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Australian Deputy Prime Minister Survives Internal Revolt

Michael McCormack will keep his position as head of the Nationals, the junior partner in Australia’s governing coalition.

By Rod McGuirk for
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Survives Internal Revolt
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Bidgee

Australia’s deputy prime minister on Tuesday withstood a challenge to his leadership mounted by the man he replaced two years ago.

The Nationals party has not revealed the size of the margin that returned Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. The leadership was confirmed in a ballot of 21 Nationals lawmakers.

He had been challenged by Barnaby Joyce, who quit as Nationals leader in 2018 over a controversy surrounding a child he had with a former staffer and allegations that he had sexually harassed another woman.

Joyce had argued that McCormack had not advocated strongly enough for their rural constituents, many of whom are struggling against a protracted drought and devastating wildfires.

“It’s a great honor and a privilege to continue to serve as the leader of the National Party,” McCormack told reporters, referring to the Nationals by the party’s former name.

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“I look forward to … continuing to work with Barnaby Joyce,” he added.

The Nationals are the junior partner in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative coalition government.

Morrison, who came to power when his own Liberal Party ousted his predecessor in 2018, had said before the result was known that it would not undermine the government’s stability.

“That coalition has always provided very stable and very good government for this country,” Morrison told reporters. “That coalition is always strong.”

The Nationals meeting also elected government minister David Littleproud the new deputy leader of the party.

The former deputy leader, Bridget McKenzie, resigned from the Cabinet on Sunday for breaching ministerial rules by failing to declare she was a member of a gun club to which she gave a government grant of 36,000 Australian dollars ($24,100).

Both the party’s leader and deputy are entitled to Cabinet posts.

Resources Minister Matt Canavan resigned from the Cabinet on Monday to back Joyce in the leadership challenge.

McCormack suggested Canavan won’t be brought back when Morrison announces a new ministerial lineup.

“Matt Canavan has resigned as resources minister. I wish him the best,” McCormack said.

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While prime ministers are toppled frequently in Australia, challenges to the Nationals’ leadership are rare. The Nationals have only ousted their leader once, in 1989.

By Rod McGuirk For The Associated Press.