Barnaby Joyce has survived a bid by some of his own MPs to force him to quit the National Party leadership.
- Nationals deputy says Joyce has party’s full support
- Labor targets Joyce in Question Time over living arrangements
- Joyce says he did not have to say who gave him rent-free house
Nationals MPs are split, with a small group pushing for the Deputy Prime Minister to resign, while a second group believes he is deeply wounded by recent revelations about his private life but is prepared to give him more time.
The third group — which supports him keeping his job as leader — has so far prevailed.
Nationals backbencher Ken O’Dowd told journalists this morning a new leader could be found to replace Mr Joyce.
But Mr Joyce received strong backing from other Nationals, including Cabinet minister David Littleproud and party whip Michelle Landry.
Deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie defended her previous silence on the issue, telling Sky News the leadership team thought Mr Joyce’s private life was a, “personal matter and that Barnaby would deal with it in a statement”.
Senator McKenzie insisted Mr Joyce had the full support of the party.
Mr Joyce shocked many of his colleagues last December when he chose to promote Mr Littleproud to Cabinet from the backbench and demoted Darren Chester and Keith Pitt.
Senator McKenzie rejected a suggestion Mr Joyce’s judgement was clouded when he made those decisions.
“It is all the discretion of the leader,” she said.
“Just because certain people don’t like what the leader’s decision was doesn’t mean it was a flawed decision.”
Ken O’Dowd said the Nationals could find a new leader to replace Barnaby Joyce. (ABC News: Jed Cooper)
Senator McKenzie said there would always be people disappointed if they missed out on promotions or were demoted.
She linked that to some of the push against Mr Joyce.
“That reality shouldn’t constitute certain behaviours which undermine delivering for rural and regional Australia,” Senator McKenzie said.
She insisted there would be no change at the top of the party, saying, “Come Friday, Barnaby Joyce will be leading the National Party”.
No need to declare six months’ free rent
Labor used Question Time to press Mr Joyce over why he had been living rent-free for six months in a property in the regional city of Armidale, owned by a businessman who is a friend of his.
He declared the gift but not the identity of the local businessman who provided it.
Mr Joyce insisted he had not broken any rules because those details did not have to be declared when they were from close friends.
The Opposition attacked the Deputy Prime Minister for saying recently people struggling with housing costs in big cities should move to Armidale, given that he is living rent-free.
“Can the Deputy Prime Minister confirm that the Government’s latest advice for first home buyers is to just get rich mates?” shadow treasurer Chris Bowen asked.
Labor also signalled it would keep examining Mr Joyce’s travel with his former staff member and now partner Vikki Campion, as well as her employment.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull again confirmed Mr Joyce would be acting prime minister next week.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said earlier today she would be prepared to act as prime minister instead if necessary.
Some in the Coalition are worried about the prospect of Mr Joyce being acting prime minister while he is dealing with the publicity surrounding his personal life.
That has prompted some to speculate he might take personal leave instead next week.