NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has delivered the Nationals a pointed ultimatum, after the party announced members would effectively move to the crossbench until demands over a koala policy are met.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro and other Nationals who are Cabinet members will have until 9am tomorrow morning to indicate whether they will remain in their roles or surrender their portfolios and move to the crossbench.
In a move that splintered the Coalition Government, Mr Barilaro said on Thursday his party would not support Government legislation and would boycott joint party room meetings and parliamentary leadership meetings.
He said Cabinet ministers would not give up their portfolios.
However, in a statement released later in the afternoon, Ms Berejiklian said it was a “long established convention” that members of Cabinet must support Government legislation.
“It is not possible to be the Deputy Premier or a Minister of the Crown and sit on the crossbench,” she said.
“It is my strong preference that existing Coalition arrangements stay in place.
“However, I have just made it clear to the Deputy Premier that he and his nationals colleagues who are members of the NSW Cabinet have until 9am Friday to indicate to me whether they wish to remain in my Cabinet or else sit on the crossbench.”
The row broke out after Mr Barilaro said the Nationals were taking a stand over problematic amendments to the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), which were designed to protect koala habitat.
“We were all concerned about where, after six months of hard work, of putting forward, in my mind, sensible amendments to the SEPP, we felt that we were now being betrayed,” he said.
“This issue alone is starting to divide our communities, this issue alone takes away hope and prosperity for the future of the regions.”
The new regulations class more trees as koala habitat, which further restricts the clearing of land.
Mr Barilaro said the policy was borne out of guilt that habitats were being destroyed in Sydney, yet developments continue to be approved.
He said the Nationals were concerned the property rights of landholders were being eroded through the policy.
“To cover that guilt, here in Sydney, we think that a SEPP like this is somehow a way to sanitise the regions, attack the property rights of landholders, do absolutely nothing to support koalas,” he said.
“But what it does do, it does impact on our communities, our prosperity and our farmers.
“We’re not anti-koala.”
He said the party room planned to introduce a repeal bill for the SEPP.
The Nationals have 13 lower house MPs and six in the upper house.
If Ms Berejiklian loses the support of the party, the Liberals will hold a minority government.