this morning.
“I have decided now is the right time for me to hand over the reins to new leadership and resign as Deputy Premier of NSW,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Serving as Deputy Premier of NSW, as leader of the NSW Nationals, and as the Member for Monaro has been the honour and the privilege of a lifetime.”
Mr Barilaro will formally resign on Wednesday (6 October) and a ballot will be held to elect his successor. A by-election will be held for the seat of Monaro.
Mr Barilaro began his political career as an independent on Queanbeyan City Council in 2008 until he ran for the seat of Monaro in 2011, beating Labor’s Steve Whan.
He became NSW National leader in November 2016.
The announcement comes three days after NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced her resignation related to an ICAC investigation.
More to come.