Michael McCormack (Australian politician)

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Michael McCormack

Michael McCormack 2018-02 (cropped).jpg
18th Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
Assumed office
26 February 2018
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Scott Morrison
Preceded byBarnaby Joyce
Leader of the National Party
Assumed office
26 February 2018
DeputyBridget McKenzie
Preceded byBarnaby Joyce
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development
Infrastructure & Transport (Feb. 2018 – Aug. 2018)
Assumed office
26 February 2018
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Scott Morrison
Preceded byBarnaby Joyce
Minister for Veterans' Affairs & Defence Personnel
In office
20 December 2017 – 5 March 2018
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Preceded byDan Tehan
Succeeded byDarren Chester
Minister for Small Business
In office
19 July 2016 – 20 December 2017
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Preceded byKelly O'Dwyer
Succeeded byCraig Laundy (as Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation)
Assistant Minister for Defence
In office
18 February 2016 – 19 July 2016
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Preceded byDarren Chester
Succeeded byDavid Fawcett (2018)
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Riverina
Assumed office
21 August 2010
Preceded byKay Hull
Personal details
Michael Francis McCormack

(1964-08-02) 2 August 1964 (age 55)
Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyNational
Spouse(s)Catherine McCormack

Michael Francis McCormack (born 2 August 1964) is an Australian politician who has been leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia since February 2018. He is also Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, having previously served as Minister for Defence Personnel and Minister for Veterans' Affairs from 2017 to 2018. McCormack has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2010, representing the Division of Riverina in New South Wales. He was a newspaper editor before entering politics.

Early life[edit]

McCormack was born in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales as one of five children born to Mrs Eileen Margaret McCormack (née Margosis; 1938–2018)[1][2] and her husband Lance McCormack (d. 2008),[3] a dryland farmer. His maternal grandfather, George Peter Margosis, was born in 1896 in Akrata, Greece; his other three grandparents were born in New South Wales.[4][5][6] He had four siblings, Denise, Robyn, Julieanne and Mark.[2] He grew up on the family farms in nearby Marrar and Brucedale. He attended St Michael's Regional High School and Trinity Senior High School (later merged into Kildare Catholic College).[7] After leaving school, McCormack took up a cadetship at The Daily Advertiser, the local daily newspaper. He was appointed editor of the paper in 1991, aged 27, making him reputedly the "youngest newspaper editor in Australia".[8]

McCormack was sacked from The Daily Advertiser in February 2002. In response, "more than 20 journalists, photographers and other editorial staff" staged a 24-hour walkout.[9] McCormack went on to sue the Riverina Media Group for unfair dismissal, and in 2003 settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.[10] He subsequently started his own media and publishing company, MSS Media Services and Solutions.[11] McCormack also served as a director of the Murrumbidgee Turf Club from 1994 to 2003, as well as its official historian.[12]

Political career[edit]

McCormack in July 2010

McCormack was campaign director for Kay Hull, the Nationals MP for Riverina, at the 2004 and 2007 federal elections. Hull announced her retirement from politics in April 2010, and McCormack subsequently won preselection for her seat at the 2010 election.[13] The Liberals stood a candidate in Riverina for the first time since 1998, but that had little impact on the result, with the Nationals recording a 3.6-point positive swing on a two-party-preferred basis.[14]

Ministerial posts[edit]

After the Coalition won the 2013 election, McCormack was made parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Finance, Mathias Cormann. He was later appointed Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, in September 2015.[15] In February 2016, he became Assistant Minister for Defence under Marise Payne.[15]

In July 2016, after the 2016 election, McCormack was appointed Minister for Small Business. In that capacity, he was responsible for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which conducted the 2016 national census and the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey during his tenure.[16][17] He opposes same-sex marriage, but voted in favour of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 after promising to vote in line with the survey result in his constituency.[18] In a ministerial reshuffle in December 2017, McCormack was made Minister for Defence Personnel, Minister for Veterans' Affairs, and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, positions which had previously been held by Dan Tehan.[15]

When Warren Truss retired as leader of the National Party in February 2016, McCormack publicly contemplated standing as his replacement.[19] He eventually chose not to run for the leadership, allowing Barnaby Joyce to win the position unopposed. He did stand for the deputy leadership (which Joyce had vacated), but lost to Senator Fiona Nash reportedly by only a single vote.[20] In December 2017, McCormack again contested the deputy leadership of the National Party, which had been made vacant as a result of Fiona Nash's disqualification from parliament. He was defeated by Bridget McKenzie, once again losing by only one vote.[21]

Deputy Prime Minister[edit]

Following the resignation of Barnaby Joyce in February 2018, McCormack announced that he would contest the resulting leadership vote.[22] Several other MPs publicly endorsed him for the position, and the only other announced candidate, David Gillespie, withdrew his candidacy the day before the election. George Christensen launched a last-minute bid for the leadership, but was defeated by McCormack, who succeeded Joyce as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.[23] He also replaced Joyce as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.[24]

After the Coalition won the 2019 federal election, McCormack was re-elected party leader unopposed.[25]

Policy achievements[edit]

Water and irrigation[edit]

As a backbencher, McCormack crossed the floor against the passage of the Gillard government's Murray-Darling Basin Plan following a passionate campaign in the irrigation areas of his electorate against the plan, including a public rally in Griffith, New South Wales at which copies of the plan were burnt. Moving a disallowance motion, McCormack said about the backlash "objections I might get here in Canberra I can live with, but I cannot in all honesty look an irrigation farmer in the eye and say, 'I did my best but we're going to have to live with it. " The disallowance secured a cap on water buybacks from the Coalition (Australia) under Tony Abbott.

Mental health[edit]

Mental health in rural areas is a key passion of the Nationals' MP with McCormack championing a petition to deliver a headspace youth counselling service in the Riverina city of Griffith. Amassing some 2,355 signatures, McCormack tabled the petition and lobbied the government to deliver it. Construction started on the project in 2016.

Small business[edit]

A small-business owner before his election to Parliament, McCormack is the only Nationals MP to hold the small business portfolio. During his time, the Coalition government delivered tax cuts for small business and redefined small business. McCormack conducted a series of forums with public service agencies on a nationwide small business roadshow which attracted criticism for its weighting toward Liberal and National Party electorates. Defending the roadshow, McCormack said his priority was ensuring the public service agencies went to rural and regional areas which often happened to have a Coalition MP. Following his election as Nationals' Leader McCormack said he believed the position should be returned to cabinet, which it was in the Scott Morrison reshuffle a few months later albeit with a Liberal MP. Following his election as Nationals' Leader, the small business lobby praised McCormack's focus on the sector, with ombudsman Kate Carnell saying "the great thing is Michael will put small business front and centre. The National Party have always been small business friendly because there are lots of small businesses in rural areas. "

Overturning the bureaucracy[edit]

Following a decision of the Department of Veterans' Affairs to ground veterans from flying as VIP guests at the International Bomber Command Centre's official opening, McCormack overturned his Department's decision.

Doctors for the bush[edit]

McCormack's first budget as Nationals Leader had a number of policy outcomes for regional Australia, including the Murray Darling Medical Schools network, despite long-held objections from the Australian Medical Association. Balancing the concerns of the medical lobby, McCormack's budget measure did not increase the number of Commonwealth supported places but included some $95.4 million to comprise the University of NSW in Wagga Wagga; the University of Sydney in Dubbo; Charles Sturt University/Western Sydney University in Orange, New South Wales; Monash University in Bendigo and Melbourne University/La Trobe University in Bendigo, Wodonga and Shepparton. McCormack's previous commentary – which included supportive editorials from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – made clear the policy was National – rather than Coalition – policy.

Saved Moora College[edit]

An isolated boarding school in regional Western Australia, which had been slated for closure by the WA Labor Government, was saved following a one-off payment from McCormack's Federal Department alongside WA Liberal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. The WA Nationals Leader Mia Davies had led a local grassroots campaign against the school's closure and was praised by McCormack for helping deliver the funds to ultimately save it.

Personal life[edit]

McCormack married Catherine Shaw in 1986, with whom he has three children,[7] Georgina, Alexander and Nicholas.[2] In 1995, he became the owner of "the biggest collection of bound volumes of The Times anywhere in the world outside London", acquiring 900 volumes from Charles Sturt University when it ran out of storage space.[26]


In 1993, McCormack published a controversial editorial in which he blamed homosexuality for AIDS and criticised pride parades. He wrote 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 asked "how can these people call for rights when they're responsible for the greatest medical dilemma known to man – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome?" His article was the subject of three complaints to the Australian Press Council, though none were upheld.[27] In further editorials from the same period he said "I’m not sorry, why should I be?" about his views, and branded himself "homophobic".[28] McCormack subsequently wrote a second editorial apologising for the first.[29] His remarks resurfaced when he embarked on a career in politics, and he issued further apologies in 2010 and 2017, stating that he had "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".[30][31] Despite his apologies, the controversy resurfaced after he became Deputy Prime Minister.[32]

In other editorials, he called for the return of caning in high schools, saying "there is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with students [...] being given a 'stinging reminder' about how to conduct themselves", compared women's soccer to an "egg and spoon race", and advocated for the death penalty. When asked for comment by The Guardian, he said that "editorial views expressed more than 25 years ago in no way reflect how my views and community views have changed since publication [...] as people get older and start families, and grow as members of their community it is completely reasonable their views change over time"[28]

In August 2019, McCormack was Acting Prime Minister while the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was at a Pacific Islands Forum. Morrison was being criticised by Pacific Islands leaders for Australia's contribution to global warming and rising sea levels, which threatened their low-lying territories. McCormack assured an Australian audience: "They’ll continue to survive because many of their workers come here and pick our fruit".[33]


  1. ^ "Eileen Margaret McCormack". Legacy. 17 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Maiden Speech, MichaelMcCormack.com.au. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  3. ^ "Candidates bare all". The Age News. 14 August 2013. When was the last time you cried? When my father, Lance, died in 2008.
  4. ^ "New Deputy PM of Greek descent". NeoKosmos. 1 March 2018. "In regards to the Grandfather of Mr McCormack Michael Francis, namely George Peter Margosis, allegedly born in 1896 in either Corinth or Akrata, following search conducted by our Offices, no registration of his in the Municipal and/ or Male Registries of either the Municipality of Corinth or the Municipality of Aigialeia appeared," reads the statement
  5. ^ Citizenship Register – 45th Parliament: Members' statements in relation to citizenship. Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  6. ^ Lachlan Grey (7 December 2017). "Michael McCormack denies holding Greek citizenship in continuing Canberra saga". Cootamundra Herald. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  7. ^ a b About Michael, MichaelMcCormack.com.au. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  8. ^ Broede Carmody (19 July 2016). "Four things you need to know about Michael McCormack, Australia's new small business minister". Smart Company. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  9. ^ "Regional newspaper staff strike over editor's suspension". ABC News. 10 February 2002.
  10. ^ "Former editor accepts out-of-court settlement" (PDF). Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter. University of Queensland (24): 9. October 2003. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
  11. ^ "Michael's Employment History". Michael McCormack. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  12. ^ "Michael McCormack MP Member for the Riverina". The Nationals NSW. Archived from the original on 18 February 2011. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
  13. ^ Glover, Ben; Higgins, Ben (23 August 2010). "Michael's the man". The Daily Advertiser. Retrieved 23 August 2010.
  14. ^ "First Preferences and Two Candidate Preferred – Riverina". 2010 federal election. Australian Electoral Commission. 21 August 2010. Archived from the original on 23 August 2010. Retrieved 23 August 2010.
  15. ^ a b c Hon Michael McCormack MP, Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  16. ^ Michael Koziol (27 July 2016). "'What's the point of a plebiscite?' asks Turnbull government minister". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  17. ^ Peter Martin (8 August 2017). "If it gets up, the same-sex marriage postal plebiscite could break the ABS". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  18. ^ Lachlan Grey (15 November 2017). "Member for Riverina Michael McCormack to back same-sex marriage bill following majority 'yes' vote". The Daily Advertiser. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  19. ^ Michael Brissenden (11 February 2016). "A Melbourne Cup field – Riverina MP Michael McCormack may enter the race for Nationals Deputy Leader". AM (ABC Radio). Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  20. ^ Matthew Knott (12 February 2016). "Fiona Nash back from the brink and into cabinet". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  21. ^ Ben Packham & Joe Kelly (24 February 2018). "Ex-editor Michael McCormack leads Nationals leadership field". The Australian. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  22. ^ Graham, Ben; Killalea, Debra (23 February 2018). "Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce resigns as Nationals leader". news.com.au.
  23. ^ Joe Kelly (26 February 2018). "Michael McCormack to lead Nationals". The Australian. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  24. ^ Killalea, Debra (26 February 2018). "Michael McCormack: Deputy PM role confirmed". News.com.au. Canberra, Australia. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  25. ^ "Nationals women MPs defy 'blokey' party image". The Australian. 24 May 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  26. ^ Alex Mitchell (12 November 1995). "Plenty in store". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  27. ^ Jennifer Connell (1 March 1995). "The rural reality". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  28. ^ a b Zhou, Naaman (28 February 2018). "Michael McCormack distances himself from editorial backing death penalty". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  29. ^ Daisy Huntly (11 August 2017). "Michael McCormack's homophobic slurs re-emerge amid postal plebiscite controversy". Illawarra Mercury. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  30. ^ Ben Glover (12 August 2010). "Homophobic slurs haunt McCormack". The Daily Advertiser. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  31. ^ Nicole Hasham (11 August 2017). "Small Business Minister Michael McCormack issues new apology over homophobic newspaper column". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  32. ^ Examples:
  33. ^ Smee, Ben (16 August 2019). "Pacific islands will survive climate crisis because they 'pick our fruit', Australia's deputy PM says". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 August 2019. With video

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