NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has recommitted to building a Fingal Bay link road, 24 hours after the government's Hunter representative canned what was a key election promise in Port Stephens.
The extraordinary double backflip comes after the Liberal duty MLC for the Hunter, Catherine Cusack, wrote an opinion piece in Friday's Newcastle Herald announcing the government would not build the $188 million road it had promised voters on March 5.
Ms Cusack said the project would not proceed because sitting Port Stephens Labor MP Kate Washington had been re-elected on a platform which included opposing the link road.
"The wishes of voters will be respected and the Fingal Bay link road will not go ahead," Ms Cusack said.
But Ms Berejiklian's office told the Herald on Friday that the government would build the road.
"All of our election commitments will be honoured," a spokesperson said.
It is now unclear if Ms Cusack's declaration that the project was dead was unauthorised or if the government has changed its mind.
Asked on Friday to explain the flip-flopping, Ms Cusack said: "I'd say that's great news. I welcome the clarification."
Ms Washington described the government reversals on the road as a "debacle".
Roads Minister Melinda Pavey, Port Stephens Liberal candidate Jaimie Abbott and Ms Cusack announced the link road promise in Nelson Bay on March 5 while standing beside mayor Ryan Palmer.
Ms Pavey and Ms Abbott promised the government would start work on the "essential" link road in the next four years if re-elected.
Ms Cusack's announcement five days after the election that the project had been cancelled caught Mr Palmer, Ms Washington and Hunter Business Chamber by surprise.
Mr Palmer said on Friday that he was "extremely pleased to hear the project is back on".
Ms Cusack, part of a powerful "moderate" or "left" faction inside the NSW Liberals, won a pre-selection battle last year over parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald.
Mr MacDonald was shunted down the party's upper house ballot order and lost his seat in Parliament while Ms Cusack took charge of Ms Abbott's campaign.
Ms Cusack's name was at the top of the Liberal-Nationals ticket for the upper house vote last weekend.
She became embroiled in a Facebook scandal in February when her parliamentary staffer, Tasman Brown, was accused of using fake profiles to troll the Labor campaign and community members.
Ms Cusack initially denied Mr Brown had been involved, backing him "1000 per cent" and accusing Ms Washington of "bullying", "disgusting behaviour" and "false accusations".
But Ms Abbott was forced to apologise to Ms Washington on March 8 after Facebook deleted seven accounts connected to Mr Brown, including his own and Ms Abbott's. Mr Brown was also a volunteer on Ms Abbott's campaign.
Ms Cusack's opinion piece this week described the fake profiles as a "huge mistake" and a "terrible example" of political parties getting unwanted help from "supporters".
Mr MacDonald told the Herald this week that anyone who knew about the trolling should be "kicked out of the party".
He would not comment on the Fingal Bay backflip.
Meanwhile, Ms Washington has written to the Premier asking her to jointly refer the Facebook controversy to Parliament's Joint Standing Committee for Electoral Matters.
"The people of New South Wales deserve reassurance that taxpayer-funded political staffers are not creating and operating fake social media profiles to attack sitting Members of Parliament and promote other candidates, in order to influence an election," she writes.
A spokesperson for the Premier said on Friday she would not answer questions this week from the Herald on the Facebook controversy, including if the government planned to investigate.
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