Barnaby Joyce Back as Australia’s Deputy Leader After Vote

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Barnaby Joyce will return as Australia’s deputy prime minister after he was selected as leader of the Nationals, the junior partner in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s coalition government.

The high-profile Joyce, 54, was elected leader of the rural-based party during a meeting of its federal lawmakers in Canberra on Monday. He defeated Michael McCormack, 56, a former journalist and businessman who failed to put his stamp on the leadership after three years in the job.

“The task going ahead first and foremost is to make ourselves a team that is formidable for the next election,” Joyce told reporters after the partyroom vote. He will be sworn in as the nation’s deputy leader on Tuesday.

The upheaval likely won’t be welcomed by Morrison, who leads the coalition’s senior party, the Liberals, and needs to call an election by May. Most polls show his government is deadlocked with the main Labor opposition.

Barnaby Joyce Back as Australia’s Deputy Leader After Vote

The leadership change in the Nationals is likely to trigger a rejig of some Cabinet portfolio positions, and Joyce said he would have discussions with Morrison about ministerial roles. It could also complicate Morrison’s climate change policy. Joyce, a supporter of burning fossil fuels, is unlikely to support any steps to commit to a net-zero emissions target date even as voters call for stronger action to combat the effects of a warmer planet.

Joyce on Monday declined to outline his position on climate or other policies, saying they would be decided by the party’s lawmakers.

Morrison said in a statement he was looking forward to working with the Nationals’ new leader and continue the Liberals’ seven-decade partnership with the party.

Joyce led the Nationals for two years until February 2018 when he stepped down after it was revealed he an extramarital affair with a former aide. After the story broke that he was expecting a baby with his new partner, ending his 24-year marriage, then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Joyce made a “shocking error of judgment.”

Since he entered parliament in 2004, Joyce has garnered media headlines for his blunt and often contentious views on issues including water management, foreign investment and the need for actor Johnny Depp to comply with Australia’s quarantine laws. He briefly cost the government its lower house majority in 2017 after he was found to also be a citizen of New Zealand, contravening the constitution.

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