NSW Nationals MP Leslie Williams resigns to join Liberals

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NSW Nationals MP Leslie Williams has decided to resign from the party and join the Liberal Party.

The Port Macquarie MP says the events of recent weeks have cemented her decision.

Ms Williams opposed John Barilaro’s threat to move the Nationals to the crossbench over a koala policy.

The Deputy Premier was forced to back down after a crisis meeting with Premier Gladys Berejiklian last Friday.

In a statement on Sunday, Ms Williams described Mr Barilaro’s actions as holding the Premier and the Government to ransom, adding that doing so was “unnecessary, unhelpful and frankly politically reckless and unreasonable”.

“The events of the past week have represented a further example of a course of conduct and dealing that has once again effectively been condoned and failed to be addressed,” she said.

“My community deserves to be represented in Parliament by members and leaders that are focused on their needs and their aspirations and they rightly expect to have policy overshadowing politics.”

John Barilaro walks down the street smiling
John Barilaro says it was not his intention to “bring down the Coalition”.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

The political crisis was prompted by a policy that aimed to protect the habitat of koalas.

The Koala Habitat Protection State Environment Planning Policy (SEPP), means farmers and property owners must jump through more hoops if they want to clear land.

Previously, the policy identified 10 koalafeed trees based on science from 1995, and studies localised to NSW’s north coast.

But the proposed policy expanded that definition and included 123 trees identified by experts who said they were used by koalas for food, shelter and social needs.

Mr Barilaro said the new guidelines went too far, stripped landholders of rights and did nothing to support koalas.

Eden-Monaro by-election spat another sticking point

The koala policy stoush is not the first issue on which Ms Williams has disagreed with her party leader.

In May this year, she called on Mr Barilaro to quit his position after a spat with a Liberal colleague about the Eden-Monaro by-election.

Mr Barilaro had considered contesting the Eden-Monaro federal by-election, but later announced he would not, citing family reasons.

The Deputy Premier was then quoted using vulgar language to describe Coalition colleague Andrew Constance for entering the race.

Mr Constance, a Liberal MP and NSW Minister for Transport, withdrew from the race 24 hours after announcing his intention to run.

He initially pointed to unfinished business with bushfire recovery and transport as his reasons, but later said he “hadn’t signed up to, you know, contest federally to be called that type of smear”.

Ms Williams said she was left feeling “frustrated” and “disappointed” by Mr Barilaro after his spat with Mr Constance, adding he had embarrassed the party and the community.


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