WITH great power comes great responsibility.
Riverina MP Michael McCormack became just this nation’s 19th deputy prime minister when he was elevated to the Nationals leadership on Monday, beating George Christensen in a party-room ballot.
Whether you agree with his politics or not, it is an immense achievement and one that will have significant ramifications.
Even before he was elected to parliament in 2010, replacing the retiring Kay Hull, Mr McCormack was touted as a potential Nationals leader.
But his progression through the Coalition’s ranks was steady, rather than spectacular, serving as a parliamentary secretary and assistant minister.
Following the 2016 election, he was appointed to his first portfolio – small business – and with it came responsibility for the census.
Mr McCormack was just a month into the role when he was left carrying the can for the census hacking disaster that, quite unfairly, tarnished his reputation.
Two unsuccessful attempts at the Nationals deputy leadership, losing narrowly to Fiona Nash and Bridget McKenzie, had some questioning whether his day would ever come.
But it did – thanks to the spectacular downfall of Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce.
Suddenly, the party that had overlooked Mr McCormack for the deputy leadership on two occasions turned to him to navigate it through one of its darkest hours.
Mr McCormack’s challenges will be many and varied, but firstly he must bring credibility back to a Nationals brand badly damaged by the behaviour of its former leader.
His address to the media after being elected to the leadership perhaps provided a clue as to how he might do that.
Mr McCormack highlighted water security as one of the country’s most pressing issues and, amid the chaos enveloping the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, anything he can do to return water to regional communities will be a guaranteed vote-winner.
It will be fascinating to see how Mr McCormack uses his new-found influence to benefit his own electorate, which Mr Joyce proved a master at.
It will also be interesting to see how Parkes MP Mark Coulton, who hosted Mr McCormack in Dubbo last year and supported him in the ballot, can use his clout to address issues facing our region.