So how does an MP who has not held a cabinet post, was not the Deputy Leader of his party and was not the best performed MP in his party, become not only Leader of his party – the Nationals – today, but also…wait for it you international readers… Deputy Prime Minister of Australia???Why did the National Party replace its Leader?
The National Party had to replace its Leader because, first, he wasn’t eligible to be an MP (he had been one for 10 years before this was discovered) and then, when he became eligible, he was shown to be a hypocrite, misuser of public funds, receiving undeclared benefits with conflicts of interest, having his salary paid by his local electorate when he was declared ineligible and sleeping with a staff member (who, for some reason, decided to have a baby instead of an abortion to keep it quiet). No doubt there’s more. Eventually it was too much for even his loyal supporters.
Why didn’t they choose their Deputy Leader?
Was it because she was a woman, because she was living in the city, not the country (which the Nationals represent), because she was a Senator and not in the Lower House, or because she wasn’t competent? Isn’t that the point of being deputy Leader? When the Leader goes, doesn‘t the Deputy step up? (Of course, this Deputy Leader was herself only elected because the last Deputy Leader was disqualified herself due to being a dual citizen also!
Why didn’t they choose any Cabinet Minister?
OK, they only had 5 to choose from, but at least one or two of them have some experience and might have been thought to be competent and were certainly more senior. Why didn’t these Cabinet Ministers run for Leader??
Why is this person without Cabinet experience and no leadership experience now, suddenly, Deputy Prime Minister???
And this is the really bad bit. This is because that’s the deal the current PM made with the National Party in order to gain their support for him to overthrow the last PM. But the PM (or anyone else) didn’t envisage this scenario. He assumed the then-Leader would stay as Leader. Neither imagined a ‘Plan B’ and, even if they did, the deal was so good for the Nationals, they wouldn’t want to change it. After all, they still have the Deputy PM position with someone with no Cabinet experience at all!
Why is this important?
Because it makes a farce of meritocracy, of good process. It makes a joke of our parliamentary processes, and of us as a country. Michael McCormack wouldn’t be in the first 20 government MPs to be chosen for PM on merit. There’s no way the people of Australia should have him as Deputy PM, until he has at least earned his stripes as a Minister and Leader of his party. Of course, it makes a mockery of the National Party too. How thin on the ground can they be when they won’t even elect any of their senior representatives to be their new leader?? Or is this disguised factionalism, like the Labour Party has, when jobs go to factions, not based on merit? Are jobs here going to people from the ‘right’ state or ‘right’ group?
This is of course just one more joke in our current parliamentary system. With many members already ruled ineligible from all parties because of dual citizenship and many others rumoured to be on thin ice, not to mention the ‘no sex between Ministers and their staff’ edict, MPs changing parties, parties changing names, it’s a chaotic situation that ridicules our country.
What should be done?
The leadership deal should be declared ‘off’, now Joyce has gone. No PM should ever agree again to grant Deputy PM status to an unknown person. By all means agree in a Coalition to give away the Deputy PM position but, once that person leaves, the deal should be renegotiated. Power balances change. Reputations change. A one-off deal should not be everlasting.
I hope McCormack is a good leader and a good MP, though I’m not a Nationals voter. We need all the good MPs we can get and we are desperately short of them now, in all parties. But there’s no way he should be Deputy PM.