SYDNEY—Michael McCormack was on Monday elected Australia’s new deputy prime minister after being selected as the leader of the country’s National Party, the junior partner in the country’s coalition government.
McCormack replaces former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce who was forced to resign last week after media reported on his extramarital affair with a former press secretary with whom he is now expecting a child.
The leader of the National Party automatically becomes deputy prime minister under the terms of the coalition agreement with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal party.
“I will honour the faith and trust and responsibility by always doing my best,” McCormack told reporters in Canberra.
Congratulations @M_McCormackMP, the new Federal Leader of @The_Nationals and incoming Deputy Prime Minister. Look forward to working on our agenda for regional Australia, like building dams, phone towers and the iconic inland rail ???? #auspol pic.twitter.com/r8TmP4TqkH
— Senator McKenzie (@senbmckenzie) February 25, 2018
The appointment of McCormack will ease pressure on the government that was left reeling after revelations of Joyce’s affair, a scandal that threatened to fracture the government.
Turnbull called Joyce’s affair a “shocking error of judgment”, to which Joyce responded by calling Turnbull “inept”.
Turnbull released a statement welcoming McCormack to his new appointment on the bench, “I’m delighted to welcome the appointment of Michael McCormack as the new leader of the National party and deputy prime minister.
“Michael McCormack is a strong advocate for rural Australia. He will continue his party’s long tradition of standing up for farmers and all those living in regional Australia.
“The Liberal party has been in Coalition with the Nationals for more than 70 years and our enduring and successful political partnership will continue under Michael’s leadership of the National party.
“I congratulate Michael McCormack on his appointment and I look forward to working closely with him and the entire Coalition team in the interests of all Australians,” the statement reads.
Although offering some respite to Turnbull, McCormack is little known around the country, so it remains to be seen if the National Party reshuffle will impact the coalition government’s re-election prospects.
Turnbull must head back to the polls by May 2019.
By Colin Packham
Additional reporting by Melanie Sun