The last 24 hours in NSW politics have been extraordinary.
Not just because an issue that few had ever heard of muscled its way onto centre stage and threatened to bring down the Berejiklian Government.
But extraordinary because of the stable history of Coalition politics in NSW.
Other states have seen such explosions.
The Queensland Coalition Government exploded in acrimony in 1983.
The Liberal Party governed Victoria for nearly three decades until the 1980s without a Coalition partner, and Coalition relations have always been fraught in Western Australia.
Disputes have also infected the federal Coalition in our lifetime.
It was the National Party’s split of the federal Coalition, driven by the hubris of Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, that played a huge part in preventing John Howard winning the 1987 Federal election.
In contrast, the NSW Coalition has been in continuous existence since 1927, both in government and opposition.
This long-term relationship hasn’t always been harmonious, but the occasional tiffs have usually been about rights to run in seats at elections.
It has rarely been policy, or numbers in Parliament, that have split the NSW Coalition.
In more than four decades of following NSW state politics, I have never until yesterday seen an issue blow up that would split the two Coalition parties in Parliament.
And on what issue? Laws related to land clearance and protecting koala habitats. An issue most voters have neither heard of nor care about.
And when? At a time when all arms of government are fully occupied with the health and economic fallout from a pandemic.
And how? By taking the nuclear option of threatening to make government unworkable if the National Party didn’t gets its way.
It is a case of wrong issue, wrong time, wrong tactics.
In the 1950s and 1960s, when Australia’s wealth truly was built on the sheep’s back, the Country Party was able to exert power over the Liberal Party.
Country Party leader and then-deputy prime minister John McEwen threatened to walk away from the Coalition over trade and exchange rate policy.
He usually won the argument, and famously even vetoed William McMahon replacing Harold Holt as Prime Minister.
When the National Party tried the same tactics of standing up to the Liberals in the 1980s, the results were very different.
By then, Labor was more electable, and splits in the Coalition allowed Labor to campaign on, to quote Bob Hawke, “If you can’t govern yourself you can’t govern the country”.
Labor won the 1987 federal election, and state elections in Victoria in 1988 and Western Australia in 1989, in part because of the absence of a Coalition between the Liberal and National parties in opposition.
In the three decades since, the National Party has rarely separated itself from common policy position with the Liberal Party.
While Coalitions fell apart elsewhere in Australia in the 1980s, a strong Coalition government was elected to office in NSW under Nick Greiner.
His government inflicted major pain on the bush, with sweeping closures of country rail services, courts and smaller hospitals.
The government survived because of strong support from Greiner’s Deputy, Country Party leader Wal Murray.
But that period was the start of a long era of struggle for the NSW National Party.
The Nationals remain strong along the NSW North Coast where continued population growth ensures the expansion of government services.
West of the mountains it is a different issue.
Western districts National MPs are constantly fighting to protect services.
Improved roads means locals travel further to shop, boosting major regional centres but killing smaller towns.
The growth of corporate agriculture has cut the number of families on the land, and mechanisation cuts the rural workforce.
Population is at best static and increasingly concentrated in larger centres.
Many rural voters ask themselves, who can better serve my local interests, a Nationals MP who will form government, or someone else who will concentrate only on local issues?
In the last two decades, the NSW National Party has regularly lost seats to Independents.
In the last few years a new threat has emerged in the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.
The party won three western NSW seats at the 2019 state election.
Yesterday the National Party beast tried to fight against these electoral terrier’s nipping at its heals, trying to prove it isn’t there just as numbers to back the Liberal Party.
But it’s all ended badly.
As I said, wrong issue, wrong timing, wrong tactics.