Two Libs set to enter Senate if Nats pair fall
The Nationals could lose a cabinet position and an assistant minister if deputy leader Fiona Nash and senator Matthew Canavan are found ineligible to sit in parliament, with two Liberals set to replace them.
The Weekend Australian understands former Liberal senator Joanna Lindgren, the LNP’s No 6 candidate at the 2016 election and next in line to take Senator Canavan’s seat, wants to sit in the Liberal partyroom.
“Her preference and heart lies with the Liberals,” a party member said. “She can’t pretend she’s a National.”
There are suggestions Ms Lindgren could be directed to sit in the Nationals partyroom to keep the balance of Liberal and Nationals senators in Queensland but a senior Nationals source conceded yesterday there would be “a lot of resistance” to the move.
The notion of telling a senator which partyroom to sit in would also go against the Liberals’ belief in individual freedom.
“There’s a view among the rural Libs generally the Nats have got themselves into this mess, they can’t expect us to get them out of it,” an MP said.
Ms Lindgren and Liberal candidate Hollie Hughes are the likely replacements for the Nationals senators, which would see the junior Coalition party’s federal representation fall from 22 to 20 MPs.
Country Liberals are preparing to ramp up their push for representation in cabinet, amid expectations any reduction in Nationals MPs would only bolster their chances.
If under the worst-case scenario for the government the High Court finds Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and senators Canavan and Nash were dual citizens at the 2016 election and should be disqualified, it is likely a by-election will be held in Mr Joyce’s seat of New England while special recounts would be ordered for the Senate spots.
Assuming Mr Joyce wins the by-election, which the government will want held by Christmas, the Nationals should get one less spot in cabinet and one less spot in the assistant ministry under the Coalition’s quota system.
Malcolm Turnbull could negotiate a new agreement with the Nationals leader ahead of a reshuffle, expected in December, to keep existing arrangements in place.
There are currently five cabinet spots for the Nationals, one in the outer ministry and three in the assistant ministry. There are also suggestions within the government that Attorney-General George Brandis could retire from federal politics to become Australia’s next high commissioner to Britain, leaving a casual vacancy that could be filled by Senator Canavan.