Andrew Constance backs out of battle for Eden-Monaro
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance has retracted his bid for the seat of Eden-Monaro, following the leaking of a series of explosive messages from competitor John Barilaro.
NSW Nationals leader and Member for Monaro John Barilaro announced on Monday he would not run as the Coalition nominee in the Eden-Monaro by-election, though he had considered it.
Instead, he stepped aside to allow Coalition colleague and Liberal Party candidate Andrew Constance to step forward.
However, in leaked text messages to his federal counterpart Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Mr Barilaro cited Mr McCormack’s “failed leadership” as a factor in his decision.
“You will never be acknowledged by me as our leader. You aren’t. You never will be,” read one of the messages obtained by Sky News.
Mr McCormack responded, telling Afternoons with Deborah Knight he “wholeheartedly endorse[s] the right of branches to select their local candidates first and foremost,” labelling Mr Barilaro’s decision as “personal” and “due to family reasons”. (see full statement below)
Now last-man-standing Andrew Constance has also decided to bow out of the race, just one day after announcing his bid and despite defending Mr Barilaro’s actions in an interview with Ben Fordham yesterday.
In a statement, Mr Constance said, “I appreciate people will be confused by my actions over the past couple of days, and for that I am sorry.
“As Bega MP I will be supporting the Liberal campaign and ask the people of Eden Monaro to reflect on the benefits of having a member of the Federal Liberal Government.” (see full statement below)
Senator Jim Molan was floated as a possible candidate for the Liberal Party, but has told Afternoons with Deborah Knight he is no longer considering a bid.
Liberal Fiona Kotvojs, who ran for the seat last year and lost, will stand for preselection.
“The troops are not happy with you [Michael McCormack],” Deborah Knight weighed in.
“If angry outbursts like that from John Barilaro are able to somehow magically find their way into the hands of journalists, your days as leader are well and truly numbered.”
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Full statement from Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack:
“I respect 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.
My support of Mr Barilaro has been long standing and I respect his position as Deputy Premier and New South Wales Nationals’ Leader.
Those suffering from drought, recovering from bushfires and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic are the people I am focused on.
I will continue to work with all my Nationals’ colleagues, Federal and State, as well as all elected representatives, to advance outcomes for regional people.”
Full statement from NSW Transport Minister and Bega MP Andrew Constance:
I wish to let people know I have decided not to contest Liberal Party preselection for the seat of Eden-Monaro.
I need to remain focused on the bushfire recovery and be grateful for the opportunities I already have.
The community’s needs at this difficult time must be the centre of the campaign.
I appreciate people will be confused by my actions over the past couple of days, and for that I am sorry.
I also have unfinished business as Transport and Roads Minister. I want to deliver crucial life-saving reforms in road safety and a safer, cleaner future in public transport.
I want to thank the Premier for her incredible support and will continue to lead the bushfire recovery in my community by working with her, Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and the recovery coordinators Dick Adams and Andrew Colvin.
As Bega MP I will be supporting the Liberal campaign and ask the people of Eden Monaro to reflect on the benefits of having a member of the Federal Liberal Government.