Barilaro under scrutiny in first Nationals meeting

 

Nationals MPs are meeting for the first time since leader John Barilaro abandoned threats to boycott government legislation over koala protection rules.

The meeting, which began at 8.30am and was still going at 10am, was expected to hear from MPs raising concerns about Mr Barilaro's actions last week that could have split the government.

Two Nationals MPs arriving at parliament this morning would not explicitly declare their support for Mr Barilaro.

Upper house member Trevor Khan indicated he would be raising his concerns in the meeting.

"I'll have what I have to say said in the party room," he said.

Trevor Khan Picture: James Gourley
Trevor Khan Picture: James Gourley

Mr Khan last night lashed out at comments from NSW Nationals Chairman Andrew Fraser who told 7 News that only Mr Barilaro could "handle the pressure" of the leadership.

"Andrew Fraser's comments are an obvious slight on the talents of the likes of Paul Toole, Adam Marshall, Melinda Pavey and the many talented younger members of the party, all of whom are capable of stepping forward," Mr Khan tweeted.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian faces the first test of her government's unity today with both parties set to meet ahead of a crucial parliamentary sitting.

It comes after senior Liberal ministers called on the Deputy Premier to resign over threats last week over koala protection rules.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet yesterday played down tensions in the cabinet over Mr Barilaro's position as the Deputy Premier, saying the Nationals leader is a "strong advocate for regional and rural NSW".

Deputy Premier John Barilaro. Picture: John Feder
Deputy Premier John Barilaro. Picture: John Feder

"I will work with John Barilaro," he said.

"We aren't always going to agree, there's going to be tension but that's been dealt with and we move on and that's what the people of NSW expect."

Mr Perrottet's support for Mr Barilaro was in contrast to Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello.

"I'll work with whoever the National Party gives us as their leader, and at the moment, it's the Deputy Premier," Mr Dominello said.

In a thinly veiled swipe at the Deputy Premier, Mr Dominello said leadership requires "being humble, being considered at being focused on delivery rather than headlines".

Premier Berejiklian yesterday said her ministers will "absolutely" continue to work effectively together despite internal cabinet tensions.

The Opposition is set to move a parliamentary motion of no confidence in the Deputy Premier today, with Labor Leader Jodi McKay declaring Mr Barilaro needs to resign.

"This guy is erratic, he's incapable of making solid decisions," Ms McKay said.

"He has to resign."

Government ministers will be obliged to vote against Labor's motion and support Mr Barilaro, despite senior Liberals having previously called for him to quit.

Victor Dominello. Picture: Dylan K Coker
Victor Dominello. Picture: Dylan K Coker

Senior Nationals ministers rushed to the defence of their leader yesterday, declaring he has their full support.

However, Paul Toole - the Deputy Nationals Leader and someone touted by Liberals as a potential challenger to John Barilaro - yesterday refused to rule out putting his hand up for the leadership if it was vacated.

"I think John will continue on as the leader, so I probably won't get into speculation and all of that," Mr Toole told ABC radio.

Meanwhile, Rebel Nationals backbencher Chris Gulaptis yesterday maintained he would move to the crossbench if concerns with the koala protection policy aren't addressed.

"This is just poor policy, and we are not going to blindly follow the Liberals down a poor policy path like we have before with the greyhounds (ban), and the council amalgamations," he said.

"As far as I'm concerned; twice bitten, three times shy."

Despite Mr Barilaro committing his party to stay in coalition with the Liberals, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said backbench Nationals MPs are free to vote against the government if they wish.

"What assurance I have is that we will have a coalition between now and the election and that all ministers will support government legislation," she said.

 

Originally published as Barilaro's leadership under scrutiny in first Nationals meeting


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