NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro (Image: AAP/Joel Carrett)

At this inopportune time, voters in one of the country's most hotly contested seats may soon face a byelection: Labor's Mike Kelly is expected to announce his retirement as the member for the New South Wales seat of Eden-Monaro by the end of the week.

Since electoral legislation does not provide for radical workarounds such as postal elections, the byelection would probably resemble the recent local council and state byelections in Queensland for which there was limited campaigning, a deluge of postal and pre-poll voting, and enforced social distancing at lightly attended booths on election day.

Intimations of Kelly's departure were first heard in October. One story at the time suggested he was aggrieved about being passed over for the shadow defence portfolio. But he has since made it known that he was undergoing surgery for kidney and gallbladder failure, and that related medical issues deriving from his overseas service in the army made it doubtful he could continue in the job.