The crisis-hit NSW state government is facing by-election chaos with up to six MPs tipped to quit their seats this week in the wake of outgoing premier Gladys Berejiklian’s exit.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro confirmed on Monday that he’s retiring from politics while transport minister Andrew Constance is hoping to swap state for federal politics.
They follow Ms Berejiklian’s decision to stand down immediately after ICAC announced their were probing her relationship with ex-MP Daryl Maguire.
Now health minister Brad Hazzard, 70, is said to be ready to pull the pin on his political career after recently hinting at retirement plans.
Crisis-hit NSW state government is facing by-election chaos with up to six MPs tipped to quit their seats this week in the wake of Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s exit and her likely replacement by Dominic Perrottet (pictured)
Melanie Gibbons, NSW MP for Holsworthy, is also said to be ready to quit state parliament early to move into federal politics, ahead of a possible general election.
And many believe Rob Stokes, – the only other contender for the NSW Premier’s job in the party room vote on Tuesday – may quit if, as expected, he fails in his bid.
The doomsday scenario could see the Coalition fighting six separate by-election battles, with the balance of power in Parliament at stake.
It will put the new premier – almost certain to be dad-of-six Mr Perrottet, 39, with Stuart Ayres, 40, as his deputy – under intense pressure from day one.
Health minister Brad Hazzard, 70, (pictured) is said to be ready to pull the pin on his political career after recently hinting at retirement plans
Even the Willoughby seat of Ms Berejiklian, 51, could be in doubt if voters rebel against the turmoil that saw her quit on the eve of Covid lockdown ending.
Although she held the seat with a convincing 21 per cent margin, powerbrokers fear many of those votes are for her personally after she initially won the seat by just 144 votes in 2003.
Mr Constance holds his Bega seat with a margin of just 6.9 per cent while Ms Gibbons Holsworthy seat has a wafer-thin 3.3 per cent margin.
While Mr Barilaro and Mr Hazzard’s seats look secure, the cost of defending all six seats will take a chunk out of the Coalition war chest just before a state election.
Melanie Gibbons, 43, NSW MP for Holsworthy, (pictured) is also said to be ready to quit state parliament early to move into federal politics, ahead of a possible general election
December 4 is being tipped as a Super Saturday for the three confirmed by-elections to run in parallel with the delayed local government elections.
If six seats are up for grabs, losing just two of them could make the process of governing almost impossible without the support of the cross benches.
The Coalition is already running as a minority government and relies on former Liberal MPs John Sidoti – ironically, under investigation by ICAC – and Gareth Ward.
Many believe Rob Stokes, 47 (pictured) – the only other contender for the NSW Premier’s job in the party room vote on Tuesday – may quit if, as expected, he fails in his bid
Mr Perrottet spent Monday’s public holiday hard at work shoring up the numbers to ensure he gets the top job in the party room when the Premier’s job goes to the vote on Tuesday morning.
But he admitted he was disappointed by the resignation of Mr Barilaro, never mind the others predicted to follow.
‘I would have preferred him to stay on,’ he told the Daily Telegraph.
While the rest of Sydney enjoyed the day off, Mr Perrottet was pictured at his ministerial office in Martin Place on Monday, less than 24 hours before the leadership ballot.
Sporting dark sunglasses, Dominic Perrottet was spotted at his ministerial office in Sydney’s Martin Place on Monday
Sporting dark sunglasses, a relaxed Mr Perrottet flashed a grin for photographers as he left his office, showing no signs of stress despite the shock resignation of deputy premier John Barilaro hours earlier.
Long touted as Ms Berejiklian’s heir apparent, Mr Perrottet appealed to his Liberal colleagues after striking a deal to make Jobs Minister Stuart Ayres his deputy and promote Environment Minister Matt Kean to treasurer.
He is a member of the Liberal Party’s right faction, while Mr Ayres and Mr Kean are from the dominant moderate faction.
But Mr Stokes, also a moderate, is refusing to follow his factional colleagues and has confirmed he would not withdraw his nomination to be party leader.
The Pittwater MP has offered himself as a more experienced alternative to 39-year-old Mr Perrottet, arguing he was the party’s best shot at winning the 2023 election.
‘Dominic Perrottet is a good friend of mine. He has a lot of great qualities. I just believe in terms of experience that I offer more,’ he said on Monday.
‘In terms of being able to speak to the people of NSW — we have a couple of challenging by-elections ahead of us — and I believe I’m equipped and prepared for that challenge.
‘I believe I have a lot to offer in terms of vision, in terms of integrity, in terms of energy.’
Rob Stoles (pictured right with ministerial colleague Natalie Ward) has refused to bow out of the leadership race for his good mate Dominic Perrottet
He decided to throw his hat in the ring after being urged by his colleagues.
‘I committed to my party room and my colleagues that I would give them a choice and I will follow that through,’ he said.
But the 47-year-old remained coy on his chances of winning the leadership when the Liberal party room meets on Tuesday to vote for their new leader.
‘That is up to my colleagues,’ he said.
‘I feel very confident that I have every chance of being successful but, after all, the main game here is to give a choice to the people of the party room.’
Mr Stokes vowed to not change the state government’s roadmap out of lockdown and hopes to promote more women to the cabinet if he gets the top job.
‘I certainly believe whoever is elected premier of NSW needs to ensure women’s voices are heard at a more senior level,’ he said.
‘If I’m elected as premier I’m committed to significantly increasing representation of women in the senior ranks of the NSW ministry.
‘I’m looking to ensure that the executive better represents the community they serve.’
The father-of-six, who could be hours away from becoming the next NSW Premier, flashed a grin for the photographers outside his office on Monday
Both leadership candidates are fitness fanatics, fathers and men of faith.
But while Mr Stokes was elected to parliament in 2007 during the Labor government’s tenure, Mr Perrottet – elected in 2011 – has not spent any time in opposition.
Mr Perrottet has bounced around three electorates in as many terms – Castle Hill, Hawkesbury and Epping.
Both have served as ministers in several portfolios since 2014. Mr Stokes was minister for environment and education, while Mr Perrottet took on the finance and industrial relations portfolios before becoming treasurer.
Mr Perrottet played up his credentials working alongside Ms Berejiklian as deputy leader, and argued for stability.
‘As Gladys demonstrated so well, leading a successful Liberal and National government requires unity across our party’s ‘broad church’,’ he wrote in an opinion piece published in The Daily Telegraph on Monday.
‘We can only do that if we remain united, and maintain stability and continuity for the people of our state.’
Dominic Perrottet (centre) will go head to head with good mate Rob Stokes (right) for the NSW premiership
Former prime minister and Liberal party elder John Howard has backed Mr Perrottet, saying he is driven and reform-focused.
Meanwhile, there still been no sign of Ms Berejiklian following her shock resignation on Friday.
Ms Berejiklian quit on Friday after the state’s corruption watchdog disclosed she was under investigation for potential breaches of public trust given her secret five-year relationship with former MP Daryl Maguire.
She will formally step down as leader when the party elects her replacement, and will quit parliament altogether when a by-election for her seat can be arranged.
It comes as the NSW Nationals prepare for their own leadership contest.
Mr Barilaro on Monday announced he too would leave state parliament, saying it was time for a ‘refresh’ as much of the state prepares to emerge from nearly four months of Covid-19 lockdown.
Dominic Perrottet spent the public holiday Monday hard at work shoring up the numbers for the top job to be decided on Tuesday
Nationals MPs Melinda Pavey, Paul Toole and Adam Marshall are believed to be the main contenders to lead the junior coalition party and become the new deputy premier.
Opposition leader Chris Minns on Monday blasted Mr Constance and Mr Barilaro for resigning during the pandemic.
‘That you’ve got a new job opportunity or you’d like to move into a new political arena is not a good enough reason to abandon your electorate and start a new career, particularly during a pandemic,’ he said.
By-elections cost upwards of $1.5 million each, he said, and urged them to reconsider their decisions to quit.