A dumped Liberal MP is planning to defect to the Nationals

Ian Macfarlane.

Queensland Liberal MP Ian Macfarlane is planning to join The Nationals after being dumped as industry minister when Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister

The 60-year-old, who entered parliament in 1998, was expected to retire at the next election, but instead, will join the Coalition’s smaller rural party and may even find his way back onto the government frontbench under the deal which sees the Nationals hold a certain number of portfolios.

Macfarlane, a farmer and former Howard government minister, is automatically a member of Queensland’s Liberal-National Party, and is believed to have been encouraged to join the Nationals by former Queensland senator Barnaby Joyce, who moved to NSW when he stood for the lower house.

Joyce in the agriculture minister and is a potential party leader when Warren Truss steps down from the role. Macfarlane could also potentially try for the top job.

The move will give the Nationals 22 members in Parliament. The Herald Sun reports that Macfarlane told Malcolm Turnbull of his plans when the PM returned from Paris yesterday.

The news is another unwelcome distraction for Turnbull in a week were he’s facing pressure over the behaviour of special minister of state Mal Brough, who’s currently facing an AFP investigation over his role in the Peter Slipper affair, which saw the former speaker resign and then be prosecuted for misuse of public funds before he was cleared on appeal. Brough denies any wrongdoing but is under increasing pressure to resign during the final sitting week of parliament for 2015.

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