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No bite on Nats leader rumour

Michael McCormack

MEMBER for Riverina Michael McCormack isn’t buying into speculation he could be tapped to be an alternate contender to be the next Nationals leader following Cabinet fallout on the Shenhua mine decision.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce’s sustained criticisms of the decision to approve the Shenhua coal mine in his northern NSW electorate, madeby Environment Minister Greg Hunt, have raised questions about cabinet protocol and invited questions about his suitability to succeed current Nationals leader Warren Truss when he chooses to retire.

Mr McCormack, however, insists he hasn’t thought about the leadership issue, or when Mr Truss may choose to leave politics.

“That’s a matter for Warren and Lyn Truss,” he said.

“I haven’t thought about it –I’m concentrating on doing my very best for the Riverina.”

Neither, he says, has Mr Joyce done anything wrong by his fellow cabinet members in dissenting over the mine decision.

In the aftermath of the decision, Mr Joyce made a specific point in saying his criticism stemmed from his role as a minister, rather than just as a concerned local member.

“There are some ‘die in the ditch’ issues you just have to say, ‘I disagree with my side of politics’,” he said.

“Kay Hull did it (over the sale ofTelstra), I did it (over the Murray-Darling Basin Plan) and Barnaby Joyce has done it. Principles should always win out.”

Mr McCormack recalls being told his choice to cross the floor over the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in late 2012 would be a “blot on his copybook”, but said the retribution promised at the time never eventuated.

“You do these things because you have to look people in the eye in your area –those who vote for you and those who don’t for you,” he said.

On the Shenhua mine approval, Mr McCormackstressed the Environment Minister had the sole call, rather than it being a collective cabinet process, and it represented only one of 17 steps in the process.

However, he lamented the decision being made the same day as the government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper was launched.“Why was the decision made about the precise time the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper was launched?” Mr McCormack said.

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