The Premier has said it several times this week: “by-elections will be by-elections.” It’s an acceptance from Dominic Perrottet he can’t control the outcome of his first electoral test, and an acknowledgement by-elections are notoriously unkind to the government of the day.
But make no mistake: it’s also an attempt to minimize the consequences, which could be disastrous. It could also damage his leadership, after just four months in the state’s top job.
Votes will be held in the regional seats of Bega, Monaro and the Sydney electorates of Strathfield and Willoughby today.
In Bega, the Liberals are bracing for a possible defeat. The government is already in minority and losing the South Coast seat would mean, for the first time, Mr Perrottet would need to rely on independents or the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party to ensure the passage of legislation through
On the crossbench, there are currently two exiled Liberal MPs who can be counted on to vote with the Coalition.
They were former ministers, after all. Drummoyne MP John Sidoti is awaiting findings from an Independent Commission Against Corruption probe, while Kiama MP Gareth Ward is under police investigation over allegations of sexual violence, which he denies.