He will no longer attend party-room meetings in an apparent protest against Michael McCormack’s leadership.
It is the political earthquake that won’t cause a ripple outside of cloistered political meeting rooms in Canberra.
Yet, backbencher O’Brien’s one-man silent protest against National Party leader McCormack reveals – yet again – the simmering tensions within the Coalition government and the need for northern conservatives to be treated differently.
As a former Nationals member, in the notional Nationals seat of Wide Bay, the backbencher is required to sit in the Nationals party-room in Canberra but has now decided to sit on his own. He is still part of the Morrison Government.
It remains to be seen what impact, if any, this will have on the ruling Coalition. Certainly, it will increase pressure on the new Nationals deputy leader, and O’Brien’s LNP colleague, David Littleproud, to maintain some sense of unity. But it is still early in the term and Queenslanders have a habit of standing out, if only to show where their loyalties lie.
O’Brien called the leadership spill that delivered Barnaby Joyce his latest disappointment. Having voted for Joyce, it is ironic that O’Brien has now taken that vote out of consideration, reportedly in anger that McCormack wasn’t doing more to bring the party together.
For his part, Joyce today described O’Brien as “a good fellow and a good mate,” and said it was sad they hadn’t been able to keep him in the party. While he hinted at shared disappointment over the makeup of the post-spill Cabinet, Joyce again summarised the situation as “there was a spill, I stood, I lost”.
High-profile Queenslander Matt Canavan, who also backed Joyce, resigned from the ministry and is another loose end for McCormack, another rough edge for the Government.
It remains to be seen whether they, like Joyce, have lost political capital, or whether they can somehow use their newfound freedom to deliver a win for Queensland.
Only time will tell.Jump to next article