NSW Transport and Roads Minister Andrew Constance has announced he will be stepping down from the ministry this week and quitting State politics at the end of the parliamentary session to take a tilt at the Federal seat of Gilmore.
The Member for Bega said it was heartbreaking to see what had happened to Gladys Berejiklian — “one of the most incredible Premiers the state has ever had” and a friend of 25 years — but with her resignation came change.
“For me, I’m part of that change and I want to indicate, after months of speculation, I’ll be putting my name forward for local Liberal branch preselection for the Federal seat of Gilmore with a view to moving to Federal Parliament,” Mr Constance said.
“As a result, this week I’ll be resigning as Transport and Roads Minister after 10 and a half years serving as a state minister in roles from Treasury to Finance to obviously Transport, Infrastructure and Roads.”
Fronting the media at Malua Bay Beach, Mr Constance said one of the most important roles he had held in that time had been Minister for Disability Services, and he was most proud of his role in advocating for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
He said stepping down from his role as a State Member would be “an enormous challenge and life-changing for me”.
“But after 20 years of serving as a State Member, I know how important this time is for our community and it’s for that reason that I will be remaining as Member for Bega until the end of the parliamentary session, by which time, hopefully, we start to see our communities out of lockdown and getting, as best as possible, back to normal.”
Mr Constance paid tribute to the local community and its resilience in the face of bushfires, drought and pandemic.
Questioned about the current Liberal leadership vacuum, Mr Constance urged his colleagues to “park the self-interest and put the community first”.
“Work it out (the leadership) this afternoon and make sure you are back at work tomorrow,” he said.
Gilmore was held by the Liberals for more than 20 years until the last election, when Labor’s Fiona Phillips won it in a contest against Warren Mundine. The Liberal Party, and the Prime Minister in particular, were criticised for parachuting Mr Mundine into the candidate’s role.
Mr Constance said he respected the role of local branches and said he would be talking to the Gilmore branch and arguing why he should be their representative.
“I’ve still got a burning desire to do good in the community,” he said. “I would be bringing every ounce of experience I have to the role.”
Asked about his well-publicised criticism of Scott Morrison during the Black Summer bushfires, Mr Constance said he had a good working relationship with the Prime Minister but warned he would be an “intensely independent person” in any federal role.