‘King hit’: Minister's traffic fines reignite Coalition war
A fresh round of fighting has erupted within the Coalition, with besieged Deputy Premier John Barilaro finding an unlikely ally in former Labor leader Michael Daley.
Three weeks since a brief ceasefire - initiated after the Nationals leader declared he would be going on extended leave to deal with mental health issues - Coalition ministers and staff were yesterday back knifing each other over who leaked sensitive details about Mr Barilaro's driving offences to the media.
Mr Daley, who had his driver's licence suspended after he was caught driving at nearly double the posted speed limit, defended Mr Barilaro, who he said had been "king hit from behind".
"The guy's on mental health leave," he said. "They've got form in leaking personal details. This is a king hit from behind. This is how the Liberals do it."
Mr Barilaro is facing a licence suspension after being caught speeding and using his mobile phone while behind the wheel of a ministerial car.
While he declined to comment on the matter, his office declared he would "cop all penalties".
But angry senior Nationals say they will refer the matter to police to investigate what they claim was a potential data breach "from a government agency or ministry".
Because it was a ministerial car, the infringements were sent to the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC), which passed them on to Mr Barilaro, meaning only a small group of people were aware of the fines.
"We will make everything available in the investigation," a senior National said.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance, who said he and his department had not been briefed on Mr Barilaro's driving offences, urged those suggesting a data breach to "put up or shut up" and go to the police.
"If someone has evidence, go to police. It's a serious allegation so put your name to it and go to police. I bet you it doesn't happen," he said.
"The gutless wonder who put that quote in the paper about data breaches, come forward, come down and do a presser now and make the claim."
The Coalition has been at war since Mr Barilaro threatened to blow up the government by withdrawing The Nats from the Coalition over a koala planning policy, which has since been watered down.
Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women Minister Bronnie Taylor, who has been in regular contact with Mr Barilaro, said she hoped Mr Constance kept in mind the assistance The Nationals leader had offered during the bushfires when the Bega MP himself had been "struggling".
"It's disappointing that more time is spent trying to push someone over the ledge than doing the job we were elected to do," she said.
"It was John Barilaro who went with (Mr Constance) to his house to collect things. It was John Barilaro who said we needed a minister for bushfire recovery.
"It would serve everyone well to remember the people that stood by them at their lowest point and to reciprocate - that would be the most honourable thing to do."
Acting Deputy Premier Paul Toole said while no one was above the law, everyone made mistakes.
"We are all human and we all make mistakes, but no one is above the law," he said.
Asked how many other ministerial cars had attracted speeding or mobile phone traffic infringements, a DPC spokesman said it was "unable to provide this information".
Originally published as 'King hit': Barilaro traffic fines reignite Coalition war