More Michelle Grattan on McGauran:

Costello has
rejected the Nationals’ claim on Monday that McGauran had talked to him on
Sunday before telling Vaile of his decision.

But McGauran did
ring a Liberal (Helen Kroger) on Sunday evening before picking up the phone to
his leader. He then called Howard and Costello, and later had a meeting with

McGauran has not
been a significant political figure – until this week. Now his action has
exposed just how raw the nerves are in the Nationals, as well as the underlying
tension between Liberals and Nationals.

McGauran, as
Nationals Senate whip, couldn’t hack Queensland rebel
Barnaby Joyce. As a Catholic anti-abortion campaigner he was also appalled by
the pro-RU486 stand of NSW Nationals senator Fiona Nash. This points to a wider
problem. The Nationals now can exert more power than for a long time, but they
are failing to manage their own clout. Fancy having a whip who could not cope
with the party’s crucial backbencher.

McGauran has not
been the only one who hates how Joyce operates. Ron Boswell, the Nationals
Senate leader, is also deeply disturbed by Joyce. Now Boswell is facing an
extremely serious threat to his preselection in Queensland,
challenged by those who would like to see another of Joyce’s ilk. The Queensland branch
– which delivered the Nationals what Boswell boasted was the Senate
“balance of power” – is deeply riven.

In a
well-functioning outfit, McGauran’s defection surely should have been able to
be headed off. Liberal sources say that late last year McGauran was already
considering the possibility of jumping ship. Did his Nationals’ colleagues not
know? This seems incredible, especially as he held the position of whip and his
brother is a Nationals minister.

These troubles
could easily create a spiral of greater ill feeling…

Indeed. A senior member of the Nationals has
described McGauran’s move as a “very calculated double whammy.”

Crikey has also been told that Nats insiders have been observing how it’s ironic that McGauran would make
four calls to advise key people on Sunday since he’d “never been known to be
active on any weekend during his 18 years in the Senate.” Meow!

Kevin Rudd put out a hilarious media release in
2003 that touched on the topic of McGauran and treachery. It’s a shame no-one’s
remembered it over the last few days. It shows what a deep thinker the lad is.

Still, there are serious suggestions from sources
in Victoria that McGauran’s position was not made easier by the clumsy
behaviour of the state Nationals leader, Peter Ryan – and his role in jostling
over the party’s Victorian Senate spot back in 2004.

And we can’t let this topic go without quoting an
email that’s doing the rounds:

I came across this in the Warrnambool Standard newspaper
today while doing some non-political research for work. It was freakily
relevant, so I jotted it down.

“Asked to nominate a politician [other than his brother] he admired,
[Julian] McGauran chose 60s National Party leader Jack McEwen who he
said had always put the party’s interests ahead of his own.

“‘Black Jack in Canberra is still one of those revered characters. He
stood up to the Liberal Party and Labor Party because he only had one
thing in mind and what I mean by that is if he had to take it over the
cliff for his party, he would,’ he said.”

Warrnambool Standard, 1/5/1989, p. 9

We don’t have access to a database that can confirm the quote – but some public-spirited subscriber might…