John Barilaro’s life in politics: From warring with Gladys and YouTubers to foulmouthed texts


John Barilaro did not hold back in his final press conference as the NSW deputy premier, giving a fitting end to his colourful political career.

The loose-lipped National Party leader has courted controversy throughout much of his decade-long tenure in state politics, and his resignation speech was no different. 

His candid speech and answers to questions included joking he was having a mid-life crisis at 49, referencing Fight Club, and blaming his exit on a ‘racist’ YouTuber. 

‘I wear my heart on my sleeve and fight every day for what I believe in,’ he unapologetically told reporters on Monday morning.

Lauded as a straight-shooter by colleagues after his resignation, the bush MP often went rogue with statements at odds with Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

These and numerous gaffes gave him a reputation as a loose cannon, but one that was never afraid to stand up for country NSW.

John Barilaro and Gladys Berejiklian (pictured) both retired from their respective roles in state government in the last week

But Mr Barilaro did acknowledge a handful of regrets, including how he handled the war over a koala conservation bill that almost tore the government apart.

He also admitted hurting the regional community of Wilcannia when he compared funeral attendees to ‘d**kheads’ who breached Covid restrictions with a house party in Maroubra.

One thing he doesn’t regret is his defamation lawsuit against Google and YouTuber Jordan Shanks, also known as FriendlyJordies.

With tears in his eyes, he told reporters on Monday that battle should be fought in private, and had an enormous impact on his decision to quit politics.

The 49-year-old accused Shanks of spouting ‘vile racism’ hidden as journalism, noting the ‘disgusting, vile, racist commentary on social media has taken a toll’.  

‘As a young boy with immigrant parents, I understood what racism was from a young age,’ he said during a press conference on Monday morning.  

In one YouTube video, the entertainer referred to Mr Barilaro as a ‘big, fat, wog c**t’, ‘greasy Ned Kelly’ and ‘a conman to the core, powered by spaghetti’.

Mr Barilaro (centre at a barbecue in 2018) is unapologetic for the way he handled himself throughout his career, and told media on Monday morning: 'I wear my heart on my sleeve and fight every day for what I believe in.'

Mr Barilaro (centre at a barbecue in 2018) is unapologetic for the way he handled himself throughout his career, and told media on Monday morning: ‘I wear my heart on my sleeve and fight every day for what I believe in.’

The father-of-three is proud of his heritage and the sacrifices his parents made for him growing up, citing his late father as his 'biggest inspiration' for getting into politics

The father-of-three is proud of his heritage and the sacrifices his parents made for him growing up, citing his late father as his ‘biggest inspiration’ for getting into politics

The father-of-three is proud of his heritage and the sacrifices his parents made for him growing up, citing his late father as his ‘biggest inspiration’ for getting into politics. 

Mr Barilaro’s father, Domenico, died in 2020 after a long-fought battle with diabetes.

‘Though he was a strong man the end was grim, with his part of his leg amputated, we watched him die in excruciating pain,’ Mr Barilaro said when justifying his support for an assisted dying bill.

‘I’ve said in my inaugural speech to Parliament that dad was my hero and I said it during my eulogy.’ 

On Monday, he said his decision to retire from politics felt like a ‘final goodbye’ to the man who first inspired him to enter public service.   

‘I’ve got to say, my family… they gave me the privilege of being able to get into politics and without them I wouldn’t have been able to achieve it,’ he said.

‘They’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice, they’ve worn the brunt to them I say thank you for giving me the opportunity. 

‘In the last 10-and-a-half years, last year was very tough when I lost Dad. Dad was a big part of me running, getting into politics, someone who was part of his community and today it’s almost time to say farewell properly in honour of Dad.’

Shanks quickly prepared a statement which claimed the press conference 'defamed me as a racist'

Shanks quickly prepared a statement which claimed the press conference ‘defamed me as a racist’

Shanks quickly prepared a statement which claimed Mr Barilaro used the press conference to ‘defame me as a racist’.

‘That in itself is a vile and offensive accusation about me that anyone following these issues can see straight through,’ Shanks said.

‘He dodged, weaved and bristled when asked about the substantive and serious allegations that our videos have exposed.’

The duo will go head-to-head in the Federal Court in a judge-only trial where Shanks has already indicated he will rely on a truth defence.

‘After a decade of proudly advancing his interests and blaming other people for his mistakes, what a fitting way to go out,’ Shanks said in the fiery statement.

‘He may be able to dodge questions in a press conference but I doubt he’ll be able to in a courtroom.’ 

Mr Barilaro said his retirement was a long time coming and had nothing to do with Ms Berejiklian’s ICAC investigation into corruption.

The straight-shooting politician compared ICAC to the cult film Fight Club on Monday and said he would not be commenting on the investigation. 

‘I’ve made it my absolute number one rule in politics not to talk about ICAC,’ he said. ‘The first rule of fight club is not to talk about fight club.’

John Barilaro has resigned as Deputy Premier of NSW just three days after Gladys Berejiklian stepped down due to a corruption investigation by ICAC

John Barilaro has resigned as Deputy Premier of NSW just three days after Gladys Berejiklian stepped down due to a corruption investigation by ICAC

Mr Barilaro spoke of his efforts after the bushfire crisis and has been known as a staunch advocate for regional communities in NSW

Mr Barilaro spoke of his efforts after the bushfire crisis and has been known as a staunch advocate for regional communities in NSW

On a more serious note, Mr Barilaro said legally, he would not be allowed to discuss details if he had been subpoenaed, but said he personally would never make public comments on the matter.    

It’s unlike Mr Barilaro not to make his opinions known. 

Back in August, he was forced to apologise after comparing up to 300 attendees at a funeral in Wilcannia to ‘d**kheads’ who threw a party in Maroubra in defiance of Covid restrictions. 

The deputy premier was heard saying: ‘300-plus people attended a funeral in Wilcannia, illegally you could argue. And we’re now paying the price of that outbreak, I don’t think you could’ve ever prepared for such an outcome. 

‘[It’s] no different to the 16 dickheads in Maroubra that decided to have a party last week that have now infected about 50 people.’ 

The comments sparked outrage among the largely Indigenous population, and he later said he didn’t intend to ‘place blame’ on mourners.

‘While no disrespect was intended it is crucial that everybody gets the message – large gatherings spread this extremely dangerous virus that causes severe illness and death,’ he said of the Maroubra super-spreader event. 

Likely incoming Premier Dominic Perrottet said Mr Barilaro's legacy would be in the work he did championing for regional communities

Likely incoming Premier Dominic Perrottet said Mr Barilaro’s legacy would be in the work he did championing for regional communities

Another regret of Mr Barilaro’s career was when he made a very public stance against Ms Berejiklian and her government when she tried to implement a koala conservation bill after the devastating 2019-20 bushfires.

The Koala Habitat Protection State Environment Planning Policy identified 123 trees that were needed as food or shelter for the animals. 

Mr Barilaro’s stance threatened to rip apart the Liberal-National Coalition entirely when he blindsided the premier by announcing his MPs would abstain from voting on Coalition bills as they fought for changes to the koala protection plan.

The move effectively robbed the government of its majority and provoked a stern response from the premier.

‘It is not possible to be the deputy premier or a minister of the Crown and sit on the crossbench,’ Ms Berejiklian fired off in a media statement.

She gave Mr Barilaro and his Nationals ministerial colleagues a deadline to declare support for her government or be sacked from cabinet.  

Mr Barilaro said the policy would be taking away land from farmers, and took a four week mental health break in the wake of the fallout.

‘If we were to support that we would become the laughing stock of regional and rural NSW,’ he said. 

Mr Barilaro is looking forward to spending time with his family over the summer, joking he may be in the midst of a midlife crisis as he approaches 50 years old

Mr Barilaro is looking forward to spending time with his family over the summer, joking he may be in the midst of a midlife crisis as he approaches 50 years old

The two party leaders later agreed to amendments of the bill, which Mr Barilaro declared a win for the Nationals and regional NSW. 

‘I have regrets over some of the things I have said on developments around koala habitats… If I could turn back time I would have handled that differently,’ he said afterwards.

On Monday, he said that though he ‘always has regrets’ there comes a point in time where a person must ‘accept they are just part of the learning, the strengthening of character’.

‘There is no question last year was a tough time… one of my regrets is that we didn’t steer that in a different way,’ he said.

The intense pressure of the ‘koala war’ got to him, and he took a month of stress leave to look after his mental health when the saga was finally over.

While detractors described his position as deputy premier ‘untenable’ after the fallout, Mr Barilaro managed to claw his way back into the government’s good graces. 

But Mr Barilaro has never been able to fully escape claims his opposition to the bill made him a ‘koala killer’. 

Moments before making his announcement on Monday, a staffer who was checking the microphone was filmed joking ‘there will be a koala over here going ”yeah”,’ he said with a fist-pump. 

Mr Barilaro’s ‘pork barrelling’ legacy

Mr Barilaro, who has embraced his nickname ‘Pork Barrel-aro’, said he would never apologise for doing everything in his power to get as much funding as possible for his constituents.

While the phrase is used as an insult, Mr Barilaro said he would ‘never distance himself’ from the term because he’s ‘sick to death of the mistruths spun about pork barrelling’.

Pork barelling is the process of spending taxpayer money in a community to gain or maintain political support.  

‘If we fund a government seat, it’s a rort,’ he said. ‘If we fund a non-government seat, it’s only because we want to win them at the next election.’ 

‘It’s a name that I’ve never distanced myself from because I’m actually proud of… what it represents,’ he told the committee.

‘What we call pork barrelling is investment … I dare you to turn up to these communities and tell them why they don’t deserve these projects.’ 

Mr Barilaro has on several occasions found himself in hot water after sending fiery text messages to political allies.

In May 2020, private text messages sent from Mr Barilaro emerged calling Liberal colleague Andrew Constance a ‘c**t’.

The scandal prompted Mr Constance to withdraw from contesting the federal seat of Eden-Monaro and remain in state politics.

‘When I said politics is stuffed in this country, and some of the people in it need to have a long hard look, I meant it. I hadn’t signed up to contest federally to be called that type of smear,’ he said at the time.

Mr Barilaro revealed on Monday the two men worked through their differences after the scandal and the outgoing deputy premier wished Mr Constance well as he again ventured into federal politics.

‘I rang him yesterday and said ”we can be friends again” and I think that’s important,’ he told reporters.

‘I thought he showed courage in making sure the next generation of MPs have an opportunity to take his spot as minister.’ 

Mr Barilaro reportedly berated then-Nationals federal leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack over a similar matter, accusing him of not being supportive enough when he considered making a switch to federal politics.

He allegedly told Mr McCormack he had ‘failed as a leader’. 

Mr Barilaro thanked his family for their sacrifices throughout his time in politics (pictured with wife Deanna and daughter Sofia)

Mr Barilaro thanked his family for their sacrifices throughout his time in politics (pictured with wife Deanna and daughter Sofia)

John Barilaro has resigned as Deputy Premier of NSW just three days after Gladys Berejiklian stepped down due to a corruption investigation by ICAC

John Barilaro has resigned as Deputy Premier of NSW just three days after Gladys Berejiklian stepped down due to a corruption investigation by ICAC

In a third text message, relating to a different matter, he reportedly called NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello a ‘deadset d**k’ to voice his displeasure over a budget meeting.  

‘You are seriously a deadset d**k,’ the message read, according to NCA Newswire.

‘Brand Berejiklian. Brand Customer Service. Seriously!! No one cares about Service NSW in the UH by-election. What an insult!! To me. To all my NATS.’

Back in 2017, at the peak of Liberal party squabbling and infighting at a federal level, Mr Barilaro suggested then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should give Australians an early Christmas present by quitting.

Ms Berejiklian, as well as members of Mr Barilaro’s own party, were forced to publicly align themselves with Mr Turnbull in the wake of the outburst. 

Despite his often divisive manner of expression, Mr Barilaro enjoyed great success in state politics, including five years as leader of the National Party and deputy premier.

The role, he said, has been relentless.

‘It has taken a toll. It is tough on anybody in public life, to continue in this role, especially under so much scrutiny,’ he said on Monday.

‘Five years or is a very long time as a leader of a political party,’ he said. ‘I’ve given it everything I possibly could.’

He has no intentions of making a move into federal politics and will enjoy his retirement over the summer before considering his next career move.

‘I turn 50 in November, maybe this is a midlife crisis,’ he joked. ‘But I won’t be running for federal politics.’  

Mr Barilaro worked closely alongside Ms Berejiklian

Mr Barilaro worked closely alongside Ms Berejiklian 

Mr Barilaro worked closely with Premier Berejiklian in designing the roadmap out of lockdown and was a founding member of the Covid crisis committee. 

He described himself as ‘the architect of the roadmap out of lockdown’ and hoped his legacy would be bringing hope and certainty to the people of NSW.

But Mr Barilaro has also come under fire several times during the pandemic for appearing to have opposing views to Ms Berejiklian.

In June this year, he went rogue and said the government had ‘lost control’ of the spread of he Indian Delta variant. 

Mr Barilaro said the government hadn’t locked down sooner because ‘that wasn’t the advice’ they received from chief medical officer Dr Kerry Chant’s team.

‘Right throughout this 18 months, we’ve relied heavily on Kerry Chant’s team and the advice has not led us astray. But this (strain) is very different, the way it’s spread’.

Ms Berejiklian refused to address the comments but said she would continue to follow the health advice, while a government insider suggested Mr Barilaro was simply ‘bored and lonely’ as he waited out a two-week Covid isolation period as a close contact of a known case. 

Mr Barilaro (centre left speaking with John Howard in 2007) was inspired to get into politics by his own father

Mr Barilaro (centre left speaking with John Howard in 2007) was inspired to get into politics by his own father

Another embarrassing faux pas occurred weeks later on the Today show, where he admitted to host Karl Stefanovic the government didn’t know which lockdown policies were working and which weren’t. 

Then again last month, Ms Berejiklian was forced to slap down Mr Barilaro’s rogue claims that unvaccinated people would have restrictions removed when NSW was 80 per cent vaccinated.

‘There will be businesses that don’t like the idea [of mandatory vaccines] but the 70 per cent road map gives us an opportunity to open up the economy and lift restrictions,’ Mr Barilaro told 2GB radio on September 13.

‘If they don’t want to do it that’s fine, you might have to wait another three to four weeks after that when we get to 80 per cent and above.

‘I apologise for that but it will only be a three to four weeks of short inconvenience.

‘According to the national road map and to the Doherty Institute report, we’ll go and then lift further restrictions including for the unvaccinated.’

John Barilaro’s colourful life in politics 

May 2020: Private text messages sent from John Barilaro emerged calling Liberal colleague Andrew Constance a ‘c**t’.

The scandal prompted Mr Constance to withdraw from contesting the federal seat of Eden-Monaro and remain in state politics.

”When I said politics is stuffed in this country, and some of the people in it need to have a long hard look, I meant it. I hadn’t signed up to contest federally to be called that type of smear,’ he said at the time.

September 2020: Mr Barilaro and Ms Berejiklian butt heads over a change to the Koala protection bill following the worst bushfires in NSW history. 

The Koala Habitat Protection State Environment Planning Policy identified 123 trees that were needed as food or shelter for the animals.

Mr Barilaro said the policy would be taking away land from farmers.

‘If we were to support that we would become the laughing stock of regional and rural NSW,’ he said.

The two party leaders later agreed to amendments of the bill, which Mr Barilaro declared a win for the Nationals and regional NSW. 

May 2021: Mr Barilaro – fed up with being called corrupt and a ‘greasy Ned Kelly’ – is suing Google and the man behind YouTube channel friendlyjordies.

Entertainer Jordan Shanks-Markovina, whose channel boasts more than 130 million views, is also accused of falsely making out the NSW Nationals leader has blackmailed councillors and pocketed millions stolen from a local government. 

The MP is of Italian heritage and his hurt and harm has been aggravated by Shanks-Markovina’s ‘vile and racist attack’ in the videos.

In one video, the entertainer refers to Mr Barilaro as a ‘big, fat, wog c**t’, ‘greasy Ned Kelly’ and ‘a conman to the core, powered by spaghetti’.

August 2021: Mr Barilaro says he never intended to cause offence when he compared mourners at a funeral in Wilcannia to ‘d**kheads’ who breached Covid restrictions by throwing a party in Maroubra 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk