Barnaby Joyce downplays chances of Nationals spill

Barnaby Joyce downplays chances of Nationals spill

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Barnaby Joyce has downplayed the prospects of challenging for the Nationals leadership.

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Barnaby Joyce has downplayed the prospects of challenging for the Nationals leadership.

Speculation is mounting Mr Joyce will challenge Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack at a party room meeting on Monday before parliament rises for the winter break.

Mr Joyce has not ruled out running for the leadership if a spill is called but has said he does not think that is likely.

"I've read articles this weekend which are so far ahead of the show they're entertaining but they're just not correct," he told Network Seven.

"There is no prospect of a spill at this point in time."

Any challenger would need to secure at least 11 votes from the 21-strong team of Nationals sitting in the federal parliament.

Mr McCormack said rebels in the ranks would need to "blow me out" because he would not be standing aside.

"I will absolutely run," he told The Australian Financial Review.

"I'm not a quitter, they'll have to blow me out."

Mr McCormack made similar comments to The Australian and Nine newspapers.

"People aren't dissatisfied with what I'm doing as deputy prime minister, they want my job," he told Nine.

"If they do bring on a spill and lose they should be thinking of their own futures."

Asked if Mr McCormack was doing a good job Mr Joyce said, "He is doing the best job he can".

"He is a good bloke and has been working as hard as he can."

Mr Joyce's last attempt to roll Mr McCormack in February 2020 ended in failure.

But it did result in Agriculture Minster David Littleproud - seen as a future leader - becoming the Nationals deputy leader.

On the policy front, some colleagues consider Mr McCormack as weak in pushing back against stronger climate action and a failure in claiming credit for infrastructure spending.

But the leadership rumblings appear far more personality-based.

Nationals frontbencher Darren Chester, a staunch supporter of Mr McCormack, said country voters were sick of the "bulldust" around leadership tensions.

"I've read the speculation and I've heard the speculation. I don't think there's even going to be a spill motion today and nor should there be," he told the ABC.

"Michael McCormack is doing a very good job for our country, for regional Australia, in difficult circumstances."

Mr Chester accused rebellious Nationals colleagues of "mischief-making" by fuelling the speculation.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison threw his support behind Mr McCormack during a radio interview on Monday.

*Australian Associated Press

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