The Nationals count on to be provided an further Cabinet position in the Turnbull Government following Ian Macfarlane’s choice to join the party.
- Nationals expect additional group member will alter shape of frontbench
- Warren Truss says he desires Coalition agreement “to be honoured”
- Ian Macfarlane says defection is “enormous vote of confidence in Malcolm Turnbull”
The veteran Liberal MP and Member for Groom created the shock announcement yesterday, explaining he was “keen to ensure that regional Queensland and regional Australia continues to be well represented”.
Whilst Mr Macfarlane’s selection will have no influence on the Coalition’s numbers in the Home of Representatives, Nationals MPs have told the ABC, they count on it would change the makeup of the frontbench.
Victorian Nationals MP and Assistant Defence Minister Darren Chester said he hoped an additional “regional voice” would be added to the Ministry “in the close to future”.
“The numbers would indicate that the Nationals can count on further Ministerial representation in the future,” he told the ABC.
“As [former] prime minister [John] Howard after said ‘politics is remorselessly governed by the laws of arithmetic'”.
It puts the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a difficult position because he only reshuffled the frontbench in September and would have to demote a Minister to make way for another Nationals MP.
The Nationals presently hold seven frontbench positions, which includes three in Cabinet.
When asked about the possibility of becoming provided yet another Cabinet position yesterday, the Nationals leader Warren Truss noted the Coalition agreement amongst the Liberal and National parties.
“If there were to be extra members, as a part of our group, that definitely strengthens our entitlements in relation to the ministry and naturally we would count on these elements of the agreement to be honoured,” he stated.
Defection a ‘huge vote of confidence’ in Turnbull
While he would not be drawn on his leadership ambitions inside the National Party, Mr Macfarlane stated he would place himself forward “on the basis of merit” for a possible future ministerial vacancy, and that his “depth of knowledge is second only to Warren Truss”.
It’s actually a large vote of self-confidence in Malcolm Turnbull, simply because the option was to leave Parliament. I want to serve beneath Warren Truss and Malcolm Turnbull
Mr Macfarlane acknowledged he was disappointed to be dumped as business minister by Mr Turnbull but stated his move did not indicate a rift with the Prime Minister.
“I am a huge fan of Malcolm’s, we’ve worked together for a quite lengthy time and no-one was much more delighted than me to see him grow to be Prime Minister,” he mentioned.
“It really is in fact a huge vote of self-assurance in Malcolm Turnbull, since the alternative was to leave Parliament.
“I want to serve below Warren Truss and Malcolm Turnbull.”
There is speculation another Queensland Liberal-National MP, Scott Buccholz, is also contemplating switching to the National Party, though Mr Truss said he had not discussed the idea with him.
“If he was to seek to come into the party area I am certain that he would also be welcome but that is entirely a matter for him and it would also be a matter for him to go over with his Federal divisional council,” he mentioned.
Mr Chester stated he could not confirm the rumour either but warned the National Celebration should not be underestimated.
“He’s a talented member of Parliament and has a fantastic deal to provide … and he’s got some strong relationships within the National Party with his involvement with Barnaby Joyce as his former chief of staff,” he said.
“Many individuals have written the National Party off in the previous but in the final seven years we’ve grown from 15 to 21 members and senators.”
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