Folks, after the much publicised Barnaby Joyce rigamarole, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’d be a more laborious process to pick the next leader of the Nationals, who would also be Australia‘s new deputy prime minister. Not so. It’s almost an entirely vacant field, and it’s almost 100% certain that Michael McCormack will be the man of the moment.

The Wagga Wagga-based MP and Veterans Affairs Minister is the only candidate standing, after Junior minister and Member for Lyne David Gillespie confirmed he would not be running because the numbers were against him.

Have you heard of McCormack? Well, there’s one particularly unsavoury part of his history which does the media rounds once every few years. While he was editor of Wagga’s Daily Advertiser back in 1993, McCormack wrote a particularly vicious column aimed at Australia’s LGBTQ population.

In it, he argued that “a week never goes by anymore that homosexuals and their sordid behaviour don’t become further entrenched in society.”

“Unfortunately gays are here and, if the disease their unnatural acts helped spread doesn’t wipe out humanity, they’re here to stay,” he wrote.

In the column, he said that people who oppose homosexuality are merely showing “moral backbone” and dismissed any attempt of the queer community to demand rights. Essentially probably the worst column you could write, quite extreme for even the far less tolerant age of 1993.

McCormick has repeatedly apologised for this column, most recently back in August last year, when he said his views had “changed quite significantly” since he wrote the piece:

I have grown and learnt not only to tolerate, but to accept all people regardless of their sexual orientation or any other trait or feature which makes each of us different and unique. I apologised wholeheartedly for the comments at the time and many times since, but I am making this statement to unreservedly apologise again today.

Still, members of Australia’s queer community are expectedly uneasy about McCormick’s anticipated elevation, and rightly so.

What else can we expect from McCormick? Despite the above outburst, many Nationals voters think he is too staid and reserved, in comparison to Barnaby’s more bombastic style. That said, he has been outspoken on foreign investment in agribusiness, and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. So expect more of those two exciting topics.

The real question is how tenuous and fraught the coalition agreement between the Liberals and the Nationals is right now. Probably pretty fraught, I’d say!

Image: AAP