The NSW Nationals appear to have softened their stance after being slapped with a 9am deadline to backflip on a threat to move to the cross bench or face being sacked from the ministry.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian issued the ultimatum to Deputy Premier John Barilaro and his Nationals colleagues on Sept 10 after they threatened mutiny because of a dispute over the states koala protection policy.
The NSW Nationals leader blindsided Berejiklian, announcing his MPs would abstain from voting on coalition bills as they fought changes to the protection plan.
The move effectively robbed the government of its majority and provoked a stern response from the premier.
“It is not possible to be the deputy premier or a minister of the Crown and sit on the crossbench”, Berejiklian fired off in a media statement.
She said Barilaro and his Nationals ministerial colleagues had until Friday morning to declare support for her government or be sacked from cabinet.
“If required, I will attend Government House tomorrow and swear in a new ministry,” Berejiklian said.
The ultimatum forced the Nationals into an emergency party room meeting on Thursday night but MPs failed to reach any resolution, with further discussions scheduled for 8am Friday.
Barilarlo appeared by Friday morning to be softening his stance, telling Sydneys 2GB radio he thought the issue could be resolved but it may take time, possibly several weeks.
He also claimed the threat to sit on the cross bench had been misinterpreted.
“What we said yesterday was that no one would go physically to the cross bench,” Barilaro said.
“But what was turned on us because we said we wont vote on government bills until this is resolved but we will vote on bills and motions on the regions that, effectively, the whole partys gone to the cross bench.
“Theyre not sitting on the cross bench, we are not going to the cross bench.”
That was at odds with his position following the previous days party room meeting where he emerged saying changes to the Koala Habitat Protection State Environmental Planning Policy were “wrong” and hurt landowners and farmers.
“We will be abstaining from voting on government bills,” he said.
“By not voting or abstaining from voting from government bills were effectively on the cross bench.”
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