Macfarlane's political future in doubt after rejection
UPDATE: Toowoomba LNP power brokers are fuming the party executive rejected their overwhelming support of Ian "Chainsaw'' Macfarlane's bid to defect to the Nationals.
While 141 people voted 106-35 on Saturday in Toowoomba to allow his defection, just 26 people in a South Brisbane office declared the Groom MP was to remain in the Liberal party room.
The 14-12 vote which locked Mr Macfarlane into a party he wants to leave has thrown up questions of what it means for Groom, and left the rank-and-file members fuming at an executive they believe has ignored their concerns.
Prominent Macfarlane-backer Greg Johnson likened the tussle to the Albanese-Shorten leadership struggle, and said the Groom members had voted to allow the switch only to be overruled by the state executive.
"It was a comprehensive vote from the people of Groom that has just been overruled," Mr Johnson said.
LNP president Gary Spence said the Groom vote had been taken into consideration but ultimately the decision was made to preserve the party's relationship with the Coalition which, had Mr Macfarlane jumped ship to the Nationals, would have been left in tatters.
Mr Spence said while he hoped the 60-year-old veteran politician would remain in politics and "had a lot to offer", that decision could only be made by Mr Macfarlane.
That was one question Mr Macfarlane would not answer definitively this afternoon after a brief interview with Brisbane media.
But he fired what appeared to be a warning shot to the party's executive.
"The LNP is a grassroots party and the executive will no doubt answer to the members in Groom," he said.
"I'm not ready to retire.
"I'm Australia's longest-serving resources minister (and) there may be opportunities in that area, or I may continue in politics."
Mr Macfarlane did not return calls this afternoon, nor did a number of his key supporters in Toowoomba who went to ground after the shock result.
Member for Toowoomba South John McVeigh failed to answer calls, instead forwarding a statement from State Opposition deputy leader John-Paul Langbroek.
"We are a members party and our presidents have always been at great pains to point that out," he said.
"The state executive has made a decision.
"I am here on behalf of the state parliamentary team to say that we will always make sure these federal issues don't distract us from our task at hand."
Mr Macfarlane had previously flagged retirement from politics if his Nationals bid was rejected by the rank and file members, or the party executive.
He previously told an industry meeting in Toowoomba that losing a Cabinet member would be damaging to Toowoomba and the Darling Downs.
"This region is on the cusp of a huge expansion and now is not the time for this region to give up on a cabinet minister," he told the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise meeting last week.
But whether the party's rejection of his Nationals defection would prompt him into early retirement remained unclear.
Mr Macfarlane denied the party switch was a miscalculation and said he would consult with his family in Toowoomba before deciding if he would return to Canberra next year.
"I felt that this was the only way I'd be able to continue to be an effective voice in my electorate."
Meanwhile, sportsbet has opened betting odds at $1.75 he'll quit politics before the next election.
"Ian Macfarlane's skin will need to be thicker than a crocodile's if he is to retake his seat in the Liberal Party room, but it appears more likely than not he will announce his retirement from politics early in the New Year," sportsbet.com.au's Ben Bulmer said.
- $1.75 he'll quit
- $2 he'll stay
2.30PM: THE LNP has denied Ian Macfarlane's bid to join the Nationals after a three-hour meeting in Brisbane.
The party met in Brisbane this morning with the state executive due to consider the party switch.
LNP president Gary Spence said the decision was made with the best interests of the LNP in mind.
"While LNP members of the Groom electorate voted to support Mr Macfarlane's decision, the interests of our party beyond his electorate were taken into account," he said.
"In rejecting Ian's request to move to The Nationals' party room, the LNP acknowledges his enormous contribution to our party and importantly to the people of Groom and Australia.
"The LNP has been a strong contributor to the Coalition's electoral success at the last two elections and now holds 22 of Queensland's 30 federal seats.
"The party is working hard to build on that success to ensure the Turnbull Coalition Government is re-elected and Australia remains on track for a more prosperous future.
"The LNP remains strong and committed to providing Queenslanders with the good government they deserve at all levels."
Mr Macfarlane, addressing Brisbane media this afternoon, said he was disappointed in the decision following the overwhelming support he had received from grassroots party members in Toowoomba on Saturday.