The NSW Government Coalition will remain intact following divisive moves from the Nationals party last week, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian calling the Deputy Premier’s bluff over a koala protection policy.
On Thursday morning, Deputy Premier and leader of the NSW Nationals, John Barilaro, announced that his party would effectively move to the crossbench in opposition of a koala planning policy, abstaining to support Government bills until the policy was rectified to meet their demands.
That evening, Ms Berejiklian gave Mr Barilaro and his colleagues until 9am the following day to indicate whether they will remain in her Cabinet or move to the crossbench, therefore losing their ministerial positions.
“They cannot do both,” Ms Berejiklian said in a statement, adding that if required, she would swear in a new Ministry.
Cabinet meetings took place on Friday morning, and in a joint statement by Ms Berejiklian and Mr Barilaro three hours after the 9am deadline, they confirmed the Coalition would remain in place, with the NSW Nats backflipping on their decision to move to the crossbench.
“This includes a commitment to supporting Cabinet conventions and processes,” the statement read.
“The matter [koala policy] will be dealt with at an upcoming Cabinet meeting.”
Opposition leader Jodi McKay reacted to the fiasco on Friday, saying that Mr Barilaro’s behaviour had been “completely unacceptable” and that his position is now “untenable.”
“He is the Deputy Premier of this state at a time where we have 300,000 people who are unemployed, at a time we’re in the middle of a recession, and this Deputy Premier thinks it is acceptable to take the government to the brink and then capitulate like he has this morning,” she told the media on Friday.
“The Deputy Premier has made numerous threats to do this to the Coalition and yet he’s been allowed to get away with it.
“The Premier should have pulled him into line earlier; she should have stopped this, we should not have got to a point where we are now questioning whether we have a functional and stable government which is what we are doing today.”
Ms McKay also maintains that this issue is bigger than a difference of opinion about the koala policy.
“This is not about koalas, this is actually about a major rift between the National Party and the Liberal Party at a time where people need stable government,” she said.
Ms McKay announced that she would be moving a vote of no confidence in the government on Tuesday during parliament, however doesn’t think it will pass.
“We’ll probably lose that; we will lose that because the Nationals will walk in there like the lap dogs they are and they will capitulate as a team to the Liberal Party because that is what they do,” she said.
“They had the opportunity to take a stand and they failed to do that.”
NSW Police Minister and Liberal party member David Elliott told 2GB radio that there are other National Party MPs in regional NSW that could replace Mr Barilaro following this debacle, which he called “the greatest act of political bastardry” in quite some time.
“As my dad used to say, ‘if you’re gonna throw a punch make sure the first one’s a knockout’ and he certainly didn’t do that,” Minister Elliott said.
“This isn’t an isolated case, but it was unprovoked.
“I don’t think that it’s healthy when you have your own Deputy come around and threaten to bring the joint down just when he may not have got his own way.”
As for the Koala policy, Minister Elliott doesn’t seem in favour of any changes.
“I’m the most conservative Liberal in the parliament and I think it’s probably good public policy,” he said.