Former deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce working up a sweat at Parliament House. Picture: Kym Smith
Former deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce working up a sweat at Parliament House. Picture: Kym Smith

Barnaby Joyce may not be the last to go

WHEN new political leaders take over, they reward and surround themselves with those who connived, plotted and got their hands dirty on their behalf.

Today, new Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack plans to reveal whether he will make minor changes or reward supporters with new highly paid jobs. He has requested a special meeting this morning.

In the lead-up to this meeting, some Nationals are demanding McCormack not demote Resources Minister Matt Canavan and potential challenger, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.

Both are in Cabinet. Both supported Barnaby Joyce. Both are strong, proud Queenslanders who live in regional areas.

McCormack, a NSW MP, is refusing to provide guarantees to anyone who asks him not to demote Canavan or Littleproud. Some Nationals are speculating McCormack wants to determine whether Budget estimates reveals Canavan was complicit in finding a job for Joyce's mistress before making his decision.

But it could also mean that he is playing his cards close to his chest, hasn't made up his mind or will not reveal the blow until today.

Darren Chester and Keith Pitt have both been in the ministry before and were controversially dumped last year by Barnaby Joyce.

Matt Canavan looks on yesterday as new Nationals leader Michael McCormack addresses the media. Picture: Kym Smith
Matt Canavan looks on yesterday as new Nationals leader Michael McCormack addresses the media. Picture: Kym Smith

Chester got the axe for two reasons - firstly he is a Victorian. Victoria has four National and Queensland has eight Nationals parliamentarians. Joyce did not believe it was feasible for Victoria to hold so many senior positions when Bridget McKenzie become Deputy Leader.

And even though Chester is a charming MP, he was ineffective in Cabinet - even Liberals say this.

Insiders say Pitt, the Queensland Member for Hinkler, lost his position because of his "negativity". To be fair, he is a good MP fighting for his electorate.

Swapping Canavan or Littleproud for Chester or Pitt - or both - is not a like-for-like proposition.

It could mean Queensland will not have a Cabinet Minister north of Bundaberg.

Canavan is a conviction politician. You might not always agree with him, especially on his views on social policy, but he says and does what he really thinks.

He fights for Queensland jobs, including coal, which for some silly reason has become as politically poisonous in some circles as the tobacco industry.

If Queensland gets closer to getting a new-generation coal-fired generation for North Queensland, it will be because of Canavan.

Littleproud, who backed-off from challenging McCormack for the leadership on Monday, has only been in Cabinet for a couple of months but Malcolm Turnbull is impressed.

McCormack has a choice to make: Be a strong leader who really tries to unite the Nationals and the Coalition, or spark a media storm and thrust the Nationals back on to the front page for the wrong reasons once again.



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