Paul Toole and Melinda Pavey face off for NSW Nationals leadership, deputy premier title


The Nationals will decide who will become the state’s new deputy premier on Wednesday, with two candidates in a showdown for the title.

The NSW Nationals will meet for a crucial vote on Wednesday morning to determine who should replace John Barilaro as their leader and deputy premier.

A day after Dominic Perrottet was chosen as the new premier in a 39-5 landslide, the Nationals must now decide his deputy.

Two candidates will face off for the top job, including Regional Roads Minister Paul Toole.

“I want to keep building on the foundations Barilaro has laid and provide the community with the stability they want to see,” he said during a press conference on Tuesday.

“No matter the outcome of tomorrow (Wednesday), my focus remains very much on delivering the road map, getting kids back to school, businesses back open and people back to work.”

MPs backing Mr Toole, of Bathurst, point to his performance as acting deputy premier while outgoing leader Mr Barilaro took time off for his mental health following the parliament drama known as “koalagate” last year.

Water Minister Melinda Pavey also put her hand up for the job on Monday shortly after Mr Barilaro quit.

Ms Pavey, representing the mid-north coast seat of Oxley, has touted her nearly two decades of experience as an MP and was first to announce her candidacy for the top job.

It wasn’t immediately clear on Wednesday morning who had the numbers to prevail, though Mr Toole is believed to be the frontrunner.

The contest to fill Mr Toole’s position as deputy party leader should be easier to settle.

Minister for Women and Mental Health Bronnie Taylor will run as deputy leader of the NSW Nationals and is likely to be uncontested.

Ms Taylor sits in the state’s upper house.

It is tradition that the deputy premier sits in the parliament’s lower house, but the deputy leader of the party can be in the upper chamber.

Ms Taylor could also switch to Mr Barilaro’s lower house seat of Monaro, attempting to reclaim the seat at a looming by-election.

“I would always back Bronnie Taylor, she’s already the unofficial member for Monaro,” Mr Barilaro earlier told reporters.

Ms Taylor, who lives in the electorate of Monaro, made no mention of any ambition to contest the leadership or a lower house seat in a statement on Monday.

But she did tell Sky News when asked about a possible run for the lower house seat: “You never rule anything out.”

Mr Barilaro’s shock departure followed that of Gladys Berejiklian, whose resignation as NSW premier led to former treasurer Dominic Perrottet ascending to fill her position after a vote on Tuesday morning.

Whoever gets Mr Barilaro’s old role will have the freedom to decide who fills the Nationals state cabinet positions going forward.

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