The deputy leader of the federal Nationals believes the Coalition “deserves an uppercut” for the conduct of its politicians in the race for Eden-Monaro pre-selection.
“Self-indulgence on any level is not accepted by the Australian people, nor should it be. We deserve an uppercut. You have a look at yourself, you dust yourself off and get back to basics. We can’t sugar-coat it, that’s the truth,” David Littleproud told ABC TV on Friday.
Mr Littleproud comments come after an ugly war of words between NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance and Deputy Premier John Barilaro, resulting in Mr Constance’s withdrawal from the contest only 24 hours after seeking pre-selection for the NSW South Coast seat.
At least two candidates now look set to battle for pre-selection including the 2019 election Liberal candidate, Fiona Kotvojs, who told AAP on Wednesday she had nominated.
Ms Kotvojs is now the Liberal frontrunner after narrowly losing in 2019 to Labor’s Mike Kelly, who vacated Eden-Monaro last week due to ill health.
Mr Constance was this week axed from his position as Leader of the House in NSW over the fiasco, with Attorney-General Mark Speakman reportedly taking his place.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian demoted Mr Constance with a broader cabinet reshuffle expected down the track, saying he would spend more time in his bushfire-hit community.
“Mr Constance indicated already he wanted to spend more time in his community … it stands to reason,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters on Friday.
Mr Constance changed his mind about nominating for pre-selection after it was reported Mr Barilaro used a crude word to describe him to colleagues.
Mr Constance said he didn’t sign up to be “called that type of smear“.
Mr Barilaro announced on Monday he wouldn’t be running for the Nationals, prompting much soul-searching among Coalition ranks.
Bega mayor Kristy McBain is Labor’s candidate for the upcoming by-election and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese on Thursday said Labor offered a clear alternative to the Coalition.
But former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce on Friday said Mr Barilaro was the Coalition’s best hope for winning the seat and encouraged him to reconsider his position.
Nominations for Liberal pre-selection close on Friday morning.
Liberal senator Jim Molan on Wednesday revealed he wasn’t interested in a potential move to the lower house in Eden-Monaro and wouldn’t nominate for pre-selection.
Ms Berejiklian again encouraged her NSW colleagues to stay disciplined.
“What I said yesterday is even more relevant today – I expect every member of my team to keep their head down and work hard,” Ms Berejiklian said.