5 June 2022

McCormack gets a guernsey as the opposition leader unveils his shadow cabinet

| Chris Roe
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polititians pose

The new Nationals leadership (left to right) Perin Davey and David Littleproud with Liberal deputy Sussan Ley and Member for the Riverina Michael McCormack. Photo: Supplied.

A fortnight after the federal election, Australia has a new Prime Minister, the cabinet is sworn in and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has now unveiled his shadow cabinet.

Amid the shakeup of the Liberal and National party leadership, Member for Riverina Michael McCormack has been appointed as Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific.

“It is an important post, not only for our nation obviously but also closer to home, given Riverina and Central West’s multiculturalism and the value our region places on the Pacific workforce in so many areas across the economy,” Mr McCormack said.

The former Deputy Prime Minister has served in a variety of portfolios since 2013 including, infrastructure, transport, regional development, Veterans’ affairs, small business, finance and defence.

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley, whose electorate of Farrer neighbours the Riverina, will take on the shadow industry portfolio and becomes the opposition’s spokesperson for women.

All up, the Nationals have secured six spots in the shadow cabinet with new Nationals leader David Littleproud remaining in agriculture while deputy Perin Davey takes on the role of Shadow Minister for Water.

Mr McCormack said that the elevation of regional neighbours Sussan Ley and Perin Davey to coalition leadership is a bonus for the Riverina.

“I know Perin will do a good job, she understands water which is important in the context of the Murray Darling Basin,” he said.

“She’s going to be a good ally for Sussan Ley coming from the same area of the Southern Riverina, which gives our local area a very strong voice in Shadow Cabinet deliberations.”

Speaking of the 45-year-old David Littleproud, Mr McCormack said he had his eye on leadership since he arrived in parliament in 2016.

“He’s got a good lineage as far as that’s concerned. His father was a minister in the Queensland Government,” he explained.

“David’s from Chinchilla so he’s pretty grounded in regional Australia. He understands agriculture, he understands farming, he is a good communicator, he’s got his feet on the ground and I think he understands that when you make a deal, you stick by it.”

Opposition is a place the Riverina’s long-serving Nationals member has been before.

“We’ve got to hold them to account,” he said.

“We’ve got to make sure that regional Australia gets its fair share.”

READ ALSO McCormack says Nationals would have fared better under his leadership

With Labor able to form Government with a 76-seat majority, McCormack said it provides parliament with a better level of certainty going forward.

“I was in the Gillard-Rudd Government of 2010 to 2013 and it was chaotic because the government of the day had to run everything through the Independents,” he said.

“It was rather dysfunctional.”

He acknowledged that regaining a Coalition majority by the next election will be challenging but not impossible.

“There have not been too many one-term governments,” he said, but also pointed to a less-than-resounding win for Labor.

“They’ve actually gone backwards, too,” he said.

“The number of people who parked their votes with someone else rose significantly.

“We need to make sure that we are offering policies and presenting arguments that are cogent and that people are going to think ‘well, yes, they formed a credible opposition. We’ll give them another chance in 2025′”.

READ ALSO McCormack offers a $20 million Wagga Airport upgrade if elected

In terms of the millions of dollars pledged to the Riverina in the case of a Coalition victory, McCormack says he will write to the incoming ministers and advocate for projects like the Wagga Airport and CSU agribusiness park.

As is often the case, unfulfilled election promises also transform into a handy political device.

“I do worry. [Treasurer] Jim Chalmers comes out and says that we’re going to get a reining in,” he said.

“That’s code for regional funding being slashed. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves otherwise, but usually, under a Labor Government, the first thing that goes is the regional emphasis.”

READ ALSO Riverina Water turns on the tap for grassroots projects

Mr McCormack knows from experience that it is vital to maintain a positive dialogue with members across the aisle and said he has a good relationship with new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

“He actually had lunch in the National Party room when I was the leader and I don’t think too many other members of other parties ever had that privilege,” he laughed.

“I’ve been in parliament for a dozen years and I’ve always had good, sensible, practical and friendly cooperation with him. I wish him every success as Prime Minister.

“I want outcomes for regional Australians and I’ll work closely with whomever I need to make that possible.”

However, McCormack spoke with less affection of the so-called “Teal Independents” that wreaked havoc on the Liberal Party at the polls.

He described them as a well-funded political party and not true independents.

While the Teals are credited with winning over traditionally Blue voters with a blend of conservative fiscal politics and greener views on climate, Mr McCormack rejected the suggestion that they are moderates.

“They can just vote whichever way they like, and that’ll obviously be with the government but because they’re more aligned to the greens than they certainly ever will be to us,” he said.

In terms of what he aims to do in his fifth term, McCormack said it’s about getting on with the job.

“I’ll continue to do what I need to do to ensure that the Riverina doesn’t get left behind.”

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How irrelevant they are now, all talk, no numbers.
What on earth is meant by “not letting the Teals off the hook”?
That is just mindless blather.
After Littletobeproudoff’s train wreck of an interview on Insiders yesterday, I would say they would be best served by staying quiet.
Has this publication reported on Fiona Phillips’s victory in Gilmore, and has Andrew Constance had the good grace to concede and congratulate Ms Phillips?

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