NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro
John Barilaro (Image: AAP/Dean Lewins)

At first glance NSW Deputy Premier and National Party leader John Barilaro is just a poor man’s Barnaby Joyce. 

In reality, he’s more like Barnaby without the charm and intelligence. (Barnaby actually finished his accounting degree).

The parallels run deep and not all are obvious.

On the surface Barilaro certainly looks like just another bloated, narcissistic, disloyal, self-indulgent, hypocritical, self-absorbed and egotistical National Party leader.

He first became a conservative media darling with his December 2017 call for then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to resign as a “Christmas gift” to Australians. Turnbull dismissed him as simply sucking up to Alan Jones.

But this year Barilaro has dialled up the crazy so far that it peaked with this week’s threat to bring down his own government in the middle of a pandemic they were handling well. And all over wanting koalas to die.

As someone on Twitter noted yesterday “if 2020 was a person it would be John Barilaro”.

In February the deputy premier penned an outraged newspaper opinion piece screeching “how dare you” and blaming city dwellers and Greta Thunberg for contributing to the catastrophic summer bushfires.

In the wake of the federal sports rorts scandal, the NSW government was accused of similar rorting of a $47 million regional arts funds of which $44 million went to Coalition electorates.

Far from being embarrassed he declared in March he was proud to be called “Pork Barrel-aro”. Out loud. At a press conference. In front of journalists.

In May his Coalition partners pointed out his “giant hypocrisy” when it was revealed that he was visiting his “luxury farm” during the pandemic despite calling for Arts Minister Don Harwin’s sacking months earlier for exactly the same thing.

At least we learned his so-called farm actually rents on Airbnb for nearly $2000 a night. A true bushie indeed.

Some thought his career was finished after his abortive attempt to enter federal parliament in the Eden-Monaro byelection in June. 

In a truly bizarre series of events, he was thwarted by Liberal Andrew Constance, who decided to run then changed his mind a day later after he read on the Daily Tele front page that his good mate Barilaro had called him a “cunt”.

But Barilaro wasn’t finished, with a leaked email to federal Nationals leader Michael McCormack ranting at him for failing to support his move to Canberra and then declaring he would never support him.

He then managed to top that disloyalty during the byelection when he openly refused to urge his supporters to back the Coalition candidate who was eventually defeated by Labor.

Amid cries of treachery, some thought his political career was over. It wasn’t, but he was certainly keeping his options open with carefully placed leaks that he was angling for the top job at the NRL, whose interests he openly promoted in parliament.

In one of those at home at lunch puff pieces in the Nine papers in July he not only confirmed his interest but added “I want to get on the FIFA board”. 

Some other media bon mots from this year. He thought his experience running his parent’s door-making business qualified him to be NSW treasurer and despite railing against political correctness he cried “racism” when a comedian sent him up over his real name — Giovanni.

His efforts to undermine colleagues have become quite irrational of late. Back in June, before wanting koalas to disappear, he suddenly opposed the government’s plan to cull feral brumbies in the Snowy Mountains.

“We’ve lost fauna, flora, wildlife, and unless people think they are some sort of magical creature, we’ve unfortunately lost brumbies as well,” he said.

“How can we say we will continue with the target number for removal when we don’t know what the number is to start with because of the fires?

But that was in June before the report that bushfires had killed so many koalas that they would be extinct by 2050.

Time might be running out for Barilaro too. The year’s not over. Nor the stories.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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