A senior member of the NSW Nationals has called for leader John Barilaro to quit after a series of leaks showing his fury about standing for the seat of Eden-Monaro left his party “embarrassed”.
NSW Deputy Speaker Leslie Williams said she was left feeling “frustrated” and “disappointed” by Mr Barilaro after his spat with Liberal MP Andrew Constance last week.
Mr Barilaro had considered contesting the Eden-Monaro federal by-election, but last Sunday announced he would not, citing family reasons.
The Deputy Premier was then quoted using vulgar language to describe Coalition colleague Mr Constance for entering the race.
Mr Constance, the NSW Minister for Transport, rose to national prominence last summer for his regular public appearances during the bushfire crisis.
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He announced he would run for the seat of Eden-Monaro as part of a “fifth-generation farming family in the Monaro” and with 17 years of state parliament experience behind him.
But Mr Constance withdrew from the race just 24 hours later, and initially pointed to unfinished business with bushfire recovery and transport as his reasons.
In a press conference on Wednesday, however, Mr Constance said he “hadn’t signed up to, you know, contest federally to be called that type of smear”.
Mr Barilaro faced a second leak after a series of damaging text messages from Mr Barilaro to the party’s federal leader Michael McCormack became public.
In the text messages, Mr Barilaro appeared to tell Mr McCormack that he had “failed your team and failed as a leader”.
“Your lack of public enthusiasm or support for my candidacy went a long way to my final decision,” Mr Barilaro reportedly told Mr McCormack.
“To feel threatened by me clearly shows you have failed your team and failed as a leader. You will never be acknowledged by me as our leader. You aren’t. You never will be.”
In a move that has highlighted divisions within the Nationals, Ms Williams’ complaint was sent to the chair of the NSW Nationals, Andrew Fraser, as well as Mr Barilaro.
“Now more than ever before, we need leaders who are committed to their communities and the State, and who demonstrate through their action professionalism, respect, honesty and integrity,” Ms Williams said.
“But the actions of the Deputy Premier over the past fortnight have not reflected this.
“Our members feel let down, our party embarrassed and the community infuriated.”
One Nationals source has told the ABC that Ms Williams doesn’t have support.
Mr Barilaro has said he would not contest the 2023 state election and Ms Williams called on him to indicate his intentions “in either vacating the leadership or providing a timeline as to when that will happen”.
“We need to get on with our work for regional NSW without further distractions,” she said.
Federal Cabinet Minister David Littleproud has also weighed in on last week’s infighting, describing the public slanging match as “self indulgent”.
Mr Barilaro’s office is yet to respond to the ABC.