Turnbull's coal comments 'sealed his fate'

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Calling for a moratorium on new coal mines in NSW just hours before a Hunter Valley MP quit, trigging a by-election, contributed to Malcolm Turnbull being dumped from a clean economy job.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean has admitted the comments made by the former Liberal prime minister on ABC radio a day after he was made chair of the state's new Net-Zero Emissions and Clean Economy Board helped seal his fate.

"It wasn't helpful," Mr Kean told ABC radio on Wednesday.

Mr Turnbull's five-year appointment rankled many of Mr Kean's conservative coalition colleagues, given his comments about the coal industry.

"A figure as colourful as Malcolm Turnbull that already arouses strong opinions. Speaking about these matters was not helpful in bringing my colleagues along on this journey," he said.

"Some of my colleagues didn't appreciate those comments ... on the eve of the (triggering of a) by-election," he said.

Upper Hunter Nationals MP Michael Johnsen quit politics on March 31 after being accused of rape.

His departure means the coalition government will be plunged into minority government if it can't retain the seat, which Mr Johnsen held by a narrow margin.

"There is a by-election. It's a very contentious political environment at the moment," Mr Kean said.

"I was prepared to ride it out ... but it was clear that a number of my colleagues and other people across the community ... felt alienated by this decision" to appoint Mr Turnburll.

Mr Kean denied he was at loggerheads with Nationals Leader John Barilaro, who went on radio on Tuesday to announce Mr Turnbull had been dumped.

"Not at all. John is a robust spokesman for the bush and I need to work with John in order to get things done," Mr Kean said.