Nationals MP Tony Crook has confirmed that he plans to sit as an independent in Australia’s hung parliament.
Party leader Warren Truss said Crook’s decision was a “disappointment”, The Australian newspaper reported.
But the Nationals could be set to claim the deputy speaker’s prize, with Bruce Scott emerging as the Coalition’s frontrunner for the post after Labor’s failed bid to draft Queensland Liberal Alex Somlyay into the job.
The speaker and the deputy speaker’s job will ultimately be decided by a secret ballot of MPs on Tuesday.
Mr Crook’s decision deals a new wildcard into Australia’s hung parliament, with the new MP’s main complaint that the GST “rips off Western Australia”.
While Mr Crook had signalled his intention to sit on the cross benches, he informed Mr Truss in a letter on Friday that he would also not attend the Nationals partyroom when parliament resumes, confirming he won’t be bound by its decisions.
“He’s indicated that he will be sitting as an independent. That’s what the ramifications are,” Mr Truss told The Australian on Sunday night. “His view was he had stood as someone who was not going to be part of the coalition. It is my view he would be better able to achieve his aims by sitting in the Nationals partyroom. I am disappointed.”
With Labor and the coalition each holding just 72 seats in the 150-seat parliament, legislation will require the support of at least four out of six independents if opposed by a major party.
Mr Crook will now officially join five other crossbench MPs — Bob Katter, Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott, Andrew Wilkie and the Greens Adam Bandt — as a key dealmaker or deal-breaker for Labor’s legislative agenda.