Tag: Mr Joyce
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.
Queensland MP Llew O’Brien has quit the Nationals party room.
- Llew O’Brien moved the spill motion which brought on last week’s leadership spill
- He will remain a member of the Queensland LNP, and will support Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Government
- His departure means Barnaby Joyce is down one of his chief backers should he try to challenge for the Nationals leadership again
But in a shock move late on Monday, he won a promotion after Labor successfully conspired to elevate him to become Deputy Speaker in the House of Representatives.
The backbencher has been a vocal supporter of former leader Barnaby Joyce, and moved the spill motion which allowed Mr Joyce to challenge leader Michael McCormack in the Nationals party room last week.
That challenge from the former deputy prime minister ultimately failed.
Mr O’Brien has been outspoken on a number of policy issues, including a stronger national integrity commission.
He will remain a member of the Liberal National Party in Queensland and has told Prime Minister Scott Morrison he will continue to offer the Government support.
“When Queensland LNP members come to Canberra they sit in either the Nationals party room or the Liberal party room. However, my decision today means that I am seeking to not sit in either party rooms,” Mr O’Brien said in a statement.
“As a member of the LNP, I will remain in the Liberal and Nationals joint party room, meaning I will remain a Government member.”
O’Brien becomes Deputy Speaker
Mr Morrison’s minor frontbench reshuffle last week included the promotion of Nationals MP Kevin Hogan, who had been the deputy speaker, to an outer ministerial role.
The Government planned to replace him with Victorian Nationals MP Damian Drum.
But when the Lower House went to vote on the matter, Labor nominated Mr O’Brien.
Mr O’Brien accepted the nomination and won the ballot 75 votes to 67.
The promotion means Mr O’Brien will receive a 20 per cent increase in his base wage of $211,250.
Joyce wants O’Brien in the Nats
His preferred leader Mr Joyce said he had discussed the matter with Mr O’Brien but refused to outline what the pair said.
“I’m going to keep my conversations with Llew O’Brien to myself,” Mr Joyce told the ABC.
“It’s not for me to speak for another person.
“It’s incredibly sad, Llew is — we want to keep him in the team, a former vice president of the LNP, a person with so many years experience serving in the police force.”
The Queensland police officer changed careers in 2016 when he won the federal seat of Wide Bay, which was previously held by former Nationals leader Warren Truss.
The relatively unknown backbencher has made headlines on a handful of occasions, when he has caused headaches for his own party.
He previously threatened to cross the floor when the then-Turnbull government did not support the establishing of a banking commission of inquiry.
His decision to quit the party is similar to that of Nationals MP Kevin Hogan, who moved to the crossbench after Malcolm Turnbull was rolled as prime minister — complaining the office had become a “revolving door”.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann downplayed the significance of Mr O’Brien’s decision.
“He continues to serve as a member of the LNP, he continues to sit in our joint party room, and he continues to support the Government,” Senator Cormann said.
“So, business as usual.”
Frontbench reshuffle could leave Nationals without a woman in Cabinet and no ministers in Upper House
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to unveil his new-look frontbench today, after the resignation of two Nationals Cabinet ministers in two days triggered a minor reshuffle.
- Bridget McKenzie’s role in the sports rorts scandal helped trigger the Cabinet reshuffle
- Senators McKenzie and Matt Canavan have stepped down from the frontbench
- Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester and Queensland MP Keith Pitt are tipped to return to Cabinet
Former Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie resigned from the ministry on Sunday in an effort to stem the political damage over the sports grants saga
Outgoing Resources Minister Matt Canavan sensationally quit the frontbench the following day, in a bid to back Barnaby Joyce’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to wrest the Nationals leadership off Michael McCormack.
The newly elected deputy leader of the Nationals, David Littleproud, is expected to regain the agriculture portfolio, something he held before the election, while also retaining the drought and water portfolios.
That will bring the three key responsibilities back together under the same manager — they were separated after last year’s election when Senator McKenzie took on agriculture.
Outspoken Queensland backbencher Keith Pitt, who failed in his bid to become deputy leader of the Nationals, is a frontrunner to be elevated to Cabinet.
He is expected to inherit the resources and northern Australia portfolios vacated by Senator Canavan’s surprise resignation.
However, he told AM he was waiting to find out who would be promoted.
“Everyone in the Nationals party room is always looking for more responsibility, and I think that’s no surprise,” Mr Pitt said.
“There’s no expectations here — I’m obviously putting my hand up for additional responsibility, but so are all of my colleagues.
Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester, who currently sits in the outer ministry, is expected to return to Cabinet.
Sources have told the ABC he could take on Mr Littleproud’s emergency management portfolio.
Mr Pitt and Mr Chester are both members of the House of Representatives and promoting them would mean no Nationals senators are in Cabinet.
The Nationals also appear unlikely to have any ministers in the Upper House. That means Liberal ministers would have to answer all questions about agriculture, drought, water and the other portfolios Nationals are in charge of.
It would also leave the Nationals without a woman in Cabinet, despite record levels of female representation achieved at the last election.
Despite losing their portfolios, Senator McKenzie will remain the leader in the Upper House, with Senator Canavan the deputy.
If there’s to be a promotion in the Senate, Queenslander Susan McDonald, who was first elected last year, is tipped to receive it, most likely to the outer, or assistant, ministry ranks.
Mr Joyce has left open the prospect of another tilt at his party’s top job, despite having released a statement on Tuesday that said the issue had been “finalised”.
He told ABC Tamworth on Wednesday morning that there was a chance he could stand for the leadership again.
“People say never ever would you ever consider standing again [but] they can’t do that because you just don’t know what the circumstances are in the future,” Mr Joyce said.
“But I’m glad that this issue’s been dealt with, the boil’s been lanced and we all move on.”
Bridget McKenzie’s resignation is the latest mess in a string for the Nationals over the past few years, and the biggest test now is whether the party can clean itself up and unite.
That arduous task begins with the election of a new deputy leader and the appointment of a new Cabinet Minister and Senate leader.
But the situation is already looking more complex than that, with some in the party agitating for an entirely new leadership team.
Former leader Barnaby Joyce has told the ABC he would stand for the position of leader, if it was spilt in the partyroom meeting on Tuesday.
“If there is a spill, I will stand. It is entirely up to them if they wish to spill,” he said.
“A spill is a real option but not a certainty.”
There has been internal pressure on Nationals leader Michael McCormack, with some viewing his leadership as weak.
Matt Canavan will take on the position of Senate leader, while it is tipped that Victorian Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester will return to Cabinet. The latter is not a given.
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It would mean added responsibility when there is already an enormous recovery underway in his own electorate.
But Mr Chester may be asked to take on the disaster recovery portfolio from David Littleproud, who could in turn slot back in as Agriculture Minister, a job Senator McKenzie appropriated from him.
It is hard to say whether Mr Chester would have the support to become deputy, and unclear whether he would even nominate. Conservatives in the party do not approve of his more progressive views, such as support for same-sex marriage.
The more likely successor is Mr Littleproud, a Queenslander who was catapulted from the backbench to the cabinet by Mr Joyce and who has built a reputation for straight-talk and getting things done.
But if history is any guide, the act of choosing a Nationals deputy can become a dog fight because, as one MP chuckled, “pretty much everyone will want to nominate themselves”.
The party has been divided for some time
The list of nominees could include Barnaby Joyce, Matt Canavan, Keith Pitt, David Gillespie and Mark Coulton, to name a few.
There are 21 members in the National party — 16 in the Lower House and five in the Senate. They elect leaders through a convoluted process of eliminating unsuccessful nominees one by one, before entering subsequent rounds of ballots.
The Nationals’ inferiority complex could become infectious
Having miraculously retained government for the Coalition, Scott Morrison has the Nationals where he wants them: obliged. But many within the Nationals sense they’re being eaten alive.
The intricacy can make it difficult to determine where votes will go once certain individuals are knocked out.
And making it harder to predict is the fact there is already some division within the party — and has been for a while.
A lot of that angst stems back to former leader Barnaby Joyce’s captain’s picks. On separate occasions he promoted Senator Matt Canavan and David Littleproud from backbench positions to cabinet.
Those moves offended some in the party, who felt they had been around longer and were more worthy of promotion. But the party’s real chaos began when Mr Joyce and his then-deputy Fiona Nash became embroiled in the citizenship saga in 2017.
Both were sent packing by the High Court, sparking a by-election in Mr Joyce’s seat of New England and the ousting of Nash because she was a Senator.
At the same time there were rumours swirling about Mr Joyce’s private life and the eventual revelation he was having an affair and baby with his now-partner Vikki Campion. The nail in his leadership coffin was an allegation of sexual assault, which an internal investigation found to be inconclusive.
So what now for the National Party?
Michael McCormack took over as leader but has failed to settle several restless backbenchers and, occasionally, senior party members who are frustrated with what they (privately) describe as his “lack of spine and cut-through”.
Those concerns almost came to a head early last year, when unsourced comments in news reports raised the possibility of a leadership challenge.
Prior to that, a Nationals MP had been doing the numbers at the party’s federal council. Amidst it all, former junior minister Andrew Broad kissed politics goodbye after it was revealed he’d used a dating website to meet a younger woman on overseas work trips.
And the Member for Manila, George Christensen, was at the centre of allegations about travel to parts of south-east Asia known for prostitution and drugs. Nine reported his now-wife worked at an adult bar he frequented.
Now, the party’s deputy leader — who was the target of angry colleagues last year over her handling of a dairy code of conduct — has fallen on her sword for failing to disclose her membership of a gun club that received federal funds.
Add it all together and it hardly makes for a pretty political picture. So what now for the National party?
McCormack will struggle to appease everyone
The Coalition’s strength hinges on a working relationship between the Liberals and their junior partner. Liberals have been embroiled in chaos too.
Don’t forget Energy Minister Angus Taylor is still the subject of a federal police investigation.
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But the Nationals, which used to be a party that gave out curry on behalf of country people but protected each other to the hilt, have become known, politically, for drama and division.
There are those in the party who claim the perception of division is over-hyped, and that an angry few keep fuelling it. Even if it is overblown, the fact there are fractures makes life difficult for Mr McCormack.
Some Nationals are adamant he should have fought harder for Senator McKenzie, while others concede she dug her own grave.
Mr McCormack still has the majority of support in the party room and newer members have to acknowledge they were elected under his campaign leadership.
But there is a growing number who, never on record, feel he is not up to the job. And he will struggle to permanently appease uneasy Queensland Nats.
They’re talking about themselves — again
The question now is, whether with a new leadership team, Mr McCormack can unite his party, which, despite all the shenanigans, still performed well at the last election.
The score board shows that since 2007, the Nationals have increased their representation in Federal Parliament.
But, while all this rages on, Nationals’ constituents have been suffering through one of the worst droughts on record, thousands of people have lost homes, properties, livestock and pets, and anxiety about climate change is red-hot.
Yet the media is focussed on the Nationals’ turmoil and, in turn, the mob elected to represent country people are talking about themselves… again.
People in the bush are not dropping everything to gossip and rant with each other about sports rorts saga.
Those who have paid attention might think it stinks, but they remain focussed on drought and bushfires, and the challenges of day to day life.
In essence, where mother nature has created a serious mess, real people are busy cleaning it up themselves.