National Party sharks circle after failed Barnaby Joyce leadership challenge

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Barnaby Joyce has failed to regain leadership of the Nationals, while the party is embroiled in electoral scandal, thanks to Bridget "Annie Oakley" McKenzie, writes investigations editor Ross Jones.

WELL, bugger me. ~ Old National Party saying.

Barnaby Joyce is finished. But he’s not going anywhere.

Why would he, when he’s sitting on close to 55 per cent of the New England vote and leaves all other candidates eating his dust?

He’s also got Matt Canavan, a hard man’s National who thought Barnaby’s chances were worth quitting his job for.

So now they both sit and glower from the backbench, waiting:

‘Several sources from within the party room suggested the final result was 11 votes to ten, just falling Mr McCormack's way. However, Mr McCormack's supporters suggested his vote was as high as 14 votes.’

Neither outcome seems particularly convincing as far as results go — certainly not when dealing with Canavan and Joyce.

So Barnaby is finished for now. Maybe that’s finished for a while if the 14 votes is right, maybe not for very long if the 11 to ten is the good oil.

And it is all so unnecessary.

If only Sooty or Captain (Engadine) Underpants – or whatever he is called this week – had not instructed his minions to collude in a grants rort designed to sway the election in the Coalition’s favour, then we wouldn’t be in this fine pickle.

Thank God the former Sports Minister was Annie Oakley and had stupidly joined a gun club:

‘… in a finding which led to the minister's resignation, Mr Gaetjens determined she was a member of a gun club that received a $36,000 grant but had not properly declared it.’

That was the end of Deputy National Leader Bridget McKenzie. Sort of, she’s still got a well-paid cushy job and plenty of powerful friends, so things aren’t too bad. She hasn’t actually been thrown out or anything.

And it will be thanks all-'round from her mates. Because she is wilfully abetting the cover-up of the original crime — bribing their way to electoral success.

An essential part of this cover-up is the fake claim by the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Phil Gaetjens, that the only shonky thing about the sports grants was Annie not declaring her gun club associations.

Scott Morrison’s top mandarin has handed over his report on the sports rorts scandal, prompting the resignation of Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie.


Phil Gaetjens found McKenzie had breached Ministerial Standards by failing to disclose that she was a member of a gun club that received funding in a controversial sports grants scheme, Morrison told reporters on Sunday.


However, Gaetjens “did not find evidence” that grant allocations had been influenced by marginal or targeted electorates, and found “no basis for the suggestion that political considerations were the primary determining factor”, Morrison said.

But that’s not what the Auditor-General found:

A contentious $100 million pre-election cash splash by the Federal Government was focused on marginal and target seats.


Key points:

  • the Government spent $100 million on grants for the Community Sport Infrastructure Program in the months leading up to the election;
  • the office of then-Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie identified target electorates as part of assessing grant applicants; and
  • the Auditor-General found a bias of funding towards marginal and target seats.

The findings from the Auditor-General, released on Wednesday, also raise the prospect that the entire scheme was illegal, noting there did not appear to be any legal authority for then-Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie to have picked recipients.

The report into the Community Sports Infrastructure Grant program discovered ‘evidence of distribution bias in the award of grant funding’.

Annie did not do this by herself, she was part of a scheme. An enterprise.

The similarities between Secretary Phil Gaetjens and U.S. Attorney-General Bill Barr are disconcerting.

Both are gatekeepers to Right-wing leaders who consider themselves brilliant marketers but are really just populist liars.

Both read serious reports by serious people that revealed government activities to be illegal; in Barr’s case the Mueller Report and in Gaetjens’s case the Australian National Audit Office.

Both told the public the reports revealed nothing but minor transgressions.

Both ignored major sections of the reports in their pronouncements.

Both exonerated their man.

It looks like being a big year for the Nats. It started with McCormack slicing Bridget’s salary, at least for a while — until the next opportunity for her talent comes up.

We know she is good at taking a bullet.

Meanwhile, Barnaby and Canavan fix their red eyes firmly on McCormack’s back.

And David Littleproud waits.

Investigations editor Ross Jones is a licensed private enquiry agent and the author of 'Ashbygate: The Plot to Destroy Australia's Speaker'. You can follow Ross on Twitter @RPZJones.

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