An apologetic NSW Liberal premier has confirmed his party will not contest two Hunter by-elections forced by the resignations of two disgraced MPs from parliament.
But Mike Baird has not ruled out a Liberal tilt at the seats when voters head to the polls next March.
“We have to consider our position,” he said.
“At the moment we are at a position where we’re not contesting the by-elections but once our house is in order and we are confident our house is back in order, we will be back to those electorates.”
Liberal state director Tony Nutt says that in “an explicit act of atonement”, his party will not field candidates in October to fill the seats vacated by former MPs Tim Owen and Andrew Cornwell.
The pair resigned last week following damning evidence aired at the state’s corruption watchdog.
Newcastle’s Mr Owen quit parliament after confessing to lying to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), and ex-Charlestown MP Mr Cornwell resigned after admitting to receiving wads of cash from banned donors in the lead-up to the 2011 election.
The party has so far lost a premier, had two resignations and lost six state MPs including two sitting ministers to the crossbenches over the course of twin ICAC inquiries this year.
Mr Nutt on Sunday apologised to the people of NSW for the “extraordinary and reprehensible conduct of a small number of its elected representatives, members and activists”.
“The recent revelations, which resulted in the resignations from the Parliament of two MPs, require more than this apology or remedial action to prevent past problems in the future,” he said in a statement.
“Accordingly, as an explicit act of atonement, the Liberal Party will not contest the Newcastle and Charlestown by-elections.”
Mr Nutt’s comments follow an open letter released by Mr Baird over the weekend.
“I am deeply sorry for the way the Liberal Party has let down the people of Newcastle,” Mr Baird said.
He made a “solemn promise” to deliver on commitments for the region.
“And above all, while I lead this state, we will never again let the people of Newcastle down,” he said.