Internal tensions within the federal Nationals are continuing to bubble over, amid accusations that those who failed to topple the party’s leadership are seeking revenge.
- Michelle Landry conceded the Nationals had been through a “torrid couple of weeks”
- She said yesterday’s Deputy Speaker vote was an act of “revenge” from Barnaby Joyce’s backers
- The party has faced three resignations and a leadership spill in the last week
A group of Nationals broke away from their party and joined with Labor and the crossbench to install Queenslander Llew O’Brien in a lucrative position mere hours after he sensationally quit the Nats party room.
Today Mr O’Brien’s fellow Queenslander Michelle Landry, a fierce supporter of leader Michael McCormack, expressed her disappointment at the navel-gazing continuing to dominate the Nationals.
“I think it might have been a bit of revenge happening there because Barnaby (Joyce) didn’t get the leadership,” she told reporters.
“I am disappointed with what has happened. I think it’s been a torrid couple of weeks. Now they’ve had their victory, let’s get on with it.”
Last week Mr O’Brien moved a spill motion in the Nationals party room in a bid to restore former leader Barnaby Joyce to the job he lost two years earlier to scandals.
Mr McCormack defeated that challenge and retained his job as Deputy Prime Minister, with Cabinet minister David Littleproud being appointed his deputy leader.
The House of Representatives on Monday had to elect a new Deputy Speaker, after the incumbent Kevin Hogan stepped down to assume a position in the outer ministry.
The Government’s candidate was Victorian MP Damian Drum, who had won the support of the Nationals party room.
But when it came up for a vote in the Lower House, Labor nominated Mr O’Brien and attracted enough votes from the Nationals and crossbench to defeat Mr Drum.
“Obviously it is disappointing for the Government,” Nationals senator Matt Canavan said on Tuesday.
“It’s not the way things were planned. But it’s also hardly a great threat to the great institution of parliamentary democracy. I’m sure things will keep ticking along here in Canberra.”
Senator Canavan quit his Cabinet position last week to support Mr Joyce’s failed leadership tilt.
Mr O’Brien’s decision to quit the Nationals party room won’t affect the Coalition’s two-seat margin in the House of Representatives because he will remain a Government MP.
Winning the vote to become Deputy Speaker means Mr O’Brien will receive a 20 per cent increase in his base wage of $211,250.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese denied accusations Labor’s efforts to install Mr O’Brien in the job were merely an attempt at destabilising the Government.
But he refused to outline the discussions Labor had with rogue Nationals ahead of the vote.
“I’d be surprised if there weren’t discussions around the chamber, there are all the time,” Mr Albanese said.
“I’m not saying anything about it. I’m saying private discussions are private discussions. I’m saying that I didn’t have a discussion with anyone about this.”
The Deputy Speaker chairs the Federation Chamber and in the absence of the Speaker serves as the Acting Speaker, overseeing the House of Representatives.
Queensland Nationals MP Ken O’Dowd on Monday confirmed he backed Mr Joyce in the leadership spill and voted for Mr O’Brien for Deputy Speaker.