Nationals and Greens leadership changes
Michael McCormack has been returned as leader of the Nationals, seeing off a challenge from Barnaby Joyce in a party room ballot this morning. Queenslander David Littleproud has been elected deputy leader, replacing Senator Bridget McKenzie who resigned at the weekend in the wake of the so-called ‘sports rorts’ affair. A ministerial reshuffle will follow.
In line with Nationals protocol, Chief Whip Damian Drum declined to reveal the final result of the ballot. However, reports suggesting the ballot was close have sparked conversation about the stability of the Nationals leadership, and Barnaby Joyce’s future leadership ambitions. Following the ballot, Mr McCormack said there has “never before been such an important time” for the Nationals and noted that he has been endorsed as leader “three times in less than two years”.
Two Cabinet positions are now up for grabs after Senator Matt Canavan resigned as Minister for Resources and Northern Australia last night and threw his support behind Barnaby Joyce ahead of this morning’s leadership ballot. The Agriculture portfolio is also vacant following Senator McKenzie’s departure. There is speculation that incoming deputy David Littleproud may take over the Agriculture portfolio. He is currently Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, and Natural Disaster and Emergency Management.
The leadership ballot followed an investigation by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet which found that Senator McKenzie breached ministerial standards by failing to disclose her membership of a shooting club that won $36,000 from a sports grants program she administered. An earlier report by the Auditor General found that a disproportionate number of the grants under the Community Sport Infrastructure Program were handed to sports clubs in marginal Coalition seats, or seats the party was targeting ahead of the 2019 election.
Bandt becomes new Greens leader
Meanwhile, Member for Melbourne Adam Bandt has been elected unopposed as leader of the Greens, following Senator Richard Di Natale’s unexpected resignation yesterday. Queensland senator Larissa Waters and Tasmanian senator Nick McKim have been elected as co-deputy leaders. Senators Sarah Hanson-Young and Mehreen Faruqi also threw their hats in the ring for the role of co-deputy leader but were unsuccessful.
In his first press conference as leader, Mr Bandt promoted a “Green New Deal” to tackle climate change, jobs and inequality. He said, “It’s clear the government does not have the climate emergency under control” and told reporters his approach will be “to hold the Government to account and to force them to either act or go”.
Focus shifts to bushfires
With this morning’s leadership ballots out of the way, the focus has shifted to the bushfire crisis, with both chambers of Parliament dedicating the day to recognising and honouring those affected. Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that he has written to state and territory leaders seeking their agreement to hold a Royal Commission into the crisis, saying “we owe it to those we have lost”. Mr Morrison has put forward former Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, to lead the proposed Royal Commission.