Senator fails to declare NQ Cowboys conflict of interest
THE Minister for Northern Australia last night offered to resign as he backed Barnaby Joyce to return as deputy prime minister and Nationals leader.
It came amid sensational revelations that Senator Matt Canavan - who had ultimate oversight over the approval of a multimillion-dollar loan to the North Queensland Cowboys - had failed to declare his membership as a supporter of the footy team.
Senator Canavan said he had informed Prime Minister Scott Morrison of the oversight and said he didn't believe there had been a breach of ministerial standards.
The approval of a $20 million NAIF loan complemented a $15 million funding commitment from the Federal Government to the NQ Cowboys so that the club would build its new centre of excellence next to Townsville's new Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
"In the past week I recalled I have signed up as a regional supporter for the North Queensland Cowboys a number of years ago, I have not declared that interest," Senator Canavan said last night. "In November last year the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) announced a loan, an investment to the North Queensland Cowboys Football Club and my membership entitles me to a membership of the Leagues Club.
"I don't have any control or influence over the football club itself but at the same time it's an interest I should have declared and I have not."
As the Nationals prepared for a leadership spill this morning, Senator Canavan announced Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack no longer had his support as leader.
"I think we are principally here to defend the interests of regional Australia, we've got a tough job to do in the Nationals party," he said.
"Our constituents are under constant attack and we need a bulldog, we need a fighter to fight back against those who want to take away people's coal jobs, shut down cane farms, they want to stop even indigenous Australians developing their own land."
MP Llew O'Brien has confirmed he will call for a spill against Mr McCormack today, when the party is also due to decide a new deputy leader after Bridget McKenzie resigned.