Barnaby Joyce has returned as Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, after being sworn into the role as well as Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development this morning.
Mr Joyce defeated former Nationals leader Michael McCormack in a party room ballot on Monday, ending days of speculation about the party’s leadership.
The new leader was sworn in at a ceremony at Government House, the official residence of Governor-General David Hurley.
Mr Joyce was joined by his partner and their two sons.
He was also sworn in to Mr McCormack’s old portfolios of infrastructure and regional development.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended via video conference while under home quarantine 5 kilometres away at the Lodge.
Mr Joyce resigned in 2018 after revelations of an extramarital affair and a sexual harassment complaint that he strongly denied.
A Cabinet reshuffle is expected in the coming days, with supporters of Mr Joyce likely to be rewarded with portfolio positions.
Senator Bridget McKenzie, who resigned from the frontbench after the so-called sports rorts saga, is in line to return to the ministry, while Veteran Affairs Minister Darren Chester is expected to be relegated to the backbench to make room.
With Mr Joyce at the helm of the Nationals, the party looks set to resist any push by Coalition colleagues to adopt a target of net zero emissions by 2050, which the government has been edging towards.
Nationals MP Anne Webster said it remains to be seen if women voters would turn their backs on the party because of Mr Joyce’s return to the top job.
“I imagine we are going to find out,” she said.
Nationals federal president Kay Hull described Mr Joyce as a “very polarising” figure with a “strong personality” but did not comment on whether she thought he would make a better leader.
“You can be a lover of Barnaby Joyce or a serious detractor,” she said.
“We will now look to Barnaby to see how he is going to deliver.”
She praised Mr McCormack and slapped down criticism that he lacked cut-through and exposed the party to ridicule.
“I think he has been very determined and dedicated, strong and resilient as a leader,” she said.
Nationals MP Ken O’Dowd, who voted for Mr Joyce in the ballot, admitted the new leader had a hand in undermining Mr McCormack for years.
“That’s the nature of politics,” he said.
“Everyone’s got an ego, and he wasn’t there for the good of his soul.”