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  • John McDonnell

Nationals re-Joyced – McCormack ousted by Barnaby

United no more - ousted Nationals leader Michael McCormack

It was not a ruthless well-planned coup executed by a group of ruthless conspirators, rather it was the result of a consensus that developed over the last week that Michael McCormack was not up to the job.

Over the weekend, senior nationals were talking about needing a new leader. Mickmack - as he is known in the Canberra bubble - had had a very ordinary week as acting prime minister. His political messaging was no better than sludge. His answers in the house constantly fell foul of the speaker and he lacked cut-through.

Michael McCormack is a nice man but he is not a retail politician and what the Nationals need in the Hunter and Queensland is a leader who is a retail politician with a feel for the bush.

This explains why, over the weekend, Barnaby Joyce’s supporters were saying that they didn’t think there would be a spill. They were not convinced that senior Nationals like David Littleproud and Keith Pitt would support a change of leadership when push came to shove.

This led to a strategic mistake when the spill motion came around. Michael McCormack said that he would not go willingly and that he would have to be blasted out. He made it clear that he would stand in any election contest, which caused Littleproud and Pitt to say they would not run against McCormack.

When Matt Canavan and David Gillespie eventually moved the spill motion in the party room on Monday morning, it was successful with strong party support. Unlike Malcolm Turnbull, when he was ousted, Mr McCormack decided to contest the leadership. This meant that the party room was denied the opportunity to vote for David Littleproud as an alternative to Mr Joyce.

There is no doubt that Scott Morrison would have preferred Littleproud as his deputy prime minister. He has the advantage of being a Queenslander and would have been able to shoulder some of the load for the next election. He is also generally respected because of his role as emergency services minister and his involvement in bushfire and flood relief.

Some commentators have suggested that the rise of Barnaby Joyce to National’s leadership will change the dynamic within the government with regard to climate change.

The argument is that Mr Joyce will harden up the National’s opposition to the 'zero emissions by 2050' target. There will also be a strong push for more fossil fuel powered energy. The conclusion is that this will inhibit the prime minister’s ability to make a Zero 2050 commitment at the Glasgow climate talks.

There is a way through this impasse.

Scott Morrison could agree to include carbon capture and storage in the technology road map and commit to employing them to meet the zero-emission target. The government could also commit to share the technology with purchasers of Australian coal including China and India.

This would mean that Australia could continue to use coal-fired and gas-fired power and carry on exporting fossil fuels. Relations between the coalition partners are governed by an agreement. How this turns out remains to be seen.


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