NSW parliament has seen a string of high-profile resignations. What happens now?

Two cabinet ministers have quit following the departure of Premier Gladys Berejiklian amid a corruption probe.

John Barilaro, Gladys Berejiklian and Andrew Constance

The departure of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (centre) has been followed by resignations from Andrew Constance (right) and John Barilaro (left) Source: AAP

Politics in New South Wales has been rocked by three major resignations in just four days, developments that will have consequences not just for the state, but the country.

Deputy Premier and Nationals Leader John Barilaro this morning followed Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Transport Minister Andrew Constance in announcing a departure from state politics.

Now as the state plans to "cautiously reopen" following a devastating COVID-19 Delta outbreak, three by-elections pose a challenge for the ruling Coalition government and the leadership team.

A Liberal party room meeting on Tuesday will determine who will be the state's next premier. The next leader of the NSW Nationals party will be decided in a party room meeting on Wednesday. 

"Certainly, its [the Coalition government's] stability is in question," Professor Stuart Jackson from the University of Sydney told SBS News.

New South Wales has fixed terms of parliament, which means the incoming premier would not be able to call a snap poll.

NSW Labor Leader Chris Minns speaks during a press conference at NSW Parliament in Sydney, Monday, October 4, 2021. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett) NO ARCHIVING
Source: AAP

"If one government falls, it is then up to another party to try and form government," Professor Jackson said.

"If [Opposition leader] Chris Minns was not able to put together a government, then we might go to an early election. But until that happens, we don't actually need to consider it."

But the resignation of three MPs will temporarily reduce the number of government MPs in the lower house, whittling its slim majority to the status of a minority government.

"It will then have two houses to navigate legislation through and that could be a serious problem for the legislative agenda," he said.

By-election uncertainty

At the last election in 2019, the Liberal Party has 34 seats in the New South Wales lower house of parliament, the Legislative Assembly, while the Nationals have 12 and the opposition Labor Party 36.

Since then, the Coalition has lost two members to the crossbench, meaning it currently governs in minority. 

Of the three outgoing MPs, the Bega seat held by Andrew Constance could be one that falls out of government hands.

Mr Constance has held the seat since 2003 but saw a swing against him at the 2019 election.

Gladys Berejiklian resigns as NSW Premier

“In Bega, the loss of a popular local member could well hurt them, and it’s only held by 6 per cent,” Professor Jackson explained.

Willoughby, the north shore seat held by Gladys Berejiklian is more likely to be retained by the Coalition, although a popular moderate in the vein of Zali Steggall or Kerryn Phelps could produce an upset.

John Barilaro won the seat of Monaro for the Nationals in 2011, previously held by the Labor Party.

Professor Jackson says voters living in Queanbeyan, close to metropolitan Canberra, could prove the "linchpin" for the seat.

“They weren't heavily affected by the fires, but they were affected quite seriously by the various lockdowns and the need or lack of need for a Canberra bubble.”

National ramifications

The departure of Gladys Berejiklian as premier will also have knock-on impacts when it comes to national cabinet and Australia’s COVID-19 response.

The outgoing premier has been one of the strongest advocates of "living with COVID" with NSW's ambitious re-opening plan closely monitored by other states.

The relationship between the NSW government and the federal government has at times been tested. However, Ms Berejiklian has also been a strong ally for Prime Minister Scott Morrison in national cabinet with the state taking the largest share of hotel-quarantined international arrivals throughout the pandemic.

Dominic Perrottet and Rob Stokes are the two frontrunners to replace her, with the treasurer understood to have the backing of the majority of the Liberal Party caucus.

Professor Jackson believes a Perrottet premiership could see the state diverge from its current COVID response.

"[Rob] Stokes has said that he will stick very much to the reopening timeline," he said.

"But [Dominic] Perrottet has always been a 'let it rip' kind of guy and a free-market person who may well want to bring forward the timeline on the reopening of New South Wales."

"That could have its own ramifications for the health service, for people's lives."

Published 4 October 2021 at 7:50pm, updated 4 October 2021 at 7:57pm
By Naveen Razik, Catalina Florez
Source: SBS News