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PM Presser

PM set to burn Bridget McKenzie

SCOTT Morrison looks set to reshuffle his Cabinet next week just eight months after winning the election as Bridget McKenzie's resignation becomes more likely.

The embattled Agriculture Minister - digging in yesterday - is under pressure to resign over a potential conflict of interest relating to a sports grant.

Pressure will also come down on Nationals leader Michael McCormack to take action with Senator McKenzie if it continues to drag on.

Bridget McKenzie is coming under pressure to resign, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will take “whatever action necessary” after a review into her conduct is completed. Picture: AAP Image/Marc Tewksbury
Bridget McKenzie is coming under pressure to resign, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will take “whatever action necessary” after a review into her conduct is completed. Picture: AAP Image/Marc Tewksbury

Federal Queensland nationals including David Littleproud and Matt Canavan are in line to potentially benefit from her resignation.

The Prime Minister dined with his deputy and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg at the Lodge on Wednesday night, shortly after announcing an investigation into the sports grants scandal.

Mr Morrison is waiting for a report by Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Philip Gaetjens into whether Senator McKenzie breached ministerial standards in the grants scandal, or for failing to declare she was a member of a shooting club the received cash.

"I'll let him do his job and then I will look at that advice and take whatever action is necessary," he said

 

 

If it is found Senator McKenzie had a conflict of interest by failing to declare her club membership, it is understood Mr Morrison will have no choice but to kick her out of the ministry.

A spokesman for Senator McKenzie said she was not resigning.

"She is actively engaging in the process and is confident there has not been a breach in Ministerial standards," she said.

But the report, expected to be finalised as early as next week, will likely trigger Senator McKenzie's resignation, if she has not fallen on her sword earlier.

It is unlikely she will resign on Friday.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack with David Littleproud, Bridget McKenzie and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Mr Littleproud is in contention for deputy Nationals leader if Senator McKenzie goes. Picture: Gary Ramage
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack with David Littleproud, Bridget McKenzie and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Mr Littleproud is in contention for deputy Nationals leader if Senator McKenzie goes. Picture: Gary Ramage

Mr Morrison is understood not to be piling on the pressure on Senator McKenzie, who is in good spirits.

Government tacticians want the issue finalised before parliament resumes on February 4.

Mr Morrison defended Senator McKenzie last week after a damming Auditor-General's report into how $100 million in sports grants were mostly dished out to Coalition marginal and targeted seats.

But revelations this week about her failing to declare her membership of a gun club which received funding has changed the dynamics of the political scandal.

Senator McKenzie's resignation could favour Federal Queensland Nationals, including David Littleproud and Matt Canavan.

Barnaby Joyce is being described as a "dark horse" by some colleagues.

It is understood Senator McKenzie has been told her career could be resurrected if she quietly resigned - like that of former health minister and now Environment Minister Sussan Ley.

 

 

Mr Littleproud, Mr Joyce and Victorian Darren Chester are in contention for Deputy Nationals Leader, however, Mr Chester is only likely to get up if the Queensland vote splits.

There could be a larger field vying for the spot, with suggestions a cleanskin candidate is needed.

Senator Canavan is already in Cabinet and initially wanted the Senate leadership position but pulled out for Senator McKenzie. It is likely he will get this new position.

Mr Joyce does have some support from some colleagues, who want him back in Cabinet.

Mr Morrison could also make changes to other Ministers, including stripping Angus Taylor as Emissions Reductions Minister. He would remain Energy Minister.

Colleagues believe the Government needs a different and less polarising voice to sell its climate change policies.


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