Federal Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce says party colleague and NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro owed his success to not being a “cookie-cutter politician”.
Mr Barilaro, the NSW Nationals leader, has announced he will quit politics days after Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s decision to resign following the announcement of an ICAC investigation.
“John has served his party well and leaves at the top, at a time of his choosing,” Mr Joyce said in a statement on Monday.
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“During his political tenure, John was never afraid to put the issues of regional people first and accept the political consequences of doing so.
“He was not a cookie-cutter politician and I think that was the key to his success.”
Mr Joyce said Mr Barilaro had been a “forthright advocate” for regional NSW, a sentiment echoed by state Nationals chairman Andrew Fraser.
“John Barilaro has served the people of Monaro and the state of NSW with distinction from the moment he was elected as the member for Monaro in March 2011,” Mr Fraser said.
“As deputy premier, he will be remembered for his passionate and fierce advocacy for the people of regional NSW.”
The outgoing deputy premier said he would not be returning to politics, citing his age as one reason.
“I’m looking to a new career. I turn 50 in November – maybe a bit of a midlife crisis, but definitely thinking about what happens next,” Mr Barilaro said.
“I will be a keen watcher of politics but not a participant.”
Mr Barilaro also said an ongoing defamation lawsuit against friendlyjordies producer Jordan Shanks played “a big part” in his decision.
Mr Barilaro is suing Mr Shanks in the Federal Court over two videos viewed more than a million times on YouTube.
“I don’t know how many of you can endure what I’ve endured online. I feel for young men and women, young boys and girls that get bullied on social media,” he said.
Mr Barilaro repeated his claims on Monday that he had copped “disgusting, vile, racist commentary” online.
Mr Shanks has denied the allegation that his commentary was racist.
“John Barilaro had the gall to use his final press conference to defame me as a racist,” Mr Shanks wrote in a statement on Monday.
NSW Nationals MP Paul Toole, likely to be one of three to put their hand up for the vacant leadership position, said Mr Barilaro “never shied away from a challenge”.
The NSW Minerals Council thanked Mr Barilaro for his work as resources minister.
“From the outset he clearly enunciated a vision to make NSW the number one destination for mining investment,” the council said in a statement.
“Thanks to his efforts our state is well on the way towards this worthy goal.”
Mr Barilaro courted controversy by campaigning to save the Snowy Mountains brumby.
It resulted in legislation giving heritage status to the wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park in 2018, against the advice of ecologists and international conservation groups.