newsCO.com.au–Nationals boss in Canberra to deal with Joyce

February 14, 2018

The Nationals president is in Canberra to deal with “a very difficult time” for the party as a small group of MPs push for Barnaby Joyce to resign.

The deputy prime minister’s relationship with his now pregnant partner Vikki Campion has raised concerns about the potential misuse of taxpayer funds after she was shuffled around posts in the offices of other senior MPs.

Nationals president Larry Anthony is in Canberra to deal with the crisis, which he described as a “very difficult time” for the party.

“But the National Party always works through these issues,” Mr Anthony told reporters on Wednesday.

“That is why I am down here today.”

Mr Joyce is due to take over as acting prime minister next week when Malcolm Turnbull holds talks in Washington with US President Donald Trump.

Nationals backbencher Ken O’Dowd said he hoped the speculation “doesn’t go on too much longer.”

“I’d hope to have it resolved today or tomorrow,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Mr O’Dowd does not think any of his colleagues will move against Mr Joyce, preferring instead to have “a talk” to him about his future.

“Someone needs to tell him where the party stands at this stage.”

Mr Joyce told a meeting of coalition MPs on Tuesday he was determined to get through this “time of trial”.

Ministerial colleague Michael McCormack, who has twice missed out on becoming deputy leader, denied having conversations with colleagues about replacing Mr Joyce.

“No I haven’t,” he told reporters on Tuesday night.

Cabinet minister David Littleproud, promoted by Mr Joyce in a ministerial reshuffle, said “of course” his leader had the support of most Nationals MPs.

“There’s no leadership to be resolved,” he told ABC radio.

“We need this to be dealt with quickly. But those that want to keep this issue lingering on need to put up or shut up and leave him alone and leave his family alone.

“The media themselves are fascinated with the titillation of the details of this and they’re just trying to perpetuate it into as long an issue as they can.”

Backbencher Michelle Landry believes the party should give Mr Joyce “a bit of personal time to sort this out”.

“As far as I’m concerned everything is above board with the offices and he’s there to stay,” she told reporters.

“I believe that Barnaby will remain our leader – I think we need to give him a fair go with it.”

Nationals backbencher George Christensen tweeted “Barnaby stuffed up. He apologised. Move on.”

A group of about four or five Nationals MPs is believed to be trying to get Mr Joyce to resign, but don’t have the numbers in the 21-member party room to force a change.

Mr Joyce has denied breaching the ministerial code of conduct, which says frontbenchers cannot employ “close” relatives or partners or get them work in other ministerial offices “without the prime minister’s express approval”.

He has argued Ms Campion was not his partner when she worked in his and Matt Canavan’s office.

Damian Drum was not a minister when she transferred to his office.

Former Nationals leader Warren Truss said the situation needed to be resolved quickly.

Ms Campion is due to give birth in mid-April.

Mr Joyce separated from his wife Natalie after 24 years of marriage late last year.

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