O’Brien goes to ground after failed leadership spill
WIDE Bay MP Llew O'Brien was not taking phone calls this morning after National Party federal MPs backed party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, rejecting a challenge from Barnaby Joyce on the first day of Parliament for 2020.
Mr O'Brien, who appeared to support a fresh decision on party leadership, had announced he would call for a leadership spill in the party room this morning, a move which Mr McCormack survived.
Mr O'Brien could not be contacted for comment after the vote, but staff in his Wide Bay electorate office said his only comment was that he would not be making any.
"Mr O'Brien did not provide commentary in the lead-up to the party room meeting and will not be providing commentary afterwards," a statement from his office said.
Mr McCormack emerged victorious from the meeting just after 9.30am, saying he was looking forward to working with Mr Joyce and that he did not expect another challenge.
Mr McCormack congratulated Queensland-based David Littleproud, who was elected the new deputy leader, to replace Bridget McKenzie, who resigned from that position over the so-called Sports Rorts Affair.
"We've had way too much speculation about the leadership role, and it's time to put that to bed," he said.
"The fact is, I've shook hands with Barnaby, we're going to move on and we're going to work hard together. He and I, and the rest of the Nationals team, for regional Australians.
"I don't expect him to challenge again. I've been endorsed as the leader. I was endorsed last year. I was endorsed when he stood down. That's three times."
Mr McCormack said the National Party votes were never revealed, only the whip knows the result. Sources have briefed Sky News political editor Andrew Clennell that the vote was 11-10, even though it was a secret ballot so it's unclear how credible that number is.
Nationals frontbencher Darren Chester, who backs Mr McCormack as leader, told ABC he believed Mr McCormack had the numbers.
Mr Chester said he was "frustrated, disappointed and embarrassed" by the spill. "We were elected to fight for regional Australia, not to come to Canberra and fight with our 'mates'."