John Barilaro sets his sights on federal politics

Six years ago John Barilaro entered a charity cooking competition with his homemade lasagne crafted from a 200-year-old recipe handed down though generations of his Italian family.

After his cheesy pasta came a close second out of 50 dishes, the amateur chef and state MP for Monaro declared: 'I'm no stranger to tight contests'. Now the New South Wales deputy premier faces the tightest contest of his life as he eyes a move into federal politics - and the stakes could not be higher.

The NSW Nationals leader, 48, would need to give up being second-in-command of Australia's biggest state to run for the traditional 'bellwether' seat of Eden-Monaro after Labor MP Mike Kelly resigned for health reasons on Thursday. 

Victory in the three-cornered contest would see him upgrade to the 'A league' of politics in Canberra where he can set his sights on eventually becoming deputy prime minister, a title which he says 'has a nice ring to it'. But defeat would leave him unemployed. 

As a no-nonsense straight-talker willing to clash with Liberal colleagues while making demands for regional Australians, Mr Barilaro has gained huge popularity among his local constituents and fellow Nationals MPs. 

And he's already secured the backing of former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, who exclusively told Daily Mail Australia he is 'absolutely' the right man for the seat in south-east New South Wales.

New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro (pictured with his wife Deanna, and daughters Alessia, left, Sophia, middle, and Domenica, right) could eventually become the deputy prime minister as he eyes a move into federal politics

New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro (pictured with his wife Deanna, and daughters Alessia, left, Sophia, middle, and Domenica, right) could eventually become the deputy prime minister as he eyes a move into federal politics

The outspoken state Nationals leader (pictured with Premier Gladys Berejiklian), 48, has 'all but confirmed' he will run for the marginal seat of Eden-Monaro in southeast NSW after Labor MP Mike Kelly resigned

The outspoken state Nationals leader (pictured with Premier Gladys Berejiklian), 48, has 'all but confirmed' he will run for the marginal seat of Eden-Monaro in southeast NSW after Labor MP Mike Kelly resigned

Master at work: John Barilaro makes his lasagne in during a community cook in 2017. It's the same recipe he wheeled out in 2014 when he came second in a charity competition

Master at work: John Barilaro makes his lasagne in during a community cook in 2017. It's the same recipe he wheeled out in 2014 when he came second in a charity competition

Asked if he would support Mr Barilaro running in the by-election, Mr Joyce said: 'Absolutely - but it won't be easy. It'll be a close race because three parties really want the seat.'

Commentators say Mr Barilaro could pose a threat to Nationals leader and deputy prime minister Michael McCormack, who is considered to be under-performing and only narrowly fended off a challenge from Mr Joyce earlier this year. 

Mr McCormack is well aware of Mr Barilaro's seemingly boundless ambition but on Thursday said he was not worried about the 48-year-old coming for his job.

'If John wants to put his hand up and run, of course I'll support him. I will support any National Party member who puts up their hand for that seat,' he said. 

Mr Barilaro has played down suggestions he could quickly lead the federal Nationals, telling 7News on Thursday that if he does make it to the House of Representatives he will be on the backbench 'for a long time'. 

Indeed, as a politician who speaks his mind and is no stranger to controversy, he would fit in well there.

Born and bred in Queanbeyan, Mr Barilaro (pictured with his family) left school to work in his father Domenico's window frame and door manufacturer, Ryleho, which he later managed

Born and bred in Queanbeyan, Mr Barilaro (pictured with his family) left school to work in his father Domenico's window frame and door manufacturer, Ryleho, which he later managed

Mr Barilaro, a married father of three daughters, entered politics in 2008 when he was elected as an independent councillor for Queanbeyan City Council

Mr Barilaro, a married father of three daughters, entered politics in 2008 when he was elected as an independent councillor for Queanbeyan City Council

Asked if he would support Mr Barilaro running in the by-election, Mr Joyce (pictured) said: 'Absolutely - but it won't be easy. It'll be a close race because three parties really want the seat.'

Asked if he would support Mr Barilaro running in the by-election, Mr Joyce (pictured) said: 'Absolutely - but it won't be easy. It'll be a close race because three parties really want the seat.'

Born to Italian migrants in Queanbeyan, he left school to work in his father Domenico's window frame and door manufacturer, Ryleho, which he later managed. 

A passionate soccer fan, Mr Barilaro - know by friends as 'Barra' -  helped found the Monaro Panthers Football Club and served as club president for eight years.

The businessman, a married father of three daughters, entered politics in 2008 when he was elected as an independent councillor for Queanbeyan City Council.

Three years later he became the state MP for Monaro representing the National Party and earned a reputation as a 'brawler member' - in his words - because of his combative approach to politics as a backbencher and a minister.

When he was made Nationals state leader in 2016 he declared 'I'm a fighter' and vowed to continue making demands for regional New South Wales even if it meant upsetting Liberal colleagues.

Nationals colleagues heaped praise on him for his work ethic, upbeat personality and for listening more closely to locals voters.

'We're returning to our grass roots as a party and listening to what concerns are closest to people's heart,' said Clarence Valley MP Chris Gulaptis after the leader visited his electorate in 2017.  

Mr Barilaro (second right) attends a briefing by NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons during the bushfire crisis

Mr Barilaro (second right) attends a briefing by NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons during the bushfire crisis

New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro and his family with New South Wales Governor David Hurley following his swearing in at NSW Government House in Sydney in 2019

New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro and his family with New South Wales Governor David Hurley following his swearing in at NSW Government House in Sydney in 2019

Leader of the NSW National Party, John Barilaro, with daughter Sofia and wife Deanna, pose for photographs after he is  sworn in at Government House in Sydney in November 2016

Leader of the NSW National Party, John Barilaro, with daughter Sofia and wife Deanna, pose for photographs after he is  sworn in at Government House in Sydney in November 2016

Who is John Barilaro?

Born to Italian migrants in Queanbeyan, he left school to work in his father Domenico's window frame and door manufacturer, Ryleho, which he later managed.    

A passionate soccer fan, he helped found the Monaro Panthers Football Club and served as club president for eight years.

Mr Barilaro entered politics in 2008 when he was elected as an independent councillor for Queanbeyan City Council.

Three years later he became the state MP for Monaro representing the National Party.

He earned a reputation as a 'brawler member' - in his words - because of his combative approach to politics.

He severed as a minister before was made nationals state leader in 2016.

In 2017 Mr Barliaro caused a storm when he called for then prime minister Malcolm Turbull to resign.

In an interview with radio host Alan Jones, he said Mr Turnbull 'lacked leadership'.

'Turnbull should give Australians a Christmas gift and go before Christmas,' he said.

The comments forced Premier Gladys Berejiklian to distance herself from her deputy, saying he was only expressing a 'personal view'.

They also angered federal MPs. Former attorney-general George Brandis described the

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