Senior NSW Nationals MP John Barilaro has attacked federal Nationals leader Michael McCormack as a failed leader in a series of furious text messages.
The leaked texts, first reported on Sky News and verified by SBS News, reveal Mr Barilaro’s anger with Mr McCormack for not backing him to run as a candidate in an upcoming by-election in the federal seat of Eden-Monaro.
“To feel threatened by me clearly shows you have failed your team and failed as a leader,” Mr Barilaro wrote in a message to Mr McCormack.
“You will never be acknowledged by me as our leader. You aren’t. You never will be.”
Mr McCormack told SBS News he “respects John Barilaro’s personal decision not to contest the Eden-Monaro by-election due to family reasons”.
“I have always supported the democratic election processes of the National Party of Australia. I wholeheartedly endorse the right of branches to select their local candidates first and foremost,” he said.
“My support of Mr Barilaro has been long-standing and I respect his position as deputy premier and NSW Nationals’ leader.”
The leaked text messages expose the divisions within the Nationals party and will put further pressure on Mr McCormack’s leadership.
Mr Barilaro announced his “emotional” decision not to contest the by-election on Monday.
The marginal NSW South Coast seat was vacated last week when popular Labor member Mike Kelly retired because of ill health.
Mr Barilaro said it was an “emotional day” when revealing he wouldn’t contest the seat for the Nationals.
“The polling showed I could win but sometimes in this game, you let ego get in the way of good decisions and I’ve got to make the best decision for me, my family, for the people of NSW [and] more importantly for the people of Eden-Monaro,” the deputy premier said on Monday.
“They’ve been through hell and back with the fires, COVID-19, drought; the last thing we need is an argy-bargy about what is right for that seat.
“I can still work for the people of NSW and I can support the people of Eden-Monaro as their state member already.”
Andrew Constance confirms candidacy
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance confirmed on Tuesday he would put his hand up for Liberal pre-selection in Eden-Monaro, with nominations closing on Friday.
Mr Constance said he wanted to put “a number of issues squarely on the national agenda when it comes to recovery” from the summer’s bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite saying in March he would quit politics after bushfire recovery was complete, Mr Constance on Tuesday said he couldn’t turn his back on his community.
“There’s too many people hurt by this. We’ve got broken people,” Mr Constance told reporters.
Bega mayor Kristy McBain has been pre-selected as Labor’s candidate.
Additional reporting by AAP