NSW Transport Minister David Elliott says he will nominate for the deputy leadership of the Liberal party to support an “under the pump” premier after the position was vacated by embattled former minister Stuart Ayres.
Elliott is set to take on Treasurer Matt Kean in the contest for the role after the former trade minister resigned on Wednesday over his potential involvement in the John Barilaro trade job fiasco.
Skills and Science Minister Alister Henskens and Metropolitan Roads Minister Natalie Ward are also contenders for the position, which will be decided in a party room vote next Tuesday.
The transport and veterans affair minister – who is also one of the government’s most outspoken ministers – on Thursday said he was “very sad to see” that Ayres had to stand down in the circumstances and was only reluctantly offering to take his place.
“He’s been a superior servant to the party, he’s a great member for Penrith, and he’s been a wonderful minister for Western Sydney … It’s one of those occasions where I don’t put my name forward, or I don’t canvass support, out of excitement or enthusiasm,” Elliott said on radio station 2GB on Thursday morning.
“The premier’s under the pump at the moment. The easiest thing for people to do at the moment, I think, is to walk away or to keep their head down because, you know, the premier is dealing with a number of difficult issues.
“But that’s just not my style. If a mate needs a hand, I’m putting mine up to give him that assistance.”
Premier Dominic Perrottet’s government has faced rolling crises since Barilaro was appointed to a plum $500,000-a-year trade posting in late June. Perrottet lost two ministers to scandal this week alone: former fair trading minister Eleni Petinos amid bullying claims, as well as Ayres.