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NSW Labor has labelled the State Government “unfit to serve” as senior members of Cabinet engage in a civil war over preselection nominations.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced on Friday morning that he will nominate for the safe seat of Castle Hill against Multicultural Affairs Minister Ray Williams, who has held the seat since 2015.
Opposition Leader Luke Foley said the dispute showed the Liberals “learnt nothing” from their most recent federal leadership spill which saw Malcom Turnbull toppled as Prime Minister just three weeks ago, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian showing a “complete failure of leadership”.
“You’ve got a civil war at the highest ranks of the State Government, only three weeks after we saw it in the federal government. Ms Berejiklian said 12 days ago that she’s learnt a big lesson after the federal change… and here she is sitting there and allowing her most senior colleagues to go at each other and chop each other up,” Mr Foley said.
I believe it is untenable for him to remain as the Deputy Leader…this is a widely shared view - Ray Williams
Mr Perrottet, who currently resides in Epping, has been accused of abandoning his seat of Hawkesbury for "a shorter commute to work".
“The utter self-indulgence when the Treasurer of the state says “I shouldn’t have to commute to work”. Tell that to the millions of Sydneysiders battling through congestion to and from work every single day,” Mr Foley said.
Mr Williams confirmed in a statement released Friday morning that he will not be standing down and will fight to win the blue-ribbon seat at the next election.
“Under no circumstance will I run away from the good people of Castle Hill who have shown such loyalty to myself and my family over the past decade and a half, giving me one of the strongest margins in NSW,” Mr Williams said.
Mr Perrottet was the member for Castle Hill when he was first elected in 2011, but a boundary redistribution before the 2015 election saw him change seats with Mr Williams, the member for Hawkesbury.
The move has threatened to destabilise the government, with Mr Williams calling on the Treasurer to resign as Deputy Leader and his cabinet position.
“I believe it is untenable for him to remain as the Deputy Leader…this is a widely shared view. This is why I asked Dominic to step down from the position of Deputy Leader in order for our party to choose a responsible person to undertake this role,” Mr Williams said.
Mr Williams has said he will trigger a spill motion in the Liberal partyroom meeting next Tuesday for the Deputy Leadership if Mr Perrottet refuses to stand down.
Mr Perrottet said he believed the decision was in the best interest of the people of NSW and one that was made “after a great deal of reflection and discussions with my family and colleagues".
Mr Perrottet also revealed his intention to continue serving as deputy leader and Treasurer.
In a statement released late on Friday, Premier Berejiklian said she had asked Minister Williams to refrain from proceeding with a spill motion, “otherwise, his position in Cabinet is untenable”.
Ms Berejiklian said she had full confidence in Mr Perrottet as Deputy Leader. However, she has reminded both the Treasurer and Minister Williams that “the people of NSW expect their Government to be solely focused on delivering for the community".