Two weeks after trying to roll his party’s leader, Barnaby Joyce says he backs the McCormack-Morrison duo he’s likening to a Hollywood hero.
The Nationals appear to be on a media blitz to show a united front, with Mr Joyce using an appearance on morning television on Monday to insist he is focused on supporting Michael McCormack.
“There will be a McCormack-Morrison government going to the next election,” Mr Joyce told Sunrise.
Former resources minister Matt Canavan said on Sunday he did not think there would be another leadership spill, while Mr McCormack said colleagues had looked him in the eye and promised their support.
Mr Joyce’s interview on live television on Monday appeared to be an attempt to publicly reinforce that promise.
“In a democracy, you have the opportunity to test the numbers. That was tested, it was close,” he said.
“I stood, I lost – that’s it and now we move on.”
“I want a McCormack-Morrison government to do the very best job they can … by the time you’ve finished hearing me say that, you’ll think it’s a new actor in Hollywood: McCormack Morrison.”
Mr Joyce’s challenge has brought a fortnight of headaches for the Nationals, during which Senator Canavan resigned from the frontbench and backbencher Llew O’Brien quit the party room.
On Sunday, Mr McCormack braved an appearance on ABC’s Insight, seemingly to show he had the party in line and with the full backing of colleagues.
He also insisted he and Prime Minister Scott Morrison had not spoken about the leadership dramas or concerns over party instability.
“Barnaby Joyce has stated that he will support me, Matthew Canavan has, and others have as well,” Mr McCormack said.
“I always believe country people when they look me in the eye and say something and you’ve got to take people on their word.”
The government’s proposed target of zero emissions by 2050 has been rubbished by coalition partners.
— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) February 16, 2020
Tensions have been high within the Nationals – and more broadly within the Coalition, spelling trouble for the PM – amid differing opinions over the future of Australia’s coal industry.
Mr Joyce and his ally, Senator Canavan, have been campaigning to force the government into funding new coal-fired power stations. But, sniffing that more of the electorate wants environmental action following the bushfire crisis, Liberal politicians are increasingly changing their approach to climate politics.
On Sunday, Mr McCormack pushed back against calls from some moderate Liberals for Australia to commit to achieving zero net emissions by 2050.
Mr McCormack said on Insiders that a “high-efficiency, low-emissions” station near Townsville should go ahead if a recently announced $4 million feasibility study found it had merit.
“I think if you go down that path, what you’re going to do is send factories and industries offshore, send manufacturing jobs offshore. That’s not the Australian way,” he told the ABC.
“Regional Australia is more than doing its fair share.”
Following his failed leadership attempt, Mr Joyce turned his attention to climate change, declaring: “The weather has determined the political climate and everyone is manipulating the recent calamitous events to push their own particular barrow.”
He also suggested Australia should go nuclear.
“If you want a macro-climate policy to show the world our leadership on reducing carbon emissions, then we must bring in nuclear power and development of the most efficient coal power technology that uses the least units of coal for the greatest output of power,” he wrote.
“Wanting to develop the most efficient coal-fired power technology in the world is not disavowing the realities of climate change, it is actually something that could be provided to substantially curtail emissions.
“If zero emissions are the goal, then surely nuclear energy should be supported, but it is not.
“If wind towers are a moral good and environmentally inoffensive, why can’t we have them just off the beach at Bondi so we can feel good about ourselves while going for a surf? It would cause a riot.
“Do you want a 3000-hectare solar farm next door to you? Lots of glass and aluminium neatly in rows pointing at the sun. I am not sure others will want to buy that view off you when you go to sell your house!”