PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull will hold the Agriculture and Water Resources portfolio following the High Court’s decision today to disqualify Barnaby Joyce from parliament.
The decision means Mr Joyce will now be required to fight a by-election to retain his seat of New England, on December 2.
In a television interview after the ruling was handed down Mr Joyce indicated he was hopeful the PM would hold his portfolio while he sought to re-enter parliament, which was later confirmed.
The High Court ruling also saw the disqualification of Nationals deputy-leader Fiona Nash but Queensland Nationals Senator and former cabinet minister Matt Canavan was spared the axe along with Independent SA Senator Nick Xenophon.
The other three members of parliament facing a decision today due to their citizenship status were also disqualified.
A statement from the NSW Nationals signalled that the fight was on for New England.
“Regional Australia is on the verge of losing its biggest advocate,” a statement from NSW party director Nathan Quigley said.
“The regions are the backbone of this nation and under Barnaby's leadership, they're finally getting the attention they deserve.
“Billions have been secured for community projects, ag commodities prices are at record highs, more jobs are going bush, dams are being built and city-dwellers are the waking up to the fact that there is more to Australia than just Sydney and Melbourne.
“However, with a by-election called that could all be about to change.”
Mr Quigley said, “With Barnaby' position at risk, the odds are stacked against us.”
“Every man and his dog will be looking to discredit him and the good work he's done for the bush and his local community,” he said.
“But Barnaby has never backed away from a fight - and this one is no different.
“Now it's time for us to take one for the team and help our fearless leader return to government.”
Mr Joyce’s arch political rival Tony Windsor ruled himself out of challenging again for the seat he held for more than a decade before retiring at the 2013 election.
He lost to Mr Joyce in a challenge at last year’s federal poll - Nationals’ sources believe the party leader is likely to extend his lead, at a by-election, based on recent polling numbers.