Deputy Premier and NSW Nationals Leader John Barilaro said on Friday that he has had ‘sleepless nights’ deciding whether or not to run for the federal seat of Eden-Monaro following Mike Kelly’s resignation on Thursday.
“I’ve got a tough decision to make,” he said, “I love what I do.”
“I’m the Deputy Premier of New South Wales. I get to work with the most incredible leader in Gladys Berejiklian and her generosity, her counsel over the last few days will go a long way to what my final decision will be.”
Mr Barilaro said this ‘final decision’ will be a very difficult one for him to make.
“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in New South Wales,” he said, citing the drought, bushfire recovery and now the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I still think there is more for me to do here, but if there is an opportunity to do something in the federal political landscape – I’ve been quite vocal on a number of those issues – I’ll give that a lot of consideration.
“We’ll look at the research [and] we’ll look at the polling, but more importantly, I’ve got to talk to those that this impacts (his family) and that’s what I’ll do this weekend at the farm.”
Premier Berejiklian gave Mr Barilaro this very advice, to make the best decision for himself and his family, whilst also saying she hoped he would stay as part of her team in the state government.
When asked if he was worried about whittling down the Premier’s majority to just one seat by moving to federal politics, Mr Barilaro said it was “absolutely” on his mind.
“For me, the work that I’ve put into that seat, it’s not about the politics and numbers in parliament, it’s actually what I’ve achieved over…two and a half terms,” Mr Barilaro said.
“I’m proud of what I’ve done.
“I speak up and I say what needs to be said, and we’re delivering an immense amount of money into the region and into the electorate and to walk away from that is actually very difficult.
“Of course I want to strengthen, not weaken, the numbers of our parliament – we’ve been a bloody good government and we’ve had a great Premier that’s steered us through some crises [such as] drought, bushfires, and of course now Covid, and I want to make sure that I strengthen it, not weaken it.
“All those considerations about the seat of Monaro come into play.”
Mr Barilaro said he was humbled by the messages of support he had received over the last 24 hours from his colleagues, even those he has had some “public stouches” with in the past.
Ms Berejiklian said the situation was “a matter of colleagues making up their own personal decisions,” and reiterated that the “absolute focus” of her government right now is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We’re doing as much as we can to support jobs and the economy and that remains our focus.”