‘Elected Deputy PM’ ramps up pressure on PM, Nats
QUEENSLAND Nationals are privately warning they will not be sacrificed to save inner-city, Liberals seats and are not ruling out divorcing themselves from an election campaign that is anti-coal.
In an extraordinary day of political sparring and apparent barbs about failed marriages between Barnaby Joyce and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, it was Scott Morrison who shocked most Nationals MPs by appearing to wave the white flag on supporting a new coal-fired power station.
Last night Nationals were left trying to decipher what it would mean for their campaign for a new power station, and how they could find a resolution to the impasse.
Mr Morrison said yesterday he was "practical" and the State Government would not approve a new coal-fired generator.
In response, key Nationals MP George Christensen exclusively told The Courier-Mail that Labor would not be in power forever in Queensland and now was the time to act.
"It is absolutely true that the State Labor Government will not allow a power station to be built in North Queensland but the State Labor Government is not going to be in power for ever,'' Mr Christensen said.
"Right now we have the opportunity to fund all the pre-construction work, design capability, location, all of that work ready for when the LNP comes to power in Queensland to build the thing that could be in late 2020.
"I have been running a petition for a website, powerthenorth.com.au and I have thousands of signatures in support of a clean coal fired power station in the north.
"I am pushing for and will continue to push for … a clean coal fired power station in the north.
It is understood Mr Morrison contacted some MPs last night to tell them his policy hadn't changed but he was just slapping down Mr Joyce.
But privately, some tacticians within the LNP warned that some Queenslanders would break from the national campaign if it was clear it was anti-coal and inner-city seats were favoured.
On Monday Brisbane's Trevor Evans told Fairfax newspapers the party room would not support a government-backed coal fired power station.
Earlier in the day, Mr Joyce lobbed grenades at Mr Morrison and his own leader - declaring he remained the "elected Deputy Prime Minister" and that his party was "not married to the Liberals".
It sparked an extraordinary, seemingly pointed personal attack from Mr McCormack who said he "understood what it takes to make a marriage work".
But the attack left the under-pressure DPM in a worse position, with some of his colleagues privately suggesting the upcoming election was all that was keeping him in the top job.
The sensational spat followed the latest Newspoll which shows the Coalition is facing an electoral bloodbath at the May poll, with some of the most marginal seats in the country in Nationals territory in north Queensland.
Mr Joyce took to the media in the morning to ramp up pressure on the Liberal party to underwrite a coal-fired power station in Queensland, which six LNP MPs wrote to Mr McCormack calling for last week.
He also revealed he still considered himself the "elected Deputy Prime Minister" and that he would have "no guilt about standing" if a spill was called - though denied one was coming.
Mr Morrison swatted down talk of a coal-fired power station for Queensland, saying it would need the support of the State Government which would never approve it.
"I tend to work in the area of the practical, the things that actually can happen," he said.
Mr McCormack, seemingly referencing Mr Joyce's very public marriage breakdown, backed the Prime Minister's position and took aim at his predecessors comments.
"I understand what it takes to have a successful marriage and to make sure that we work together to build a better Australia," he said.
But Hinkler MP Keith Pitt, who wrote the letter signed by Queensland Nationals, called for more action from Mr McCormack in securing a new power station for the state.
"I think we should be out there very actively promoting what it is that we will be doing as a party and what we will be supporting," he said.
Mr Joyce said it was not good enough to just blame the State Government for blocking a new power station.
"Let the Labor Party say so … If we challenge them on their position, maybe they will their view. They too do not want to lose an election," he said.