Barnaby Joyce has been returned to his former position as leader of the Nationals and deputy prime minister after defeating Michael McCormack in a leadership spill.
Joyce resigned from his position as leader of the Nationals party in 2018, but has now won back the job in what has been described as a very close contest this morning.
The ABC revealed that Queensland Senator Matt Canavan moved the spill motion to bring on the leadership vote during a party room meeting this morning.
According to the ABC, the breaking news has been confirmed by sources, despite Joyce telling Sunrise just hours earlier that there would not be a spill.
Joyce appeared on Sunrise on Monday morning, denying rumours of a prospective leadership challenge. He said McCormack was doing “the best job he can”.
“He is a good bloke and has been working as hard as he can,” he said. “The issue is in the next election and this is for the National Party and the coalition in general, it’s going to be one in three places, the Hunter Valley where Joel is, Central Queensland and in and around Darwin.
“That’s it and we have got to make sure and what Michael has to make sure is that we are clearly identifiable in our policy structure in such a way that we can win it not just for the Nationals but for the coalition.”
Joyce was formally the deputy prime minister under Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, and will now be stepping back into the role three years after his resignation in February 2018, following a series of controversies.
His resignation from the role came after the fallout from the end of his marriage and his affair with former advisor Vikki Campion. At the time, the Herald Sun published a story revealing that Campion was pregnant, just months after the deputy PM announced his marriage with his wife of 25 years, Natalie Joyce, was over.
At the same time, the former deputy prime minister faced a sexual harassment allegation, which he said ultimately led to his decision to step down from the role, stating, “It’s quite evident that you can’t go to the dispatch box with issues like that surrounding you,” he said.
At the time Joyce said the claim was “spurious and defamatory” and revealed he had asked for it to be referred to the police. Despite a six-month investigation by the National party into the allegations, no conclusion was ever reached.
News of Joyce’s reinstatement as deputy prime minister follows a period of growing dissatisfaction with McCormack’s leadership, despite Joyce being unsuccessful in a similar challenge against McCormack in February last year.
Of the 21 people in the National Party room on Monday – 16 members in the House of Representatives and five senators – Joyce secured at least 11 votes, although it is still unclear who those votes came from.
Michael McCormack addressed the media following being dumped as the Nationals leader, saying he will take some time to consider whether or not he will stand at the next election.
“I’ve worked well with Scott Morrison, to ensure that we’ve had a good and stable government in such challenging times, times that no one could have imagined,” he said. “It’s been bushfires, there’s been cyclones, storms, floods, and of course, Covid-19, and all through it, we have been a good and responsible government.
“I’ve been there to serve alongside Scott Morrison. In that time and I regard him as a friend, as a true leader of our nation, and I will go on supporting the coalition government, the Liberals and Nationals, to continue to serve this nation. We’ve been a good government since 2013. We have delivered for Australians. I’m so humbled.
“I’m just a boy from my era, when I was born in 1964, in Marrar, probably a village of just a few more than 100 people, that’s all. To think that a country with a village of more than 100 people can have somebody from that village serve them as the deputy prime minister shows what a great country this is.”
When asked if he had a message to his National party colleagues, McCormack said: “For the sake of good governance, good governance for the people of Australia, if you are going to say something have the guts and the gumption to put your name to it, don’t go backgrounding against colleagues, it’s not good for the government.
“It’s not good for democracy, if you’re going to say something put your name to it. You know I have always done that.”
Joyce spoke to the media briefly before question time, saying, “If I thought it was going to happen, I would have brought my hat”.
“I’d like to say to my colleagues how humbled I am that the task going have first and foremost is to make ourselves a team that is formidable for the next election,” he said. “No one person makes a decision, it’s a democratic decision, and nothing is a certainty and you don’t have the minds of other people.
“And I’m sure that’s a question that you’re going to be asking about the circumstances that gave rise to this. But that is really secondary.
“The most important thing is this is about, first and foremost, the people of Australia, the people of regional Australia and to be brought about by that wonderful team, the Nationals.
“Before I hand over, I would like to sincerely thank Michael McCormack and I believe that Michael has conducted himself right to the press conference he just had with dignity and that is something that is a very admirable trait.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has welcomed Barnaby Joyce to the role of leader of the Nationals and soon to be deputy prime minister and thanked Michael McCormack for his dedicated service.