NATIONAL PARTY ELECTED PARLIMENTARIANS
The National Party currently have 22 members of Government, only 2 of which are women. There are 16 National Members of Parliament, one is a woman. Michelle Landry holds the seat of Capricornia in Queensland with a paper thin 2PP margin of 0.6 percent.
There are six Nationals Senators - one is a woman -Bridget Mackenzie in Victoria. On the positive side of the ledger, Barry O’Sullivan lost his Queensland Senate ticket pre-selection to Susan McDonald for the next election.
Nationals Members of Parliament (16)
Michael McCormack Riverina NSW - Party Leader, Deputy PM
Andrew Gee Calare NSW
David Gillespie Lyne NSW
Luke Hartsuyker Cowper NSW - Retiring
Mark Coulton Parkes NSW
Barnaby Joyce New England NSW
Kevin Hogan Page NSW
Darren Chester Gippsland VIC
Andrew Broad Mallee VIC -Retiring
Damien Drum Nicholls VIC
Michelle Landry [LNP] Capricornia QLD
Ken 0'Dowd [LNP] Flynn QLD
George Christensen [LNP] Dawson QLD
Llew O'Brian [LNP] Wide Bay QLD
Keith Pitt [LNP] Hinkler QLD
David Littleproud [LNP] Maranoa QLD
Nationals Senators (6)
Senator Bridget McKenzie VIC
Senator Matthew Canavan QLD
Senator Steve Martin## TAS
Senator Barry O’Sullivan [lost pre-selection] QLD
Senator John Williams NSW
Senator Nigel Scullion (Country Liberal Party) NT
## Steve Martin was not elected to the Senate in 2016. This Tasmanian seat was won by the Jacqui Lamby Network. Ms Lamby was forced to resign for citizenshiip reasons. Martin was second on the JLN ticket and was therefore approved by the High Court to replace her. When Lamby became qualified to take back her seat Martin refused to stand aside so as to create a casual Senate vacancy to which Lambie could be appointed. She expelled him from the party for disloyalt. Martin then joined the National Party. Ms Lamby is very popular across the north of Tasmania and will re-contest the Senate in 2019 - she is expected to win again.
20 NATIONALS will stand for re-election in 2019.
Senators Bridget McKenzie VIC and Matt Cavavan QLD will not have to stand for re-election in 2019 because they will have 3 years of their six year Senate terms in hand.
ISSUES WITH WOMEN ?
Sexual Harrassment Complaint
The Country Women's Association [CWA] warned against using women as political pawns and for more respectful debate in federal politics. Rural leaders were shocked when the identity of a woman who made a sexual harassment complained against Barnaby Joyce was revealed publicly. Mr Joyce's office labelled the complaint spurious and defamatory.
Many rural leaders expressed disappointment at the handling of a sexual harassment and misconduct complaint made by prominent WA agricultural figure Catherine Marriott against former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce. Against Ms Marriott's wishes, her identity was made public.
"What we want to make sure is that things are handled respectfully, confidentially and in a way that women feel safe, so that other women will come forward," Ms Coombe said.
Following his published affair with a now pregnant staffer, this complaint was the last straw in his decision to resign from the leadership of the National Party and the Government front benches.
CASH FOR COMMENTS
In response to Labor Party criticism of Barnaby Joyce, Cabinet minister and former minister for women Michaela Cash Michaelia Cash threatened to, "name every young woman in Mr Shorten's office over which rumours in this place abound". When Senator Cash was challenged, she initially offered only the most qualified withdrawal:
"If anyone has been offended by my remarks, I withdraw". It wasn't until later that she withdrew her comments "unreservedly". There was no apology to the women implicated.
Ms Coombes from the CWA said of the Cash comments-
"We don't want assertions on people that are unfounded, which raise negativity, which demean women across the board. We want people to feel the freedom to come forward themselves if they've got concerns and issues — not to be speculative or to be political pawns."
National Farmers Federation’s Fiona Simson was among women in the sector speaking in support of Catherine Marriott and raise concerns that the breach of confidentiality in her case would discourage other women from speaking out against harassment or other inappropriate behaviours by men in politics.
Ms Marriott noted some women would now fear losing their jobs or being subject to attacks from the public if their complaints were leaked to the media.
"Am I going to be trolled if it's on social media? Am I going to be outed in the workplace? Am I going to lose my job, am I going to be able to progress on the career path that I'm on?"
Pre- selection in Cowper
In late October 2018, Luke Hartsuker announced he would be retiring from the National held seat of Cowper. Luke Hartsuyker said government should heed the lessons from Wentworth byelection result, particularly to focus on the electors instead of “talking about ourselves”.
Wentworth was won by Independent Dr. Kerry Phelps in the safest Liberal held seat New South Wales after former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull lost a Liberal Party leadership spill and retired. Mr Hartsuker would not be drawn on who should be his replacement to contest Cowper at the next federal election
"The preselection process is very democratic and the preselectors, rightly, guard their right to select the next candidate,"
On November 4th, solicitor Patrick Conaghan won pre-selection for the seat in a three-way male dominated contest. Former Independent for Cowper Rod Oakshott was yet to announce if he will recontest the seat. The Nationals passed up an opportunity to increase their female MP ranks here.
Forced Pre-Selection in Mallee following another ‘sex scandal’.
On December 17th 2018, the Christian family values MP for Mallee, Andrew Broad, who had demanded Barnaby Joyce resign as National Party leader over his ‘sex scandal affair’ with a staffer, was forced to resign after New Idea published allegations Mr Broad used a dating website to meet younger women while he was away on work trips.
The election implications of this drama, especially in Victoria, may be profound.
This scandal comes on the back of Malcolm Turnbull being dumped at Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce resigning as party leader for his ‘sex scandal issues’ and Victorian MP Julia Banks resigning the Liberal Party over the poor treatment of women.
The 2PP margin in critical Coalition seats must have taken a ‘fall’ with Mr Broad in the minds of both female and Christian voters.
Women’s Issues in the National Party
Asked whether the circumstances around Mr Broad's resignation were evidence the Coalition had a problem with its treatment of women, Mr McCormack pointed to the fact that both of women in the 22 parliamentary National Party were ministers.
"No, it's not … both the women in my party — Bridget McKenzie, my deputy leader, and Michelle Landry — are ministers. And certainly the women's council of the National Party at a federal and at a state level are doing a fantastic job to encourage more women to put their hands up for office."
National Party federal president Larry Anthony said he wanted to see a woman run in Mr Broad's seat at the next election. Mr Broad's resignation came just weeks after the Nationals lost the Victorian state seat of Mildura, which sits within Mallee, to Independent Ali Cupper.
The Nationals held the seat by more than 20 per cent. Ms Cupper said often the suggestion was that people should back the Nationals' candidate because he
"was a good bloke. People are starting to question that definitely, it's difficult to maintain this image of being good country honourable blokes when you look at this sort of conduct and question whether this is what good blokes do and say and think in a modern regional community,'' Ms Cupper told the ABC.
The unexpected and sudden demise of Andrew Broad's political career because of a sex scandal has left the federal National Party without an obvious replacement and increasingly worried it is at risk of losing the safe seat in its heartland.
Senior figures within the party declared they would support Senator McKenzie, a cabinet minister who has represented Victoria in the Senate since 2011, if she runs in the seat.
When directly asked if she would nominate for pre-selection, Senator McKenzie would not be drawn, insisting it was be a matter for party's members in Mallee.
"I'm [a] senator for the great state of Victoria and am loving that role, I'm very, very glad to be the senator for Victoria until 2021."
On January 2nd 2019, a spokesperson for Senator Bridget McKenzie confirmed she had ruled out contesting the seat of Mallee in the upcoming federal election, but has not closed the door on a lower house campaign. A spokesperson from her office confirmed she would not nominate for preselection in the regional seat.
However, the deputy Nationals leader was still “giving due consideration” to running as a candidate for the seat of Indi against independent Cathy McGowan.
Source: William Vallely, Senator Bridget McKenzie rules out running for Mallee, keeps options open for Indi Bendigo Advertiser. January 2 2019. https://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/5833895/bridget-mckenzie-rules-out-running-for-mallee/
On the Brand scandal, The Australian cited Ms McKenzie blasting Mr Brand’s behaviour as “deeply concerning and not representative of my party”.
Nationals Party leader Michael McCormack’s had taken a leaf out of Barnaby Joyce political play book by stacking the ministry with Senators who are ineligible to challenge for the leadership position in the Party.
Transferring from a senate position to the MP for Mallee would have put Ms Mackenzie in a position to challenge for the National Party leadership after the 2019 Federal election.
Publicly, Michael McCormack said it was a matter for pre-selectors to decide the next candidate for Mallee but that he would welcome a female being pre-selected. "If Bridget decides that she's going to have a go at contesting Mallee, then she will have my full support," he said.
Others within the Victorian ranks of the Party without leadership aspirations had deep-seated fears about selecting Senator McKenzie, rather than someone who lives in the electorate.
Political reporter Brett Worthington reported the following canvassed views on December 20th
- A National Party figure said it would be "absolutely foolish and disrespectful to the electorate" to parachute someone into Mallee and hoped a local woman would be chosen.
- A National MP feared the response to Mr Broad's indiscretions would have "huge reputational damage" and were a "terrible look" for the party.
- Party members largely agree a woman should be pre-selected — a move that would offer a stark contrast to Mr Broad. and
- "I'd be wary of wasting a good candidate in that seat if I were them. Word on the street is [the Nationals Party] won't hold regardless."
At the beginning of the election year, six National Party member had put their hands up for pre selection in Mallee. Two of them were women.
A Liberal Challenge ?
Sky News presenter Peta Credlin was born in the electorate and has been touted as a possible Liberal Party candidate. When asked about potentially running in the seat for the Liberal Party, she failed to rule it out.
The Liberal Party last ran a candidate in Mallee in 2013, when Mr Broad was first elected.
A field of independents will contest the seat.
Mallee is almost three times the size of Indi which was won by an Independent. This makes it harder for an independent if they do not have a high profile already. There are three major cities within Mallee — Mildura, Horsham and Swan Hill — which sit about three hours apart and have very different community profiles and media landscapes.
An independent toppled a long-serving state National MP in Mildura in the 2018 state election. The other two state seats that sit within Mallee — Lowan and Murray Plains — both featured swings towards incumbent National MPs. Nominations for National Party pre-selection opened on December 21 and closed on January 4th, with the candidate determined on January 19th.
The Barry O’Sullivan saga.
In May 2018, Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan asked during a Senate Estimates hearing if he would be able to use the ‘ladies’ loo’ if he declared himself a woman. However he did not go so far as to declare a change of gender.
In August, O'Sullivan rejected suggestions he is in breach of the constitution, after questions were raised over his eligibility to sit in the Senate because of his citizenship status but his business interests.
It emerged Senator O'Sullivan had a stake in a family construction company, the Newlands Group, which has been awarded $25 million worth of contracts for a Queensland infrastructure project that is 80 per cent funded by the Commonwealth government. Senator O'Sullivan was not referred to the High Court. His office was “confident that he would survive any legal challenge”.
Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester said he did not believe Senator O'Sullivan was in a "great deal of trouble", but there was an "issue that he needs to explain in terms of section 44.""I'm sure he has fulfilled his requirements there as he is expected to do," he told Sky News.
Section 44 forbids MPs from holding an "office of profit under the Crown" through "any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth". His office was confident that because the contract is with the Queensland government rather than the Commonwealth, it is not in breach of section 44.
Constitutional law expert George Williams said the key question is whether there is a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in an agreement with the public service of the Commonwealth.
In November 2018, the representation of women in the Australian Senate suddenly increased after the surprise declaration (and stunt) by Senator Barry O’Sullivan that he is now a woman. O’Sullivan made the declaration because he believes women are not “attacked” for their stance on abortion.
“I am going to declare my gender today, to be a woman, and then you’ll no longer be able to attack me,” he said.
Later in November, O’Sullivan made a crude sexist joke about Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young in the Senate while criticising her failure to attend committee hearings which garnered much media attention.
“She didn’t turn up. There’s a bit of Nick Xenophon in her, and I don’t mean that to be a double reference, but there’s a bit of Xenophon in her,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
In response Greens leader Richard Di Natale described O’Sullivan as a "pig" who frequently resorted to "sexist filth" in the Senate.
It was not long after the ‘sexist filth’ scandal that O’Sullivan lost his preselection following an uprising by regional women and young LNP members who wanted him booted from Parliament.
It would further undermine the already shaky ‘stability’ of his Government if O’Sullivan was either dis-endorsed or resigned from the LNP. Neither the Prime Minister or Nationals leader took any action against Mr O’Sullivan.
December news reports indicated a National’s staffer had sent sexually charged text messages to a female journalist before the events of National MP Andrew Broad’s ‘sex scandal’ exposure.
Again, regional women and young LNP members demanded a dismissal.
Initially Nationals leader McCormack would not be publicly drawn on the matter, arguing it was a “private family matter” and again displaying what some Nationals and members of the Party had previously labelled ‘weak leadership’ on the issue of women.
The Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister Scott Morrison avoided questions about the question of whether Mr Brand should be sacked and sent to the back bench. To do so would further undermine ‘stable government’.
David Littleproud Pre-selection ‘delay’.
Mr Littleproud sits in the federal National party room and holds the safest government seat in Queensland — the sprawling electorate of Maranoa — with a margin of more than 17 per cent. He has been touted as a future leader of the federal National Party, with some in the party keen for him to replace incumbent Michael McCormack after the next federal election.
The political future of the rising star within the National Party was in limbo when party officials delayed the endorsement of his pre-selection for the upcoming election. Littleproud received unanimous pre-selection support among local branch members in August, 2018.
LNP officials in Brisbane held a state executive meeting in Bundaberg November 2018 and released a list of MPs they had endorsed to recontest their seats. Mr Littleproud was not on the list. While some in the party said it was a procedural matter, others said Mr Littleproud was out of favour with senior party officials.
- LNP Party members accused Mr Littleproud of helping moderate Susan McDonald beat conservative incumbent Barry O'Sullivan in senate pre-selection— a claim Mr Littleproud denied.
- National Party members argue Mr Littleproud went too far in launching an overhaul of the live export and wool industries, his scathing public assessment of his own Department and/or his work to secure a bi-partisan deal to secure the future of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and
- It was clear that Mr McCormack did not want to give his potential leadership rival any ‘air’ during the drought crisis. Prime Minister Morrison had Mr McCormack present with him at press conferences and other events when the Coalition’s response to the drought crisis were being announced.
A call to the Dalby electoral office on December 20th resulted in confirmation from a staff member that Mr Littleproud was re-endorsed at “a second party executive meeting in November”. Jumping this hurdle clears David Littleproud to stand for the Nationals leadership after the 2019 election.
Misogyny in the National Party
On December 20th, the Country Women's Association called out misogynistic behaviour in federal politics and demanded change. President Tanya Cameron noted that
"Most of our members are very disappointed. As president of a long-standing organisation that has maintained its credibility because of its conservative approach and ethical and moral standards, we are quite appalled at some of the behaviour within politics. There appears to be a culture within the National Party that certainly doesn't favour women and certainly doesn't favour good behaviour".
Ms Cameron was reluctant to point the finger just at the National Party.
"The misogynistic attitude needs to stop and it needs to stop very quickly; it needs to be changed. There certainly seems to be a lot of issues [across the political parties] and there needs to be some big changes made for anyone to have confidence going forward, voting for any party to be honest. A lot of our members are questioning how they will go the polls."
Are Michael McCormack’s National Party Leadership days numbered?
Also on the 20th, the front page of The Australian newspaper screamed
“SUGAR BABE SCANDAL- NATS LEADER ON NOTICE"
“Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has been put on notice over his handling of the Andrew Broad ‘sugar babe’ scandal with angry Nationals MPs warning his leadership has been further damaged by the saga. He is expected to face a challenge after the election”.
National’s MPs had no doubt that following the election “He will be replaced. But who by is the big problem because nobody has really been Brought through”.
Another Nationals MP reportedly confirmed the Broad scandal has turned into a leadership issue after McCormack bought his key numbers guy to the front bench.
“He’s hand-picked the guy and promoted him to be his assistant minister- what does that say about Michael’s judgment?”
Election implications for the National Party
National Party voters are typically loyal and forgiving ‘farm gate’ voters. One recent example is the Barnaby Joyce ‘sex scandal’. The Nationals Party leader was confronted with photos of a pregnant staffer he was having an affair with were splashed all over Australian newspapers.
The other recent example of loyalty was the Victorian State election. The Nationals did lose one of seven incumbent seats to a female Independent (Mildura). However, the Nationals held their ground in the face of their Coalition partners vote and seat collapse.
A Liberal Party wipe out cost the Liberal Party 9 heartland Liberal seats and the senior leadership in both government houses and the external Victorian Liberal Party executive.
The lowest post-election 2PP margin for the Nationals six held seats was 12.7 percent. Whereas, the post-election 2PP margin of the 22 surviving Liberal seats had fallen to an average of 3.1 percent, the highest 7.2 percent in Narracan.
The Liberal voters in Victoria blasted the Liberal brand mostly on the back of an unforgiving view of the ‘muppet show’ internal knifing of yet another Liberal Prime Minister in Canberra. By the time the Victorian election came around, the Nationals ‘Canberra bubble’ puppet leader Barnaby Joyce had already ‘done the right thing’ and resigned his leadership position.
He had survived the pregnant staffer affair, but fell on his sword when shortly after allegations of sexual harassment against Mr Joyce came from none other than a prominent conservative in Western Australia. National voters in Victoria over-looked the Barnaby Joyce fiasco.
However, at an Australia wide level the following Nationals Mallee member sex scandal, misogyny of LNP senator O’Sullivan and the leaking of sexually explicit texts sent by a Nationals staffer to a female journalist broke the dam wall of silence loyally held together by leading women in the conservative rural areas of Australia.
Women from the National Farmers Federation had already publicly raised concerns about the way sexual harrasment allegations against Mr Joyce were handled within the National Party machine.
Now the Country Women’s Association was speaking out publicly and vehemently against the 'longstanding' poor treatment of women in politics including members or Parliament, staffers and would-be candidates for election.
The Bottom Line
National Party House of Parliament seats contested by a local ‘farm gate’ female independent with “a conservative view” -especially where the seat has been vacated by the sitting member - will put once safe seats under threat of becoming marginal at the 2019 election, if not lost.
The Nationals seats of Mallee in Victoria and Cowper in NSW come to mind. The extremely marginal seat of Capricornia in Queensland looked very vulnerable before all the sex scandal and mysogyny allegations arose. Others to watch for local ‘farmgate’ independent female candidates will be Flynn and Dawson in Queensland and Page in New South Wales.
Vacated Nationals House of Representative seats outside of Queensland might also find a Liberal candidate in the mix.
As things stand at the beginning of the election year, my view is that the female LNP member for Capricornia will be gone after the election, leaving the Nationals with at least one MP seat loss and two female representative in the Senate after Susan McDdonald beat the untenable Barry O'Sullivan for senate preselection in Queensland.
In the Senate, two of the current six Nationals senators will not have to stand for re-eleciton to until 2022. Steve Martin in Tasmania is very unlikely to survive the Jacqui Lamby comeback given her popularity and the low profile the Nationals have in Tasmania. It is unlikely the Nationals will pour substantial campaign resources into Tasmanian Senate candidacy given they are needed to shore up MP seats elsewhere.