Could the next deputy PM be worse than Barnaby Joyce?

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Peter Wicks contemplates a future in which Barnaby Joyce might be replaced by Fiona Nash as Deputy Prime Minister.

I'M NOT USUALLY one for hypotheticals but given the high chances of this happening, I thought it warranted reminding people about who our possible future deputy prime minister may be.

Despite the polls, despite the momentum and despite the lack of direction and dud policies, there is still a reasonable chance that the Coalition will be returned to government.

With a Liberal prime minister, this leaves the deputy PM’s role in the hands of the Nationals, currently led by Barnaby Joyce.

While the prospect of a full term of government with Barnaby as Deputy is a terrifying thought, there is another hypothetical that is looking increasingly more likely and is perhaps just as frightening.

Barnaby Joyce could lose his seat of New England to Tony Windsor — something I would welcome.

If that were the case, the position of leader and possible deputy PM’s role, would fall to the current Deputy Leader of the National Party, Fiona Nash. While some may see Nash as a welcome replacement to Joyce, a look back at her contribution to the Coalition’s term in government may lead to second thoughts.

David Koch, the host of Sunrise, has suggested live on air that Nash needed to

“Get a backbone.”

Quite a strong statement from the host of a show not known for pushing the envelope and ripping into politicians. So what pushed Koch to spit the dummy live on TV?

Koch was enraged that Nash, as Assistant Health Minister, had made the decision that the best way to increase the organ donation numbers was via a taxpayer-funded and hugely expensive inquiry that would do vastly more for industry lobby groups than it would for those clinging to life and waiting for an organ to become available.

At the time, Koch was chairman of the Coalition Government's own organ donation advisory council. As the chairman of her own Government's advisory council, one might suspect that Nash would pick up the phone for even a brief chat before misdirecting rivers of the public's cash into the coffers of lobby groups via an Inquiry — but this was not the case.

This was certainly not the first time that Nash had come under fire for her association with lobbyists.

Nash was lucky to hold her position as Assistant Minister for Health when early in 2014, there were many screaming “corruption” and calling for her head on a plate. If her head was indeed on that plate it would have been accompanied by a large serve of fries and a soft drink in a cup the size of a bucket.

Nash was responsible for pulling down a website that provided health ratings designed to assist consumers to improve their health by promoting a more nutritious diet. As Assistant Health Minister, this is something most would expect Nash would encourage. Instead, the site so offended Nash she was determined to see it yanked off the internet. 

You may be wondering why on earth an Assistant Health Minister would pull down a site that would appear to help her do her job.

Nash’s chief-of-staff, Alistair Furnival was one of the owners of a large lobby firm that represented junk food, confectionary and soft-drink companies. He was one of those involved in Abbott’s gift of $16 million to Cadbury Schweppes in Tasmania.

The whole controversy shone such a light on Nash’s lack of commitment to the health of the community she is paid to serve, the claims were initially met with strong denials. These denials, over time, became exercises in buck-passing and in the end, when a scalp was called for, chief-of-staff Furnival was made the sacrificial goat and forced to resign.

Far from receiving any real punishment, Furnival was later part of the tax-payer funded delegation trip to China with Andrew Robb to negotiate his trade agreement.

In March 2014, Nash became one of only three Senators to be censured in over a decade when the Senate censured her for her failure to produce documentation and for misleading the Senate.

I don't know about you but I’m of the opinion that the prospect of having a deputy prime minister that sells out to lobbyists, shows no concern for her community and is happy to mislead the Senate is a rather scary prospect.

Frankly I think we should aim higher.

Peter Wicks is an ALP member and former NSW State Labor candidate. You can follow Peter on Twitter @madwixxy.

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