THIS year, the word unprecedented has become commonplace. It has been applied to the summer's bushfire dangers across NSW, to the economic results of pandemic precautions on the economy and more.
On Thursday, "unprecedented disloyalty" was the cry when Premier Gladys Berejiklian was blindsided by a revolt in the ranks of one of Australia's longest-standing alliances.
The National Party, which includes Hunter MPs Michael Johnsen and Stephen Bromhead, has drawn a line in the sand over the government's koala policy.
Leader John Barilaro said the party was "effectively on the crossbench" while it abstains from voting for government legislation. Labor leader Jodi McKay rightfully asked how you can vote against one's own alliance and have it stand.
Liberal Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Catherine Cusack said it was the worst disloyalty she had seen in 30 years and Mr Barilaro is not reflecting the views of country people on the issue. With the two parties on clearly separate footing, the future of an alliance that has continued unabated since the 1920s is transformed. Beginning in 1927, the NSW union is the only Australian state where the two parties have neither split or merged. With states divided amid COVID-19, the disruption's timing will have voters questioning where their politicians' priorities lie.
Mr Barilaro has been unafraid to stand apart, but this is a new degree of dissent to the stoush over preselection at the Eden-Monaro byelection. In that contest Labor eventually triumphed, with Kristy McBain holding the seat Mike Kelly vacated.
How the Hunter responded: Hunter Region Nationals reassert party's position on koala habitat
Critics will point out that the battleground on which the parties stand is not fresh. The koala policy, the flashpoint that has led to the divisive skirmish, became law in December. The competing demand for conservation and landholder rights are hardly overnight issues.
How long this stand-off lasts was unclear on Thursday, but the fissure in trust between parties and colleagues will take time to mend regardless. The Nationals must hope that the gesture, even if it becomes little more, will attract voters. The Liberals, on the other hand, have given credence the need for koala protection since summer's inferno. While residents' fight to have Brandy Hill quarry's proposed expansion into koala habitat halted heads toward the federal arena, it is clear that the two opposing camps on this matter are not entirely based around geography.
What is clear is that the Nationals are eager to prove they are no rubber stamp to the Berejiklian government's agenda, and ostensibly believe this is their best route to gaining ground in negotiations. What happens next, including but not limited to cabinet positions, will be a famous moment in this state's political landscape. The move has made plenty of noise, but it remains to be seen if it will resonate or fade away.