MICHAEL McCormack, the man who once penned a shocking homophobic tirade against gay people in a newspaper article, is Australia's new Deputy Prime Minister.

Michael McCormack’s column written in 1993.
Michael McCormack’s column written in 1993.

Mr McCormack was this morning elected as Nationals leader after his main opponent David Gillespie withdrew from the race.

The Member for Riverina replaces Barnaby Joyce who announced he was resigning as leader of the Nationals on Friday.

However the election of Mr McCormack has raised eyebrows, particularly because of an article he penned in 1993 where he posted a homophobic tirade.

The former newspaper editor once wrote a column demonising gay people, describing homosexuality as "sordid".

The then editor of Wagga Wagga's Fairfax-owned local paper The Daily Advertiser, Mr McCormack also descried gay people as "unnatural" and blamed same-sex attracted people for the AIDS epidemic.

"A week never goes by anymore that homosexuals and their sordid behaviour don't become further entrenched in society," he wrote in his vile "from the editor's desk" column.

"Unfortunately gays are here and, if the disease their unnatural acts helped spread doesn't wipe out humanity, they're here to stay.

Michael McCormack is the new Deputy Prime Minister. Picture: Sean Davey
Michael McCormack is the new Deputy Prime Minister. Picture: Sean Davey

"How can these people call for rights when they're responsible for the greatest medical dilemma known to man - AIDS."

The Veterans' Affairs minister has apologised throughout his career for the shocking column, and insists he no longer holds those views.

He also voted in favour of same-sex marriage.

During the gay marriage debate, he said: "I have grown and learnt not only to tolerate but to accept all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, or any other trait or feature which makes each of us different and unique."

Mr Joyce announced his resignation as leader of the Nationals during a press conference in Armidale on Friday.

It followed a tumultuous month for the beleaguered politician.

Pressure had been mounting on Mr Joyce ever since it was revealed that he had an affair with his staffer Vikki Campion, who is now his partner.

They are living together and due to have a baby in April.

Mr Joyce will remain as the member for New England on the backbench.

- With AAP