gladys berejiklian John Barilaro
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian with deputy premier John Barilaro (Image: AAP/Joel Carrett)

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has stared down a revolt by Nationals leader John Barilaro, who totally folded in a tense political showdown this morning. She had given her deputy premier a 9am deadline to decide whether the Nationals were in or out of the Coalition government.

She let it be known just before 9am that she had booked government house ready to swear in a whole new ministry if he did not back down over his threat to have them sit on the crossbench if koala protection legislation was not reversed.

But Barilaro wanted to keep his bum on the ministerial benches as well, and that was not on according to his boss.

The premier had finally had enough of her deputy’s disloyalty and white-anting, telling him in a brief dressing down last night that she was “disgusted” with his behaviour and trumping his with an ultimatum of her own. His resignation by the morning — or in bushie vernacular the Nats obviously understand only too well, “piss or get off the pot”.

The Nationals called an emergency meeting for 8am to consider their position, and right up until then Barilaro was still giving defiant interviews to his conservative talk-back radio mates.

It is understood that the meeting totally endorsed Barilaro’s stand.

When he strutted into the premier’s office at 9 it was a slightly longer meeting than the previous evening’s three minutes, but still short and to the point.

The premier asked if he was in or out, refused to entertain any demands and he soon capitulated totally.

When he went back to brief the Nats, he claimed because the earlier party room meeting had been leaked that he couldn’t discuss the specifics of what happened with the premier and that they would simply have to trust him.

The humiliation was complete with a statement offering full support to the government until the next election.

There is mention of looking again at the koala habitat bill which sparked the whole furore, or more accurately was used as an excuse for it, but Lib sources stressed no compromises have been made and that Barilaro’s position within his own party and with the Liberals is precarious, if not untenable.

Which is not a surprise given the quality of his National Party supporters. Barnaby Joyce last night, disgraced former federal deputy Bridget McKenzie this morning. Noticeable silence though from federal leader Michael McCormack, whom Barilaro so publicly attacked only two months ago for being a “failure”.

It was the shortest lived coup against premier Berejiklian since… well, since the last one, which was actually this time last year.

A year ago, almost to the day, a group of rebel Libs announced they would move a spill motion against the premier over her controversial abortion decriminalisation bill. It was just six months since she had garnered plaudits for winning the state election.

That rebellion also barely lasted a night and the bill was passed.

Berejiklian has beaten Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has showed disdain for her political skills during the early stages of the coronavirus crisis when he cosied up to the Victorian and Queensland Labor premiers over his liberal colleague.

Now the PM lauds her handling of the pandemic as “gold standard”.

So “Gutless Gladys” no more. This morning she is being hailed as the new Iron Lady, although she’ll probably still have to keep looking over her shoulder.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off