NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has said he did not think he was going to return to Parliament after he announced he was taking mental health leave four weeks ago.
The outspoken Nationals leader found himself in hot water in September when he threatened to split the Coalition government if concessions weren’t made on its koala protection policy.
Under pressure to quit and under fire from all sides, a week later Mr Barilaro announced he would take four weeks mental health leave.
But controversy dogged Mr Barilaro as reports emerged he would lose his licence over speeding fines.
Now back from his break, Mr Barilaro says taking time off was the right call.
“It is never easy to admit that you have got a mental health issue and you are struggling and suffering,” he told ABC TV on Wednesday.
“I remember being at home struggling to get out of bed.”
Mr Barilaro also revealed he almost quit Parliament at an emotional NSW Nationals Party meeting.
“In the back of my head, I thought ‘Do I announce today? It is over. I can’t do it anymore’,” he said.
“If you asked me three and a bit weeks ago, it felt like I wasn’t coming back.”
Things haven’t gone smoothly for the Coalition in his absence, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian weathering her own political storm over revelations she had a long-term secret relationship with former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire who is at the centre of a corruption probe.
Mr Barilaro has thrown his support behind Ms Berejiklian.
“I support her 100 per cent and I feel for what she’s going through,” he said.
“It’s never easy when your private life is on display for all.”
The koala policy stoush has since been resolved, with concessions.