It is an absolute shitshow in NSW at the moment, with the Berejiklian Government in absolute shambles thanks to the National Party, which has effectively left the Coalition today amid escalating inter-party tensions over koalas, of all things.
NSW Nationals Leader John Barilaro – who is, just casually, the Deputy Premier of the State – announced this morning that his party would no longer be supporting Government legislation in Parliament. Not content to stop there, Barilaro also confirmed the rather staggering move that all Nationals MPs would move to the crossbench in NSW Parliament, which effectively puts the Berejiklian Government in an extraordinarily precarious position.
The NSW Nationals also confirmed that their MPs will also no longer attend joint party room meetings or parliamentary leadership meetings, and will continue this stonewalling standoff until the issue – which I have to stress at this point is entirely based around koalas – is resolved.
The entire brouhaha centres around planned changes to NSW’s State Environmental Planning Policy [SEPP] that would see an increased amount of trees classified as a koala habitat, which not only prevents them from being cleared, but also gives farmers the onus of managing koalas that reside in trees on their property.
Barilaro and the Nationals have been up in arms about the changes since late year, and reportedly said that if his party did not take a stand on the issue “[we] would become the laughing stock of regional and rural NSW.”
Crucially, Barilaro went to great lengths to assert his party was not, in fact, against koalas. If anything, they love them and want to see them double in number.
“The National Party stands for a thriving koala population. We actually want to see the population double. We are not anti-koala. We think a SEPP like this is somehow a way to sanitise the regions, attack the property rights of landholders and do absolutely nothing to support koalas,” he said.
Tensions between the NSW Nationals and Liberals have been boiling over throughout this week. Yesterday, Liberal MP Catherine Cusack described Barilaro’s behaviour as “bullying.”
While National MPs will sit on the crossbench and will withdraw support for Government legislation, members are not going to hand in their ministerial portfolios. Which is an absolutely heaving each-way bet.
The move puts the Berejiklian Government in a precarious spot numbers-wise. The Nationals have 13 seats in the Legislative Assembly, which the Liberal Party required to form Government after obtaining 35 seats outright in last year’s election. That’s one less overall than the Labor Party’s tally of 36.
Whether this actually changes the makeup of the NSW Parliament itself seems a fairly remote likelihood at this stage. But in terms of the on-going relationship between the Liberal and National Parties, it’s certainly not nothing.
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