NSW Nationals Senator John “Wacka” Williams isn’t planning to retire early to provide a passage for his disqualified party colleague’s return to politics and won’t be running as a candidate to replace the retired Tasmanian Liberal Stephen Parry as Senate President.
Senator Williams has been linked in speculation to the vacant Senate President’s position following revelations of Mr Parry’s dual British citizenship - following the High Court’s clear ruling that also disqualified Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and deputy-leader Fiona Nash - which led to his subsequent retirement from parliament.
But as four Liberals jostle for the Senate President’s role which comes with a $350,000 per year salary - West Australian Dean Smith, South Australian David Fawcett, Queenslander Ian MacDonald and Victorian Scott Ryan who is also Special Minister of State - Senator Williams ruled himself out of the running.
Senator Williams said he was hoping for a joint-meeting of Coalition Senators where the issue would be threshed out but acting party leader and NT Senator Nigel Scullion had confirmed that wasn’t an option.
“But I’m not bothered one bit,” he said.
Senator Williams said he would remain focussed on his Senate Committee work which was an area where he delivered some of his “best achievements” in federal parliament including prosecuting farming and rural policy issues and holding banking and financial institutions to account.
However, he said he’d now “put the Liberals on notice” of the need to buck a historical trend and appoint a Nationals Senate President, which could potentially form part of a future Coalition agreement in government.
When asked if a Nationals member should be Senate President, after Mr Parry’s citizenship issue was revealed and Mr Joyce backed his good mate and colleague Senator Williams, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said “it is a matter for the Senators”.
“And the Liberal Party as the larger party in the Coalition has always chosen from its senators the President when we are in government,” he said.
Senator Williams also confirmed he wouldn’t be stepping aside and retiring early, to create a casual vacancy in the Senate which could then be filled by the Nationals to appoint Ms Nash, following her disqualification over dual British citizenship.
“I’m not going anywhere for now; there’s still plenty to do,” he said, in regards to his plan to not recontest the 2019 election when his current three-year term is due to end.
Senator Williams said only unforeseen circumstances or events would change his schedule and plans.