Premier Gladys Berejiklian says “NSW politics is tough” and she feels sorry for her opposition counterpart after the Nationals triumphed in last weekend’s by-election.
Labor’s loss in the coal mining stronghold of the Upper Hunter has switched the spotlight from Ms Berejiklian’s scandal-plagued minority government to the woes of Labor leader Jodi McKay.
Labor’s primary vote fell by seven per cent in the weekend poll and there’s now widespread speculation Ms McKay will struggle to hold onto the leadership after defeat in the state’s coal mining heartland.
The result was a reprieve for the Berejiklian government after the by-election was prompted by the resignation of Michael Johnsen – who is being investigated by police over a rape allegation he denies.
The premier acknowledged her relief on Monday, saying she was “deeply grateful to the community” for its support.
She says she isn’t concerned that the loss could motivate Labor to replace Ms McKay with a more formidable opposition leader.
“I actually feel sorry for her. NSW is a tough political business, she said.
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the loss should be put in perspective – pointing out the Nationals had held the seat for nearly a century.
“This is a seat whereby, frankly, a couple of elections ago we would have struggled to find people to hand out how to vote cards,” he said.
Earlier, outspoken federal Labor Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon blamed the defeat on Labor’s “brand”, saying “the Labor party has to speak more about jobs and jobs security as it does about climate change”.
“A lot of our base walked away from us some time ago now and it’s clear that they haven’t returned,” Mr Fitzgibbon told ABC TV.
Meanwhile four NSW MPs are being touted as leadership contenders: former leader Michael Daley, Chris Minns, Ryan Park and Paul Scully.