NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance has revealed a tense rift between him and Deputy Premier John Barilaro.
- Andrew Constance backflipped on his decision to seek pre-selection in the Eden-Monaro by-election
- He said the fact NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro called him a “c***” led to his change of heart
- The Bega MP said he has forgiven Mr Barilaro but politics in Australia was “stuffed”
Less than 24 hours after announcing his intention to seek pre-selection to run in the Eden-Monaro by-election, Mr Constance said he had changed his mind.
The long-anticipated resignation of Federal Labor MP Mike Kelly last week triggered the by-election but a date is yet to be set.
Mr Constance said he was pulling out the race so he could “remain focused on the bushfire recovery” in his electorate.
This afternoon, a visibly frustrated Mr Constance said he couldn’t deny today’s Daily Telegraph story on Mr Barilaro calling him a c*** played a significant part in his decision to pull the pin on a career in Canberra.
“When I said politics is stuffed in this country and some of the people in it need to have a long, hard look, I meant it,” he said.
“We’re now seeing that in such a great way on the front page.
“I mean, stuff that — I hadn’t signed up to contest federally to be called that type of smear.”
Although initially Mr Constance described the Deputy Premier as a “mate”, he changed his tune when asked if mates would use such slurs.
“Not really,” he answered.
“I don’t believe John means it. I had that discussion with him. We’ve cleared it up. I forgive him.
“But I also say this, I think people have had a gutful of this stuff. I’ve had a gutful of it.”
The next Meninga
Mr Constance’s short-lived tilt for federal politics has been compared to the infamously brief political aspirations of rugby league great Mal Meninga.
In 2001, Meninga stunned Canberra by starting to announce his run for politics in the national capital live on radio but then suddenly changed his mind mid-announcement.
Mr Constance said he was flattered by the comparison.
“Well, Mal’s a champion — I love him — so I’m happy for that comparison,” he said.
“But look, the thing is, I’ve done this for 17 years and seen the best and worst in politics.
“Why would I sit here for the next five weeks defending that type of front page? You can’t.”
Earlier this week, Mr Barilaro confirmed he would not contest the by-election for the Nationals.
Mr Barilaro has confirmed he would still not run, despite Mr Constance’s change of heart.
Labor endorsed Bega Valley Mayor Kristy McBain as its candidate on Monday.