Nationals leader Michael McCormack has warned any challenger they will have to “blast him out” and urged his critics, including Barnaby Joyce, to think long and hard about their political futures.
Speaking in Canberra this morning just an hour before the scheduled party room meeting, Mr McCormack warned his colleagues that voters were sick of the drama and wanted the Nationals to get on with the job.
“If they want to bring any spills they will have to think about that,‘’ he said.
“If I survive then …they should think long and hard.”
Queensland Senator Matt Canavan has come out this morning to support Barnaby Joyce saying he had been “upfront” about backing a change.
“I’ve called Michael and told him the same thing over the weekend. It’s not personal,’’ Senator Canavan said.
The Queensland Senator said the Nationals needed to put its “best foot forward” and he made no apologies for believing Mr Joyce was the better man for the job.
“I will leave Matt Canavan to explain what Matt Canavan says. I know I‘ve been good for regional Australia,” Mr McCormack replied.
Earlier, Mr Joyce damned Mr McCormack with faint praise on Channel 7‘s Sunrise and refused to rule out standing if an opportunity arose.
“There is no prospect of a spill at this point in time. I would just let that issue arise,” he said.
“I think he is doing the best job he can, he is a good bloke and has been working as hard as he can. The issue is in the next election and this is for the National Party and the Coalition in general.
“There are times where I think we could do things differently no doubt about that but that‘s a decision for the party room. I’ve read articles this week and which are so far ahead of the show, they’re entertaining, just not I’m not going to start delving into what is National party business, they can have that, they can make those discussions and decisions themselves.”
Asked if he would put his hand up for the job Mr Joyce wouldn‘t rule it out.
“I would just let that issue arise. How about How about, now, if you are offered a lot more money to work for Channel 9 How about, now, if you are offered a lot more money to work for Channel 9, would you work for them?,” he told Sunrise’s Natalie Barr.
“Ask me if that happens. Ask me if that happens. The only person who can agree on the numbers is the first who says I wouldn‘t vote for you if you are the last person alive on earth. That person you can believe.”
Mr Joyce was also asked about a News.com.au report that he was within one vote of a majority “but women don‘t want you. Are they your problem?.”
“That is a question for you. Am I a problem to you?” Mr Joyce said.
Victorian Nationals MP Darren Chester predicted the party room meeting could prove a fizzer, despite the feverish speculation.
“I’ve heard the speculation. I don’t think there’s even going to be a spill motion today, and nor should there be. I think Michael McCormack is doing a very good job for our country, for regional Australia, in difficult circumstances,” Mr Chester told the ABC.
“Quite frankly, I actually think regional Australians more generally are tired of this bulldust. They want us absolutely focused on them, on the issues that matter to them, and so I think Michael will continue in his role throughout the day and lead us to the next election.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised Mr McCormack for providing “stable leadership”.
“We’ve worked very closely together and provided great stable leadership for Australia,” he told 2GB radio.
“The Nationals will have their discussions as they always do and we’ll just get on with the job.”