Nationals leader Michael McCormack is “100 per cent” confident he can hang on to his job despite renewed leadership rumblings – and a fresh push from predecessor Barnaby Joyce.
The deputy prime minister said colleagues had assured him reports he would face a leadership challenge from Mr Joyce were unsubstantiated.
“This shouldn’t be about personality. This should be about outcomes. Certainly I have produced outcomes,” he told the ABC in Sydney on Friday.
Mr Joyce again confirmed he would seek a return to the top job if the leadership was spilled, but denied he was actively canvassing support from colleagues.
“If it was called open, of course I would stand,” he told the Northern Daily Leader.
He said he was not behind the push to destabilise Mr McCormack, insisting the first time he heard about a potential challenge was in the media.
“I’ve maintained the same line – I have never asked one of my colleagues for a vote, I don’t intend to.”
Mr McCormack’s approach to the government’s “big stick” energy bill, which the Nationals are demanding be put to a vote during budget week, is considered the next big test of his leadership.
“I am working hard every day to deliver for regional Australians and I will continue to focus on the issues that are important to their way of life, like lowering power prices,” he told the Courier-Mail on Friday.
“Yes, I support coal-fired energy generation. It still provides the majority of Australia’s energy needs, especially baseload power.
A group of Queensland Nationals also want the government to underwrite a new regional power station before the election.
Mr McCormack said he was “getting on with the job” of representing country Australia.
“People just want stability, and they want us to stop focusing on ourselves, and we’re not focusing on ourselves,” he said.
Waleed: “Could you name a single, big policy area where the Nats have sided with the interests of farmers over the interest of miners when they come into conflict?”
— The Project (@theprojecttv) March 6, 2019
Some Queensland MPs are reportedly nervous the party will lose heavily at the looming election and are agitating for Mr McCormack to step aside or be sacked.
The deputy prime minister has come under fire for his “lacklustre” performance and fund-raising efforts.
Labor leader Bill Shorten said the reignited leadership tensions proved the Coalition was divided.
“Half of the Nationals don’t want Barnaby Joyce, the other half do want him. None of them seem to want the government’s energy policy,” Mr Shorten said.
Asked whether Mr McCormack deserved the loyalty of his party room, former prime minister Tony Abbott said: “Of course he does.”
While it appears unlikely Mr McCormack will face a challenge before the election, his future beyond the May poll looks shaky.
He also had to hose down leadership questions in October when Mr Joyce also failed to rule out a return to the helm of the Nationals.