The former deputy prime minister is annoyed that none of his own supporters were elevated to the ministry in the wake of his failed attempt to overthrow Nationals leader Michael McCormack on Tuesday.
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One of those supporters, Matt Canavan, resigned from his role as resources minister on Monday night to publicly back Mr Joyce for the leadership, saying the party needed “a bulldog” and “a fighter”.
After the vote, Mr McCormack declined to reinstate him on the frontbench, instead promoting Queensland MP Keith Pitt.
“Matt Canavan has resigned as resources minister. I wish him the best,” the Deputy Prime Minister said when asked about Mr Canavan’s fate.
The ministry reshuffle also followed the resignation of Bridget McKenzie, who was mired in the sport rorts scandal.
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There were promotions for Darren Chester, Andrew Gee, Kevin Hogan and new Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud.
“These new portfolio positions represent experience. They represent new talent,” Mr McCormack said.
The Australian reports Mr Joyce spoke to Mr Morrison around noon yesterday, telling him promoting only Mr McCormack’s loyalists was “not smart” and had put the government in a “precarious position”.
Mr Joyce said his supporters were “very aware” they held the balance of power.
“It is fair enough to say that Mr McCormack’s ministers are those who voted for him. That is, I believe, unhelpful,” he told The New Daily.
It is understood there are at least three MPs in the rebel group — Mr Joyce himself, Llew O’Brien and George Christensen.
The government has a majority of two votes in the House of Representatives, so those three MPs are capable of defeating its motions and legislation on the floor, should they choose to vote with Labor and the crossbench.
After losing Tuesday’s vote to Mr McCormack, Mr Joyce congratulated his opponent and said the leadership issue was “finalised”.
“I support the vote of the room and will strive for the re-election of a Morrison-McCormack government, as this is definitely the better outcome for Australia and especially for regional people,” he said.
Mr Littleproud was perhaps a little more blunt, saying “the shenanigans are over”.
But the National Party’s internal tensions continue.
“This is about revenge,” Insiders host David Speers told News Breakfast this morning.
“This is Barnaby Joyce saying, look, Michael McCormack, sure he won the leadership, but he didn’t promote any of my backers, so we might now vote down government legislation.”
Host Michael Rowland asked how likely it was that Mr Joyce would try to take the leadership again.
“You’d have to say pretty likely,” Speers replied.
“The guy looks bent on destruction right now. And I think if we see any sort of wrong step or stuff-up from Michael McCormack, if we see the polls go down, if we see perhaps a bad result in the Queensland eleciton, then Barnaby Joyce will, you would expect, take the opportunity to have another go.”
“This is about revenge … the guy looks bent on destruction right now.”@David_Speers on reports some Nationals MPs could vote against Government legislation, and whether Barnaby Joyce could again challenge Nats Leader Michael McCormack #auspol pic.twitter.com/PXEcv7vOyL
— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) February 6, 2020
In an opinion piece today, Mr Joyce has hit back at an idea from Victorian MP Anne Webster which would make challenging the leader more difficult.
Ms Webster has proposed the introduction of a new rule which would require two thirds of the party room to support a leadership spill before one could occur. At the moment, only two MPs are required – one to move the spill motion and another to second it.
On Tuesday, Mr O’Brien moved the motion and it was seconded by David Gillespie.
“I am against it because its purpose is to curtail access to a vote, which is obviously a removal of a democratic attribute of our party. This has come out of left field,” Mr Joyce wrote.
“The detractors will call it self-interest and I suppose I have to live with that, though it is a shallow analysis and I believe a myopic one.”
Mr Joyce brought up the autocratic governments of Russia and China to support his argument.
“Centralised, unquestioned power by its nature builds a superstructure of internal caveats and policing of the liberties of its citizens. Its greatest fear, fired by paranoia, masked in arrogance, is its own people,” he said.
“Democracy is not removed in a fell swoop but adulterated in gradation.
“Parties that change the threshold of a successful vote or chance the threshold for access to the test for a vote on the false premise of cohesion are merely disenfranchising people with the same excuse as is always used. It works better for Russia when Vladimir Putin does not have an election.”
He finished the article by insisting he accepted the outcome of the leadership vote.
“I lost and I respect the process and accept the outcome, as that is democracy. It was not a reason for an attack on the most seminal aspect of the party, proud of the fact it stands alone in the parliament of Australia as the most democratic,” he said.
Those words notwithstanding, there have been signs this week that Mr Joyce’s supporters are trying to lay the groundwork for another challenge.
In the hours after the vote, they told reporters the margin of Mr Joyce’s defeat had been just a single vote, 11-10. Mr McCormack’s supporters claimed 15-6 was more accurate.
Mr Joyce waded into that debate himself yesterday afternoon.
“I believe that we were within one vote, possibly two. But you lose. That’s how it is. There’s a spill, you stand, you lose, that’s it, move on,” he said.