Parkes MP Mark Coulton has thrown his support behind Riverina MP Michael McCormack to be the next leader of the Nationals after Deputy Premier Barnaby Joyce announced his resignation on Friday.
The embattled New England MP will officially resign as leader at a party room meeting on Monday, following weeks of unprecedented political pressure. He will remain in Parliament but move to the back bench.
Mr Coulton said McCormack – the Veteran’s Affairs Minister and a former country journalist – was the man for the job.
“I have known Michael for a long time and I believe he’s the person we need at this point,” he said.
“He’s a very strong person and a hard worker … a very strong personality and well-regarded amongst colleagues but has also done a good job in various roles over the years.
@MarkCoultonMP backing @M_McCormackMP to replace @Barnaby_Joyce as #Nationals leader: "We have a good history of strong leaders. Barnaby was one of them and if Michael happens to get up, he'll be the same." Full story to follow via @dailyliberal#auspol#auspolbarnaby#barnabye— Jennifer Hoar (@JenniferHoar) February 23, 2018
“Barnaby had been a very successful advocate for regional Australia but part of being the Nationals, we’re not just relying on one person to do things for us. We work as a team.
“We have a history of strong leaders. Barnaby was one of them and if Michael gets up, he’ll be the same.”
Mr Joyce has been under intense scrutiny after it was revealed he had an extra-marital affair with then media adviser, now partner, Vikki Campion. The couple are expecting a baby in April.
Since then he has faced questions around his use of a free apartment and whether he breached ministerial standards when Ms Campion took up a job in the office of Resources Minister Matt Canavan, and then Nationals whip Damian Drum.
On Friday, Mr Joyce said he owed it to the people of regional Australia to “clear the air”, after weeks of “leaking” and “back-grounding” he said would be enough to “destroy any government”.
Mr Coulton said Mr Joyce – “a very good friend of mine” – had made the right decision.
“The situation was untenable with all the issues hanging over him … hopefully his life will get back on track without such strong scrutiny from the public and the press,” Mr Coulton said.
“Hopefully he’ll get those [issues] sorted and out and he’ll stay in Parliament. He’s a very rare talent.
“We need to make the transition to the new leader as smooth as possible, so we can get our message back out there.”