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Coalition defection means declaration of war

Deputy Premier John Barilaro will fire a fresh salvo in the coalition war, launching a three cornered contest for the seat of Port Macquarie.

Mr Barilaro will announce the decision on Tuesday in a visit to the seat of defected MP and former Nationals Minister turned Liberal Leslie Williams.

The Nationals hope to oust Ms Williams from the seat after she abandoned the party following the war over koalas, claiming the party was not the one she joined.

The Daily Telegraph understands Mr Barilaro will make the announcement on Tuesday in the centre of Port Macquarie.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper

Traditionally, three cornered contests are barred under Coalition agreements where there is a sitting member. However, the seat has a long history as a Nationals seat and is identified as such in the coalition agreement.

The Nationals will hold a preselection for the seat next year, and will announce a candidate at the National Party Conference.

In 2018, there was internal coalition tension over the question of a three cornered contest in the seat of Wagga Wagga when Liberal MP Daryl Maguire resigned.

Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams. Picture: AAP
Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams. Picture: AAP

At the time Nationals members wanted Mr Barilaro to launch a three cornered contest, but he resisted in order to keep peace in the Coalition after Ms Berejiklian asked for a Liberal to run.

There is a sense of frustration in the Nationals who believe Ms Berejiklian did not return the same courtesy when she supported Ms Williams to defect, and declared publicly at the time "I think generally speaking she'd not been happy for a while".

The Liberals sensationally lost the seat of Wagga Wagga, with Mr Barilaro determined not to make the same mistake again.

The seat of Port Macquarie has a history of turncoats and party treachery, with Rob Oakeshott defecting from the Nationals in 2002 as a state parliamentarian, citing concerns about ideology.

In 2011, when Mr Oakeshott as a Federal independent backed Julia Gillard to form government, Ms Williams told The Australian her conservative electorate would not trust another independent.

Originally published as Coalition defection means declaration of war



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