Australia’s Nationals Party Confirms Its Leader After Win at Federal Election

By AAP
May 23, 2019 Updated: May 23, 2019

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has been confirmed as Nationals leader after the coalition’s stunning election victory.

At a partyroom meeting in Canberra on Thursday, McCormack and his deputy Bridget McKenzie were unanimously re-elected.

The government’s upset win on Saturday erased any lingering leadership tensions, with Barnaby Joyce’s hopes of returning in tatters.

The Nationals maintained 16 seats in the lower house and are on track to have five senators, with Tasmanian Steve Martin likely to lose his seat.

“When all the polls, when all the pundits, when so many in the media and the trolls, and all the lefties, and all those on Twitter said we would never do it, well we proved them wrong,” McCormack said on Thursday.

He said the Nationals were a different party to the Liberals, but in coalition they could deliver for regional Australia.

“We have helped the Liberals to again form government. They couldn’t do it without us,” the Nationals leader said.

“They know how important we are, but I need to place a vote of thanks to our Prime Minister Scott Morrison.”

McCormack welcomed lower house MPs Pat Conaghan and Anne Webster, along with the party’s new-look Senate team.

Queensland businesswoman Susan McDonald will sit with the Nationals, as will NT vet Sam McMahon, while Perin Davey looks likely to win a seat in NSW.

The junior coalition partner’s cabinet representation is likely to drop from five ministers to four, with positions carved up based on overall numbers in the two party rooms.

Nationals federal director Larry Anthony wants Senator McKenzie to get a promotion, noting trade is a portfolio the party has held in the past.

“She needs a serious portfolio because she’s a great communicator and she’s a key person in the next government,” he told Sky News on Thursday.

He’s expecting the Nationals to have four cabinet ministers, two outer ministries and three more junior frontbench roles.

Anthony said dumping Malcolm Turnbull was ultimately a good decision, with voters warming to Morrison during the election campaign and swinging towards the LNP in many parts of Queensland.

“The change absolutely helped,” he said.

Joyce has ruled out a tilt at the leadership despite raising the prospect before the election, which was widely expected to be lost by the coalition.

“That’s not going to happen because they’ve just won the election,” Joyce told the Tamworth-based Northern Daily Leader.

“If they hadn’t won, it would be a completely different story—just like what is happening in Labor at the moment.”

He’s also not expecting to return to the frontbench.

The Nationals will have a record number of women in its parliamentary team, tripling female representation to six.

RECOMMENDED