There was action aplenty in the National’s party room at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday morning which took many members by surprise, but the reality was not too many were shocked when a spill motion was moved by Queensland Senator, Matt Canavan, that saw the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack ousted and former leader Barnaby Joyce reinstated to his old job.
By political standards it was a clean execution.
Member for Mallee, Anne Webster, a strong supporter of the Mr McCormack, told the ‘Weekly shortly after the coup that the spill had come as a surprise, albeit there had been some activity in the background over the weekend.
“I am on the record as supporting Michael McCormack, and I did support him as the leader. Barnaby won the party room ballot and I will offer him the same loyalty that I gave Michael,” Dr Webster said.
“The show goes on and that’s politics sadly, and there are brutal days like yesterday and now we have to recalibrate and reset.
“The National Party is the most democratic party in the country, from grassroots members to the Federal party room. A vote is never suppressed, nor branches stacked. We are not a party of factions, but of individuals.
“My job is to represent the people of Mallee and I will continue to do that with the new Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce.”
Mr McCormack is being lauded in many circles for the dignity he has shown since being deposed.
“Michael is showing himself to be a gold class operator. He has displayed serious class in the way in which he has conducted himself and continues to do so both privately and publicly,” Dr Webster said.
“I commend his hard work for regional Australia he absolutely had his hand on-the-plough and worked very hard for the interests of Mallee. I can absolutely say hand-on-heart, that whenever I took an issue to him, he listened and acted.”
Dr Webster was asked if Mildura can expect to see a visit from Barnaby Joyce in the near future, given Mr McCormack had been here on a number of occasions, including when he toured the Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct four weeks ago.
“I’m sure he will be keen to get around the regions, but I haven’t had that conversation with him yet, but I will have that conversation with him and I will continue to fight for Mallee and ensure that Barnaby has a clear picture of what the needs of our region are,” she said.
The removal of Mr McCormack was in large part brought on by concerns in the National Party that their electoral chances in Queensland particularly, were in trouble and a sharper louder voice was needed to cut through to the doubting electorate.
Senator Canavan, who quit the font bench when then party leader Barnaby Joyce was rolled three years ago, after the he was embroiled scandal involving his former chief of staff, who he subsequently married and the couple now have two children, moved the spill without the leadership issue having being canvassed heavily through the media with the usual rumours, speculation and denials of ructions within the party, being aired.
The Senator is a pro-coal advocate and protector of that industry’s jobs and is also a vocal supporter of the agriculture sector, both of which are potentially at risk with the zero emissions targets being talked about by the Liberal Party, who are aiming to reach zero by 2050 through advances in technology – an issue that Mr Joyce is about to do battle with his Coalition partners over.
Following the party room spill and defeat of Michael McCormack, Barnaby Joyce and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is in isolation following his return from overseas, had a ‘virtual’ long talk where they discussed the political strategies ahead. It was reported that Mr Morrison realised that what happened, had happened, and now it’s about what’s in front.
Speaking on SKY News, political editor of The Australian newspaper, Dennis Shanahan said that the political, professional and pragmatic drive of both Barnaby Joyce and Scott Morrison will come to bear on winning the next election.
“I think they have been helped enormously by Michael McCormack’s personal demeanour,” Mr Shanahan said.
“He acted with great grace – he acted with the health and the interest of the Coalition in mind and there was no display of ill discipline, revenge or outrage that we have seen from others who have lost their jobs.”
The fact is that it has been a very seamless transition given the shock and surprise and the speed at which events moved in Canberra on Monday morning.
Mr McCormack’s behaviour following his defeat will no doubt help his successor and the Prime Minister to be able to work together.
Barnaby Joyce’s return to the leadership is all about bolstering the National Party’s voice in regional NSW, particularly the Hunter Valley and regional Queensland, and those within the Nationals who voted for Barnaby Joyce, will be hoping that is the case, at the same time crossing their fingers that the famed ‘retail politician’ treads a cautious, but firm path, as he endeavours to lift his party’s shares.