CANBERRA -- The Liberal Party appears set to get its first defection since the ousting of Tony Abbott, with dumped Minister Ian Macfarlane poised to jump into the ranks of the junior Coalition partner, The Nationals.
The Huffington Post Australia understands Macfarlane informed the Prime Minister Wednesday of his intention to defect to the Nats.
The surprise move has been revealed on the last parliamentary sitting day of 2015 and comes as the Prime Minister is contending with moves to oust his Special Minister of State Mal Brough over the Peter Slipper/James Ashby affair.
The former Industry Minister, who was dumped by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in his first reshuffle, has yet to make a statement on the move.
A senior Nationals source has confirmed discussions with Macfarlane and the Nationals federal leadership group had been underway for several weeks.
Nationals MP, George Christensen has used Facebook to welcome his fellow Queenslander into the Nationals fold.
“Welcome to the Nats to my good friend Ian Macfarlane,” he wrote.
“We fought very valiantly the other day to stop any document being signed at the Paris climate change conference that may have seen farmers and miners lose their diesel fuel rebate which, in turn, would have cost jobs.”
The Facebook post has subsequently been removed.
The Nationals party room will meet later Thursday with the veteran MP expected to be welcomed with open arms.
It’s expected the long-time Liberal frontbencher, known in political circles as "Macca", will seek a senior portfolio in the Turnbull Government.