Cathy McGowan has three words for the major parties trying to win her seat back: “Bring it on.”
The independent MP for Indi is also threatening to withdraw support for the coalition government if the Nationals bring Barnaby Joyce back as leader.
Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie is moving her Senate electorate office nearly 300 kilometres to Wodonga in Victoria’s north-east, in preparation for a potential run at Ms McGowan’s seat.
“I hope Bridget makes her announcement pretty soon that she’s running,” Ms McGowan said in Canberra on Thursday.
“I would look forward to her as a candidate.
“We’ll have National party, we’ll have Liberal party, we’ll have independents.”
Mr Joyce criticised Ms McGowan through her local newspaper for her threats about withdrawing confidence.
“Cathy, my door is always open if you wish to discuss anything with me that could be of such weight that you would make a public statement like you did,” Mr Joyce told The Border Mail.
“Alternatively, please desist with the gushy charade that is part of the disingenuous patter that you partake in every other time we meet.”
Ms McGowan said she probably was “gushy”, but there was a lot of anger in her country electorate about how the Liberals dumped Malcolm Turnbull.
Regional and rural Australians would “not be happy” with a change of leadership in the Nationals, she said.
Nationals frontbencher Michelle Landry again hosed down speculation a challenge to Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is imminent.
“Politics is a tough business, Michael’s our leader now and he has the support of our party room,” Ms Landry said.
Last week she conceded Mr Joyce was likely to become leader again at some stage.
To contest the Nationals leadership, Senator McKenzie needs to be in the lower house. Her Senate term does not expire until mid-2022.
Ms McGowan would not say if she would contest the next election.
“I’m working on a succession plan, so whether it’s this term or next term we haven’t quite got to that space,” she said.
“But, at some stage, I’ll stop being the member for Indi.”