The federal government will be able to continue operating with support from Indi MP Cathy McGowan in matters of “confidence and supply”, even if it loses its one-seat majority in the House of Representatives.
The fate of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce rests with the High Court after he was revealed as a dual New Zealand citizen, but Ms McGowan – who could hold a vital vote in Parliament if he was forced to stand down – maintained the position she took after the 2016 election.
“My relationship with the government stays the same, I am not going to be distracted by party politics,” she said.
The MP planned to move a motion to include citizenship on politicians’ register of members’ interests and said she would support an audit of their citizenship statuses.
As debate about Mr Joyce raged in Parliament question time on Tuesday, Ms McGowan temporarily moved the focus, asking for the specifics and timeframe to be revealed for the $140 million North East rail project.
Transport Minister Darren Chester did not reveal details of the plans, but did say they were close to being finalised.
“The ARTC and the regional rail provider V/Line are currently assessing the priorities for the North East line and will report back to the respective state and federal departments in the weeks ahead, hopefully by the end of this month,” he said.
Once the ARTC and V/Line have reported back to their respective departments, I’ll be having further discussions with the Victorian minister ... and we’ll work together on how to implement that scope of works and firming up the detail of timeframes.”
A chance for “discussions within the community and the respective rail operators” around rail works was promised by the government.
“I expect passengers on the North East line will start seeing benefits from later on this year,” Mr Chester said.
He put pressure on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to fund promised rolling stock and asked Ms McGowan to continue lobbying.
Meanwhile, News Corp has reported Farrer MP Sussan Ley will take a taxpayer-funded trip to St Petersburg, Russia in October to represent the government at a four-day gathering.