O’Brien victory ‘pretty damaging’ for Prime Minister
WIDE Bay MP Llew O'Brien found support from his colleagues and former colleagues in the Gympie region after sensationally quitting the Nationals Party Room and having an alleged shouting match with party leader Michael McCormack.
He also found support in Canberra, with MPs split on his surprise appointment to the deputy speaker of the lower house.
In another show of force by former National Party leader Barnaby Joyce, Mr O'Brien and their allies, and what has been described as a "tactical ploy" by Labor to highlight the government's division, Mr O'Brien was nominated for the job by Labor and elected over his Nationals colleague, Damien Drum.
The Sydney Morning Herald has reported the result of the secret ballot showed Mr O'Brien had gained support from seven government or independent MPs to add to 68 votes from Labor.
Other outlets described his victory as "pretty damaging" for the Morrisson Government and pondered whether Mr O'Brien would be an "unstable influence" in the deputy speaker chair.
More than one political commentator has been confused by where exactly "quitting the party room" has left Mr O'Brien, but seem to agree he now has more power and influence.
"When Queensland LNP Members come to Canberra they sit in either The Nationals Party Room or the Liberal Party Room. However, my decision today means that I am seeking to not sit in either Party Room," Mr O'Brien said.
"It continues to be a great honour for me to serve in the Australian Parliament as the LNP Member for Wide Bay. I joined the LNP at its inception and I remain a member of the LNP.
"On 18 May 2019 I was re-elected as the LNP Member for Wide Bay and I intend to continue to serve Wide Bay as the LNP Member for Wide Bay.
"I support the Government and I support Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and every decision I make in Canberra will continue to be in the best interests of Wide Bay."
Sitting State LNP MP for Gympie Tony Perrett was careful but clear in his response:
"Llew is a strong and passionate advocate for the region," he said.
"He remains part of the Federal Liberal /National Party government and I'm confident he will continue to represent the interests of the Wide Bay electorate with vigour."
This is the message Mr O'Brien has stressed repeatedly.
"As it stands at the moment my great desire is to remain in that capacity as Llew O'Brien, LNP member for Wide Bay and member of the Government," he said today.
"Nothing has changed other than my intention not to sit with the Federal National Party.
"Every decision I make in Canberra is for the benefit of my constituents."
Local National party member Ray Zerner said "I am not sure why he did it" but that he imagined more would come out as the week wore on.
Mary Valley party member Julie Walker said:
"I can understand how he would feel after spending many years, some time ago, as zone vice-president, sitting through many a meeting.
"It is difficult to toe the party line I would imagine, especially when you have firm beliefs in what you stand for.
"I don't envy him his decision as it would not have been an easy one to make by any stretch of the imagination.
"I have a lot of time for Llew and I know how hard he works and just how well repected he is in this area as well as his whole electorate.
"I wish him well and hope that, in his political life, he has made the right decision."
Former Gympie National party member Graham Engeman was sympathetic, saying he knew how difficult it could be to deal with the "party machine".
"I think it's a dead set shame that internal politics overrides the best for the country and the party," he said.
Mr Engeman said it was "very hard to get it right" when the party machine tells you to shut up and cop it.
He wondered if Mr O'Brien was calling their "bluff".
"Obviously Llew O'Brien is an independent representative for Wide Bay who puts his principles before his own career, not that politics should be a career," Mr Engeman posted on Facebook.
"I respect he must have good reasons to make such a stand."
Mr O'Brien is expected to have another meeting with Scott Morrisson this afternoon.