Earlier today, the National Party of Australia party room in Canberra elected a new leader who, under the terms of the Coalition agreement, automatically becomes the Deputy Prime Minister.
Michael McCormack, 57, Member for the seat of Riverina in New South Wales, is considered rather bland, particularly in comparison with his colourful and prominent predecessor, Barnaby Joyce. There is a feeling, however, that the National Party, as well as the Coalition more broadly, can do with somebody “boring but steady” in that role at the present time.
McCormack, unusually for the conservative side of politics, is a former journalist, having spent 21 years working as a reporter and then an editor on “The Daily Advertiser” in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. Subsequent to that he operated his own media and publishing company.
The only major controversy of McCormack’s life dates back to his journalism days, when in 1993 he published a strongly anti-gay editorial which resurfaced during the same-sex marriage debates last year. McCormack maintains he has substantially changed his views on the topic and has voted in favour of SSM in line with the wishes of his constituency.
McCormack entered federal politics in 2010, upon the retirement of the previous Member for Riverina, Kay Hull. Over the past five years he has held a number of positions in the Coalition government:
- Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, Mathias Cormann
- Assistant Minister to the then Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss
- Assistant Minister for Defence under Marise Payne
- Minister for Small Business
- Minister for Defence Personnel, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
McCormack comes to the leadership of the National Party as well as the Deputy Prime Ministership of Australia after a relatively short time in politics and with a varied but limited experience. Notably, he has not previously held a Cabinet-level ministerial position or been responsible for a major area of policy contention and activity.
In his maiden speech to Parliament, McCormack said “Politics is not about power; it is about people—representing those people and speaking up for them loudly, often and passionately. I have lived my life by this motto: I promise not to be silent when I ought to speak.”
His colleagues in Canberra will certainly want him to speak up but not too loudly so as to get on the front pages of tabloids.
For a man who has written a history of bushranging in his local region, the Coalition is no doubt hoping McCormack’s own wild days are over as the government faces a federal election, most likely within the next 12 months.