New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro says his tenure as Nationals leader has been a “tough run” after he announced this morning he would stand down on Wednesday, just days after the resignation of Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Mr Barilaro said in a statement he would call for a party meeting on Wednesday where he would officially resign.
It comes as Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Planning Minister Rob Stokes both put their hand up to take on the top job. The new leader will be decided in a party room vote.
Mr Barilaro said today he would work with the Speaker and the Electoral Commission in relation to a by-election for his seat of Monaro.
“As we emerge from lockdown, we must embrace this time as a new beginning for our state, and welcome the opportunity it presents for a refresh,” he said.
“I have decided now is the right time for me to hand the reins over to new leadership, and resign as Deputy Premier of NSW.”
Speaking to the media, Mr Barilaro spoke of the crises that had afflicted the state during his time as leader.
“We’ve had some tough days – throughout the worst drought in regional NSW in recorded history, then the bushfires, floods, the mice plague, and then the global pandemic of COVID hitting not only the regions, but our state, the nation and the globe,” he said.
He admitted the role had taken its toll – particularly his ongoing involvement in a defamation case he brought against YouTube personality Jordan Shanks, also known as Friendlyjordies.
“Ten and a half years is a long time in politics,” he said.
Mr Barilaro said it seemed apparent Treasurer Dominic Perrottet would be the next NSW Premier, and he said he would be well-suited to the role.
“I genuinely believe in his role as Treasurer he has all the skills and all the ability and if endorsed as the leader of the Liberal Party, Premier of this state, he will do a wonderful job,” he said.
He said “any” of his Nationals colleagues could take up the leadership of the party, but did not name one.
And he ruled out a return to politics at either state or federal level.
Ms Berejiklian resigned last Friday, following revelations she was being investigated by ICAC.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance has also announced he will leave state politics at the end of the year to run for a federal seat.
Speaking to Today, Mr Constance said Mr Barilaro’s resignation would not surprise many within the government.
He said Mr Barilaro had been working “incredibly hard”.
“I think the situation with (Ms Berejiklian) was going to trigger an enormous change and shift in the paradigm,” he said.
“That’s what has happened.”
Mr Barilaro said Mr Constance’s decision to step down had helped motivate him to decide to stand down this week, along with Ms Berejiklian’s departure from the Premier’s office.
While he had initially intended to stand down in several weeks, he said it seemed appropriate to allow the incoming Premier to have some certainty about the Nationals leadership.
He also joked that MP Stuart Ayres “gloating” over the Penrith Panthers NRL Grand Final win had been “too much to bear”.