Michael McCormack (Australian politician)

Michael Francis McCormack (born 2 August 1964) is an Australian politician who has been leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia since February 2018. He is also Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, having previously served as Minister for Defence Personnel and Minister for Veterans' Affairs from 2017 to 2018. McCormack has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2010, representing the Division of Riverina in New South Wales. He was a newspaper editor before entering politics.

Michael McCormack

McCormack in 2018
18th Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
Assumed office
26 February 2018
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Scott Morrison
Preceded byBarnaby Joyce
Leader of the National Party
Assumed office
26 February 2018
DeputyBridget McKenzie
David Littleproud
Preceded byBarnaby Joyce
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development
Infrastructure & Transport (Feb. 2018 – Aug. 2018)
Assumed office
26 February 2018
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Scott Morrison
Preceded byBarnaby Joyce
Minister for Veterans' Affairs & Defence Personnel
In office
20 December 2017  5 March 2018
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Preceded byDan Tehan
Succeeded byDarren Chester
Minister for Small Business
In office
19 July 2016  20 December 2017
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Preceded byKelly O'Dwyer
Succeeded byCraig Laundy (as Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation)
Assistant Minister for Defence
In office
18 February 2016  19 July 2016
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Preceded byDarren Chester
Succeeded byDavid Fawcett (2018)
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Riverina
Assumed office
21 August 2010
Preceded byKay Hull
Personal details
Michael Francis McCormack

(1964-08-02) 2 August 1964
Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyNational
Spouse(s)Catherine McCormack

Early life

McCormack was born in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales as one of five children born to Eileen Margaret (née Margosis; 1938–2018)[1][2] and Lance McCormack (d. 2008),[3] a dryland farmer. His maternal grandfather, George Peter Margosis, was born in 1896 in Akrata, Greece; his other three grandparents were born in New South Wales.[4][5][6] He had four siblings, Denise, Robyn, Julieanne and Mark.[2] He grew up on the family farms in nearby Marrar and Brucedale. He attended St Michael's Regional High School and Trinity Senior High School (later merged into Kildare Catholic College).[7]

After leaving school, McCormack took up a cadetship at The Daily Advertiser, the local daily newspaper. He was appointed editor of the paper in 1991, aged 27, making him reputedly the "youngest newspaper editor in Australia".[8] McCormack was sacked from The Daily Advertiser in February 2002. In response, "more than 20 journalists, photographers and other editorial staff" staged a 24-hour walkout.[9] He went on to sue the Riverina Media Group for unfair dismissal, and in 2003 settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.[10] McCormack subsequently started his own media and publishing company, MSS Media Services and Solutions.[11] He also served as a director of the Murrumbidgee Turf Club from 1994 to 2003, as well as its official historian.[12]

Political career

McCormack in July 2010

McCormack was campaign director for Kay Hull, the Nationals MP for Riverina, at the 2004 and 2007 federal elections. Hull announced her retirement from politics in April 2010, and McCormack subsequently won preselection for her seat at the 2010 election.[13] The Liberals stood a candidate in Riverina for the first time since 1998, but that had little impact on the result, with the Nationals recording a 3.6-point positive swing on a two-party-preferred basis.[14]

Ministerial posts

After the Coalition won the 2013 election, McCormack was made parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Finance, Mathias Cormann. He was later appointed Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, in September 2015.[15] In February 2016, he became Assistant Minister for Defence under Marise Payne.[15]

In July 2016, after the 2016 election, McCormack was appointed Minister for Small Business. In that capacity, he was responsible for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which conducted the 2016 national census and the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey during his tenure.[16][17] He opposes same-sex marriage, but voted in favour of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 after promising to vote in line with the survey result in his constituency.[18] In a ministerial reshuffle in December 2017, McCormack was made Minister for Defence Personnel, Minister for Veterans' Affairs, and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, positions which had previously been held by Dan Tehan.[15]

When Warren Truss retired as leader of the National Party in February 2016, McCormack publicly contemplated standing as his replacement.[19] He eventually chose not to run for the leadership, allowing Barnaby Joyce to win the position unopposed. He did stand for the deputy leadership (which Joyce had vacated), but lost to Senator Fiona Nash reportedly by only a single vote.[20] In December 2017, McCormack again contested the deputy leadership of the National Party, which had been made vacant as a result of Fiona Nash's disqualification from parliament. He was defeated by Bridget McKenzie, once again losing by only one vote.[21]

Deputy Prime Minister

Following the resignation of Barnaby Joyce in February 2018, McCormack announced that he would contest the resulting leadership vote.[22] Several other MPs publicly endorsed him for the position, and the only other announced candidate, David Gillespie, withdrew his candidacy the day before the election. George Christensen launched a last-minute bid for the leadership, but was defeated by McCormack, who succeeded Joyce as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.[23] He also replaced Joyce as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.[24]

After the Coalition won the 2019 federal election, McCormack was re-elected party leader unopposed.[25] On 4 February 2020, Joyce unsuccessfully challenged McCormack as leader of the Nationals.[26]

Personal life

McCormack married Catherine Shaw in 1986, with whom he has three children,[7] Georgina, Alexander and Nicholas.[2] In 1995, he became the owner of "the biggest collection of bound volumes of The Times anywhere in the world outside London", acquiring 900 volumes from Charles Sturt University when it ran out of storage space.[27]

McCormack is a Roman Catholic and has married his wife in Saint Michael's Cathedral in Wagga Wagga.[28]


Anti-gay stance

In 1993, McCormack published a controversial editorial in which he blamed homosexuality for AIDS and criticised pride parades. He wrote that "a week never goes by anymore that homosexuals and their sordid behaviour don't become further entrenched in society [...] unfortunately gays are here and, if the disease their unnatural acts helped spread doesn't wipe out humanity, they’re here to stay". He asked "how can these people call for rights when they're responsible for the greatest medical dilemma known to man – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome?"

The article was the subject of three complaints to the Australian Press Council, though none was upheld.[29] In further editorials from the same period he said "I’m not sorry, why should I be?" about his views, and branded himself "homophobic".[30] McCormack subsequently wrote a second editorial apologising for the first.[31] His remarks resurfaced when he embarked on a career in politics, and he issued further apologies in 2010 and 2017, stating that he had "grown and learnt not only to tolerate, but to accept all people regardless of their sexual orientation or any other trait or feature which makes each of us different and unique".[32][33] Despite his apologies, the controversy resurfaced after he became Deputy Prime Minister.[34]

Advocate for corporal punishment

In other editorials, he called for the return of caning in high schools, saying "there is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with students [...] being given a 'stinging reminder' about how to conduct themselves", compared women's soccer to an "egg and spoon race", and advocated the death penalty.

When asked for comment by The Guardian, he said that "editorial views expressed more than 25 years ago in no way reflect how my views and community views have changed since publication [...] as people get older and start families, and grow as members of their community it is completely reasonable their views change over time"[30]

Pacific Islands comments

In August 2019, McCormack was Acting Prime Minister while the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was at a Pacific Islands Forum. Morrison was being criticised by Pacific Islands leaders for Australia's contribution to global warming and rising sea levels, which threatened their low-lying territories. McCormack assured an Australian audience: "They’ll continue to survive because many of their workers come here and pick our fruit".[35]


In January 2020, McCormack's deputy leader Bridget McKenzie resigned her ministerial post after she admitted to having breached the ministerial code of conduct[36][37] and widespread accusations of pork barrelling.[38]

It was subsequently revealed that regional infrastructure grants program administered by McCormack in the months leading up to the 2019 federal election awarded 94 per cent of its grants to electorates held or targeted by the Coalition.[39]


In September 2020, McCormack was forced to backtrack an opinion attributing Victoria's second COVID-19 outbreak because of a Black Lives Matter protest in Melbourne as a panellist on the Q+A program. When he was told there was lack of evidence regarding this by host Hamish Macdonald, McCormack stated that he'll "accept that but people shouldn't be protesting".[40] The Department of Health and Human Services (Victoria) had confirmed that no positive cases of COVID-19 came from the protest in June 2020.[41]

US Capitol Hill Storming 2021

In January 2021, McCormack was criticised for comparing the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump to Black Lives Matter protesters saying, "Any form of protest, whether it’s a protest over racial riots or indeed what we’ve seen on Capitol Hill in recent days, is condemned and is abhorred.” [42] McCormack's statement was criticized by Amnesty International and the Opposition. A spokesperson for McCormack later said, "Any form of violence should be condemned."[43]


  1. "Eileen Margaret McCormack". Legacy. 17 January 2018.
  2. Maiden Speech, MichaelMcCormack.com.au. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  3. "Candidates bare all". The Age News. 14 August 2013. When was the last time you cried? When my father, Lance, died in 2008.
  4. "New Deputy PM of Greek descent". NeoKosmos. 1 March 2018. "In regards to the Grandfather of Mr McCormack Michael Francis, namely George Peter Margosis, allegedly born in 1896 in either Corinth or Akrata, following search conducted by our Offices, no registration of his in the Municipal and/ or Male Registries of either the Municipality of Corinth or the Municipality of Aigialeia appeared," reads the statement
  5. Citizenship Register – 45th Parliament: Members' statements in relation to citizenship. Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  6. Lachlan Grey (7 December 2017). "Michael McCormack denies holding Greek citizenship in continuing Canberra saga". Cootamundra Herald. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  7. About Michael, MichaelMcCormack.com.au. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  8. Broede Carmody (19 July 2016). "Four things you need to know about Michael McCormack, Australia's new small business minister". Smart Company. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  9. "Regional newspaper staff strike over editor's suspension". ABC News. 10 February 2002.
  10. "Former editor accepts out-of-court settlement" (PDF). Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter. University of Queensland (24): 9. October 2003. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
  11. "Michael's Employment History". Michael McCormack. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  12. "Michael McCormack MP Member for the Riverina". The Nationals NSW. Archived from the original on 18 February 2011. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
  13. Glover, Ben; Higgins, Ben (23 August 2010). "Michael's the man". The Daily Advertiser. Retrieved 23 August 2010.
  14. "First Preferences and Two Candidate Preferred – Riverina". 2010 federal election. Australian Electoral Commission. 21 August 2010. Archived from the original on 23 August 2010. Retrieved 23 August 2010.
  15. Hon Michael McCormack MP, Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  16. Michael Koziol (27 July 2016). "'What's the point of a plebiscite?' asks Turnbull government minister". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  17. Peter Martin (8 August 2017). "If it gets up, the same-sex marriage postal plebiscite could break the ABS". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  18. Lachlan Grey (15 November 2017). "Member for Riverina Michael McCormack to back same-sex marriage bill following majority 'yes' vote". The Daily Advertiser. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  19. Michael Brissenden (11 February 2016). "A Melbourne Cup field – Riverina MP Michael McCormack may enter the race for Nationals Deputy Leader". AM (ABC Radio). Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  20. Matthew Knott (12 February 2016). "Fiona Nash back from the brink and into cabinet". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  21. Ben Packham & Joe Kelly (24 February 2018). "Ex-editor Michael McCormack leads Nationals leadership field". The Australian. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  22. Graham, Ben; Killalea, Debra (23 February 2018). "Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce resigns as Nationals leader". news.com.au.
  23. Kelly, Joe (26 February 2018). "Michael McCormack to lead Nationals". The Australian. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  24. Killalea, Debra (26 February 2018). "Michael McCormack: Deputy PM role confirmed". News.com.au. Canberra, Australia. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  25. "Nationals women MPs defy 'blokey' party image". The Australian. 24 May 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  26. Harris, Rob (4 February 2020). "'The issue is finalised': Barnaby Joyce licks wounds, vows to get back to his day job". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  27. Alex Mitchell (12 November 1995). "Plenty in store". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  28. "Michael McCormack on Twitter".
  29. Connell, Jennifer (1 March 1995). "The rural reality". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  30. Zhou, Naaman (28 February 2018). "Michael McCormack distances himself from editorial backing death penalty". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  31. Huntly, Daisy (11 August 2017). "Michael McCormack's homophobic slurs re-emerge amid postal plebiscite controversy". Illawarra Mercury. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  32. Glover, Ben (12 August 2010). "Homophobic slurs haunt McCormack". The Daily Advertiser. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  33. Hasham, Nicole (11 August 2017). "Small Business Minister Michael McCormack issues new apology over homophobic newspaper column". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  34. Examples:
  35. Smee, Ben (16 August 2019). "Pacific islands will survive climate crisis because they 'pick our fruit', Australia's deputy PM says". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 August 2019. With video
  36. "Bridget McKenzie resigns from cabinet over sports grant saga". www.9news.com.au.
  37. "Bridget McKenzie quits frontbench over report she breached ministerial standards". ABC News. Australia. 2 February 2020. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  38. Karp, Paul (16 January 2020). "Labor calls on Bridget McKenzie to resign over sport grants for marginal seats". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 January 2020.
  39. Kearsley, Jonathan (2 February 2020). "'Another rort': Infrastructure program awarded 94% of grants to Coalition, marginal seats". The Age.
  40. "'We had the outbreak because of a protest': Deputy PM forced to walk back COVID-19 claim on Q&A". Nine News. 8 September 2020. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  41. Coronavirus update for Victoria - 22 June 2020, Department of Health and Human Services (Victoria), retrieved 12 January 2021
  42. "Michael McCormack criticised for comparing Black Lives Matter protests to storming of US Capitol". ABC News. 12 January 2021. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  43. "McCormack doubles down on claim over US protests". Sydney Morning Herald. 12 January 2021. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
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