NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro will take a month of mental health leave after a torrid week which saw the Nationals threaten to destroy the Coalition.
His deputy, Paul Toole, will be acting Deputy Premier. Mr Barilaro’s decision to take leave means he will miss a crucial cabinet meeting on October 6.
The contested koala planning policy, which sparked the bitter civil war in the Coalition, is expected to be debated at that meeting, with the Nationals demanding a raft of changes.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian released a statement acknowledging Mr Barilaro’s decision to take leave and offering him whatever support he may need.
« This afternoon Deputy Premier John Barilaro advised me he would take four weeks of personal leave, » her statement said. « I have offered him any support he may need.
His commitment came after a bruising week in parliament, in which he refused to guarantee that he would not again threaten to take his National MPs to the crossbench.
But Mr Barilaro later promised he would honour his agreement with Ms Berejiklian and would not jeopardise the Coalition before the 2023 state election.
« I have no intentions to blow up the Coalition or create instability, » Mr Barilaro said on Thursday.
Several of Mr Barilaro’s colleagues, from the Nationals and the Liberals, this week expressed concern over Mr Barilaro’s health.
One senior Liberal minister said: “I am furious with him but on another level, I am very worried about the bloke. He is not in a good place.”
Mr Barilaro’s leadership was not challenged at a National party room meeting on Tuesday, but several of his colleagues were canvassing other candidates.
Liberals ministers, including Transport Minister Andrew Constance and Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres, have been vocal this week in their criticisms of Mr Barilaro’s threats to move to the crossbench.
Ms Berejiklian has also looked visibly angry all week when the matter has been raised at press conferences, refusing to mention Mr Barilaro by name and insisting the leadership of the Nationals had nothing to do with her.
Ms Berejiklian gave the Nationals an ultimatum last Friday and warned she would swear in an all-Liberal ministry if they carried out their threat of splitting the Coalition.
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