Nationals re-Joyce: Barnaby back as deputy prime minister

Australia has a new deputy prime minister after the National Party returned Barnaby Joyce to the leadership following a spill motion in Canberra on Monday morning.

Former deputy prime minister Michael McCormack had been under fire after a week where he appeared out of his depth as acting prime minister while Scott Morrison was overseas for the G7 summit.

Mr Joyce stepped down as deputy prime minister after a sexual harassment allegation was made against him in 2018.

That incident was investigated by the National Party, which was unable to reach a conclusion after eight months.

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The NSW Nationals issued a brief statement at the time confirming the sexual harassment investigation had been finalised, and saying the report would be kept confidential.

Nationals whip and former Fremantle football coach Damian Drum made the announcement of the party’s decision to bring Mr Joyce back to the post, but would not detail the exact votes of the 21 National Party members.

“There was a spill motion put forward,” Mr Drum said. “The spill motion was carried. We had an election and Barnaby Joyce has been elected leader of the National Party at a federal level and will therefore be going through the various situations that he has to go through.

“He has to go through a process now to be sworn in, to have all the conversations, to talk to the prime minister, and effectively get on with the job of representing our people.”

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Mr Joyce will not officially be deputy prime minister until he is sworn in by governor-general David Hurley, who is currently out of town.

Mr McCormack only gave a brief comment as he returned to his office, simply saying “that’s democracy” and that it was a “privilege” to serve as leader.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese attacked the Liberal-National Coalition for focusing on themselves, rather than the welfare of the nation.

“This government had just two jobs this year. They had to roll out the vaccine, and they had to fix national quarantine,” Mr Albanese said at a hastily convened press conference. “Now instead of rolling out the vaccine to the Australian people, they just concentrated on rolling each other.

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“The rolling of Michael McCormack, a decent human being, by Barnaby Joyce, represents the sixth combination of prime minister and deputy prime minister under the eight long years of this government.

“I’ve seen governments be self-indulgent before and get punished. This is a government that is being self-indulgent at a time of the pandemic,” Mr Albanese said.

“The last time there was a spill was in the middle of the bushfire crisis. This time it’s in the middle of a pandemic.”

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd, himself the victim of a leadership spill, tweeted that the change in the National Party leadership was “beyond appalling”.

“What has Australia come to? Here we are with a rolling crisis in quarantine and vaccine supply, and we now end up with this wild-eyed, policy illiterate as Australia’s acting prime minister. For the national interest, this is beyond appalling,” Mr Rudd tweeted.

Former Liberal Party leader John Hewson also attacked the change in National Party leadership as “shameless irresponsibility”.

“A Nats leadership contest where choice is who will do most damage to our national interest, our international standing, and the future of our children for what they would hope is short-term political advantage at the next election. Shameless irresponsibility,” Mr Hewson tweeted.

What do you think about the leadership spill? Should the government be concentrating on the pandemic rather than making decisions designed to prepare for a federal election? What do you think of Barnaby Joyce? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Ben Hocking
Ben Hocking
Ben Hocking is a skilled writer and editor with interests and expertise in politics, government, Centrelink, finance, health, retirement income, superannuation, Wordle and sports.
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