Queensland’s merged Liberal National Party (LNP) has rejected a push by former Abbott government minister Ian Macfarlane to defect from the Liberals to the Nationals, saying it was “not in the best interests of the party”.
The 60-year-old farmer and MP for Groom was dumped as industry minister when Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister. His switch to the Nationals would have given the party 22 MPs and was expected to lead to a push for an extra spot in the ministry, paving the way for Macfarlane’s return.
While LNP supporters in his seat of Groom backed the move, voting 102-34 in favour, LNP president Gary Spence said the state executive met today to discuss the application and decided 14-12 they would not support it.
“The interests of our party beyond his electorate were taken into account” in rejecting the proposal, Spence said.
“This decision has been made after taking into consideration the best interests of the LNP in Queensland,” he said.
Macfarlane’s plan to switch sides was seen as a potential challenge to Malcolm Turnbull’s fledging government by MPs remaining loyal to former PM Tony Abbott.
He had been expected to retire at next year’s election, but for now will remain on the Liberal backbench after his aborted attempt to leave the party.
Queensland MPs are automatically members of Liberal-National Party, but in Canberra are expected to align with either the Liberal or National parties. Macfarlane entered parliament in 1998 as a Liberal MP.
Macfarlane said he accepted the decision and will make an announcement on his future in the new year.
Deputy Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, a former Queensland senator, and the key instigator of the move, said he was disappointed by the LNP executive’s decision.
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