The National Party’s announcement of its candidate for the Eden-Monaro by-election has been overshadowed by an awkward press conference in which NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro was forced to stand next to the man he’s labelled a “failed leader”.
- John Barilaro declined to say whether he stands by criticisms of Michael McCormack
- The Nationals will field local councillor Trevor Hicks as a candidate for Eden-Monaro
- The marginal electorate will vote next month
Mr Barilaro repeatedly refused to comment on questions about text messages he sent to Deputy Prime Minister and federal Nationals leader Michael McCormack, while trying to spruik the credentials of the party’s successful candidate for the July poll.
The Deputy Premier seriously considered running for the federal seat of Eden-Monaro, but leaked text messages reveal he blamed Mr McCormack’s lack of support in part for his decision to instead remain in NSW politics.
“Your lack of public enthusiasm or support for my candidacy went a long way to my final decision,” Mr Barilaro told Mr McCormack in a message sent in early May.
“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.”
Today, in announcing local councillor Trevor Hicks as the National Party’s candidate for the seat, Mr Barilaro did acknowledge Mr McCormack as the federal leader of the National Party.
But he declined to say whether he stood by the criticisms of Mr McCormack that he made in May.
“This isn’t about us, it’s actually about the people of Eden-Monaro,” he said.
“People have opinions that come and go.
“I’m making no comment on that text message.”
Nationals Eden-Monaro candidate and Queanbeyan-Palerang councillor Trevor Hicks.(ABC News)
Mr McCormack avoided being dragged into the feud when asked if he held any ill will towards Mr Barilaro.
“John and I know that we have got an outstanding candidate in Trevor Hicks,” he said.
“We’ll continue to work for the people of NSW and the people of regional Australia. That’s what we’ve always done, that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
‘Every corner of our electorate has suffered’
Both the Nationals and their coalition partner the Liberals are fielding candidates at the Eden-Monaro by-election, due to be held next month.
Labor has announced Bega Mayor Kristy McBain as its candidate, while the Liberals will be represented by local beef farmer Fiona Kotvojs, after NSW Cabinet member Andrew Constance announced his candidacy for preselection, only to drop out 24 hours later.
Mr Hicks said he wanted to get the electorate, which was scorched by summer fires and parched by extended drought, back on its feet.
“I’m so excited that the National Party has backed me and given me a chance to go further out into our electorate in such a tough time,” he said.
“Every corner of our electorate has suffered, whether it’s fires or drought or now COVID-19.
“We need to get the community back running, back working, and I’m all for creating jobs in this area.”