PM embarrassed by Turnbull, Joyce supporters
Barnaby Joyce's campaign of retaliation has left the federal government red-faced after the rebel MP and his supporters joined Labor to install a Nationals defector as Deputy Speaker.
The Coalition's embarrassing defeat in the lower house capped another bad day for Scott Morrison as deepening government divisions over coal turned a historic visit by Indonesian president Joko Widodo into a sideshow.
After quitting the Nationals party room following Mr Joyce's failed leadership bid, Queenslander Llew O'Brien was elected Deputy Speaker 75-67, defeating the government's nominee, Victorian National Damian Drum.
A former policeman, Mr O'Brien received 64 votes from Labor and six from the crossbench, plus a handful from renegade Nats.
One of those five was fellow Queenslander Ken O'Dowd, who confirmed he voted for Mr O'Brien in the secret ballot.
Along with Mr O'Brien himself, the other three were understood to be Queenslander George Christensen and NSW mid-north coast MP David Gillespie. None responded to The Daily Telegraph's requests for confirmation and comment.
All were overlooked for promotion by Nationals leader Michael McCormack in the ministerial reshuffle that followed Mr Joyce's unsuccessful bid to reclaim the party's top job last week.
After the leadership ballot, Mr Joyce, Mr Christensen and Mr O'Brien had warned they were contemplating voting against the government.
Mr O'Brien, who still identifies as being part of the government, was due to meet with the Prime Minister last night to discuss his concerns.
Beforehand, he limited his comments to saying he supported Mr Morrison and respected Mr McCormack - but only as Deputy PM.
In becoming Deputy Speaker, Mr O'Brien will get a pay rise of about $42,000, to $253,000.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese made much of the government's humiliation following the parliamentary vote.
In what was supposed to be a brief speech to congratulate Mr O'Brien on his elevation, Mr Albanese said: "I think we've just seen the stability of the Coalition on full view."
The Telegraph has confirmed that earlier, in the Nationals party room meeting, Dr Gillespie accused Mr McCormack of lying in claiming to have not selected a preferred candidate for the Deputy Speaker's role.
Mr McCormack later said: "I don't comment on party room discussions."
One MP who was present said: "Michael needs to be more inclusive. He has managed to alienate a significant part of his party" by only promoting his supporters.
The Nats were not only warring with each other yesterday, they were also publicly at odds with many Liberal MPs over coal.
The debate within the Coalition ranks was triggered by comments from Nat MP Matt Canavan, who was resources minister until quitting to back Mr Joyce's leadership bid. Writing in The Telegraph yesterday, he said a new coal-fired power station in north Queensland "made sense" and was supported by the government.
On Saturday, the Coalition had announced a $4 million grant for a feasibility study for the proposed plant.
Senator Canavan's comments led Sydney Liberals including Trent Zimmerman to declare the government should not underwrite a new coal-fired plant.
"We have no commitment to fund a coal-fired power station and I don't think we should," Mr Zimmerman told Sky News.
In response, Mr Christensen said, "despite claims by one inner-city Liberal MP on Sky News this morning, the Morrison Liberal-National government is providing funding to coal-fired power projects, principally because they provide stable and reliable baseload supply.
"When the Collinsville clean coal-fired power project is ready to be constructed, it will be eligible for consideration under the Morrison Liberal-National government's Underwriting New Generation Investments program, which supports targeted investment that will lower prices, increase competition and increase reliability in the energy system," Mr Christensen said.
Ex-PM Malcolm Turnbull, who was visiting parliament to hear the historic address by Joko Widodo, then inflamed the situation by telling reporters new coal generators were not commercially viable and would lead to higher emissions and power prices.
"The cheapest form of new generation is a combination of renewables plus storage. Literally, that is no longer even a remotely contentious proposition," Mr Turnbull said. "So those people who are advocating that the government should fund coal-fired power are basically making the case for higher emissions and higher energy prices. And that is nuts."