Last week I boarded a plane back to Canberra for the first sitting week of Parliament for 2020. It was a sombre return after a horrific summer break. Bushfires ripped through millions of hectares of land across Australia, leaving a trail of ash and grief as we mourn the loss of homes, animals and life.
The Prime Minister rightfully dedicated the first day back to Parliament as a day of condolence for this "Black Summer". It was an opportunity to thank the tireless work of volunteers and firefighters, and ensure the communities who have been destroyed know that Australians will be with them for every step of the long journey to recovery.
That was the intention, but it was not the reality. This day of condolence was interrupted by the rumble of leadership in the Nationals party room. It was McCormack versus Joyce, Liberals versus Nationals in a Coalition Government. And overall it emphasised the disunity of the National Party and the lack of control the Prime Minister has on his Government.
While McCormack walked away with the title, this week it was abundantly clear he didn't walk away with the support of his party members.
On Monday, the Nats lost a member and the Morrison Government lost a vote.
A ballot was called to choose the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. The Prime Minister put forward the Member for Nicholls; Labor nominated for rebel MP Llew O'Brien.
Despite ruling with a majority Government, the Liberal-National coalition lost the vote because at least five Nationals MPs went against the Prime Minister and voted for Labor's candidate.
To add insult to injury, after the vote another Nationals MP proudly admitted he didn't tow the party line because he's not keen on the Deputy Prime Minister - who is the Leader of his party.
Why does this matter? Because it shines a spotlight on the fact that the Prime Minister and his Deputy don't have control over the most basic of votes, so how can we expect them to act when we discuss matters that affect millions of Australians, especially those who live in regional areas like ours.
For decades the Nats have pretended to be champions for regional Australia, but they're too busy fighting with each other to fight for the bush.
- Meryl Swanson is the Federal MP for Paterson. Contact her office on (02) 4983 2401 or via merylswanson.com.au.