NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance admits people will be “confused” by his decision to quit the Liberal pre-selection race for Eden-Monaro, just 24 hours after announcing he was nominating.
Constance, the state MP for Bega, on May 5 said he wanted to head to Canberra to put several issues on the national agenda, including bushfire recovery and the COVID-19 crisis.
But on Wednesday he unexpectedly announced: “I have decided not to contest Liberal Party preselection for the (federal) seat of Eden-Monaro.”
“I need to remain focused on the bushfire recovery and be grateful for the opportunities I already have,” he said in a statement.
“The community’s needs at this difficult time must be the centre of the campaign.
“I appreciate people will be confused by my actions over the past couple of days and for that I am sorry.”
Constance had earlier cancelled a scheduled photoshoot at his South Coast home, stating in a text message: “That won’t be happening sorry.”
Asked about Constance’s about-face, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s office on Wednesday said: “The deputy premier has just learned of this and his position hasn’t changed.”
Barilaro announced on Monday he would not contest the South Coast seat for the Nationals.
The NSW Nationals leader then delivered a scathing attack on Nationals federal leader Michael McCormack in a text message leaked to Sky News.
Barilaro said McCormack – the deputy prime minister – felt threatened and his lack of support was partly behind the deputy premier’s decision not to run in the upcoming by-election.
The federal seat of Eden-Monaro was vacated last week when popular Labor member Mike Kelly retired as a result of ill-health.
Liberal senator Jim Molan and the Liberals’ 2019 candidate for the seat, Fiona Kotvojs, are also believed to be considering a run in Eden-Monaro.
NSW Liberal Party president Philip Ruddock said earlier this week he thought the party potentially “had a Melbourne Cup field” contesting the pre-selection. Nominations close on Friday morning.
Bega mayor Kristy McBain has been selected as Labor’s candidate.
By AAP reporters in Sydney