McCormack branded ‘a liar’ in party-room meeting

AN EMBATTLED Michael McCormack was extraordinarily labelled a "liar" in a party room meeting yesterday just hours before a bloc of his own MPs secretly voted with Labor to prevent him from further rewarding supporters in last week's leadership spill.

The devastating accusation came as renegade MP Llew O'Brien politically sucker punched the Morrison Government by resigning from the National Party and then snatched the position of deputy speaker with the support of up to five Nationals.

The dump on Mr McCormack further chips away at his leadership and ability to command respect in a party room that is split in two.

The division also hurts Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who yesterday wanted the focus to be on a historic address of parliament by Indonesia President Joko Widodo.

Last night Mr O'Brien signed a letter to the PM confirming his intention to participate in the Coalition party room as a member of the Government and the LNP.

He affirmed his commitment to the Government's legislative agenda, The Courier-Mail understands.

It is understood the person who levelled the accusation at Mr McCormack believed the Nationals leader was supporting Damien Drum for deputy speaker but Mr McCormack had claimed he was being neutral. Mr Drum has been a strong supporter of Mr McCormack in the past.

Comment was sought from Mr McCormack last night.

As revealed by The Courier-Mail yesterday, Mr O'Brien, who was scheduled to have talks with Mr Morrison last night, quit the National Party but will remain a member of the LNP.

Labor yesterday nominated Mr O'Brien for deputy speaker, who shocked his colleagues by accepting the nod.

There was an audible gasp on the floor of parliament when Mr O'Brien accepted the nomination and again when he won by a clear margin - 75 votes to 67.

With 64 Labor MPs in the chamber, if the six crossbenchers voted with Mr O'Brien that means a number of Coalition MPs backed the rebel in the secret ballot.

The move has given Mr O'Brien a health pay rise - up $42,000 - as well as increased travel allowances and an extra staff member.

Mr Morrison tried to make the best of the situation, congratulating him on his win and talking up the Government's "strong majority".

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the "stability" of the Coalition was in full view.

"No amount of marketing or spin can hide the humiliation for the Government," Mr Albanese said.

Mr O'Brien said he remained a member of the Government and would be proud to serve as deputy speaker.

"I still remain a loyal and faithful Government member," he said.

"I'm privileged to be here. As a country policeman I find it incredible that I can come here and take part in this. I'm a member of the LNP sitting in the Government. I'm not a member of Michael McCormack's party.

"I respect Michael McCormack greatly as Deputy Prime Minister of this Government. He has my full support as Deputy Prime Minister of this Government."

Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd has already confirmed he backed Mr O'Brien in the vote.

"He was a Queenslander and my neighbour. I've known Damien (Drum) for a long time too. (Mr O'Brien) was a Queenslander and I thought Queenslanders were under-represented in Michael McCormack's government," he told the ABC.

Mr O'Dowd said Mr Joyce could return to the leadership one day "if the wind is right".

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