Perrottet could face four by-elections

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says his government will stand on its record in upcoming by-elections.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says his government will stand on its record in upcoming by-elections.

NSW Labor has attacked Liberal MP Melanie Gibbons' ambitions to defect to the federal parliament, but may not run a candidate in a by-election for her Sydney seat.

Ms Gibbons on Wednesday announced her intention to seek preselection for the federal seat of Hughes.

The southwest Sydney electorate is held by Liberal turncoat Craig Kelly, who's joined Clive Palmer's United Australia Party.

If successful, the Holsworthy MP will quit the state parliament - leaving Premier Dominic Perrottet to face a fourth by-election early in his tenure.

But the by-election could be an easy victory for the government, with Labor unsure it will put forward a candidate.

"I think it would be tough, perhaps impossible to win, particularly in a pandemic," Labor leader Chris Minns said on Thursday.

"I have to make a decision about whether we husband our resources for the general election in March 2023, or alternatively run in the seat.

"I recognise that many people want a choice."

Ms Gibbons took in 53.3 per cent of the two-party-preferred vote in 2019, with Labor the runner-up.

She is the second state government MP in as many weeks to quit for a tilt at a federal seat, after former Transport Minister, Bega MP Andrew Constance, announced he wants to win the seat of Gilmore back from Labor.

The government is also facing by-elections in the Willoughby seat of former premier Gladys Berejiklian, and in Monaro after former deputy premier John Barilaro announced he too was quitting politics.

The opposition used Thursday's question time to criticise Ms Gibbons' move.

"Is mid-term, mid-pandemic the right time for the member for Holsworthy to cause a by-election?" asked Mr Minns.

Deputy Labor leader Prue Car suggested that 6000 people in Ms Gibbons' seat had lost their jobs during the latest lockdown, and asked whether Mr Perrottet would remove her from her salaried parliamentary secretary role.

The premier said the problem was there was "just way too much talent" in his government.

"Everyone wants them. They are in high demand," he said.

He described Ms Gibbons as a "great fighter" for southwest Sydney, and said she'd be a strong fighter for Hughes if preselected.

But, he told his colleagues in question time: "No more, everyone can stay where they are."

Earlier on Thursday Mr Perrottet told reporters he supported Ms Gibbon's right to quit but acknowledged it was disappointing when taxpayers had to pay for by-elections.

"Ultimately people make their own decisions," he said.

His message to voters was to stay the course with the government.

"It's a difficult time for our state and we've come through it so far very well," he said.

"We've been able to keep people safe - we've got one of the lowest death rates in terms of COVID in the world."

The government was now focused on opening up the state after lockdown and providing support to businesses to boost the economy.

"I'm happy to stand on that record in any by-election across the state," he said.

Australian Associated Press