Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is staring down talk of a challenge on his leadership next week, saying there is “no reason” for the Nationals party room not to be behind him.
The Nationals leader told the ABC he was not going to be distracted by any “unsourced online report” about a potential challenge from former leader Barnaby Joyce.
“I am concentrating to make sure we get things sorted during this pandemic which has killed 3.8 million people and we have a big job to do for and on behalf of all Australians,” Mr McCormack said.
“If others want to talk about themselves then that is a matter for them.
“It is only an unsourced online report and I am not going to speculate on an online news story.”
According to one report, Mr McCormack could face a challenge from Mr Joyce as early as Monday.
There is considerable disquiet among Nationals about Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s hardening support for Australia adopting a net zero by 2050 emissions target ahead of the Glasgow climate talks in November.
Asked by the ABC if there were any reason for him to be concerned about his leadership, Mr McCormack said: “There is no reason for the party room not to be behind me”.
“I have delivered for regional Australia in the two last federal budgets in particular, in very challenging times.
“I am the elected leader of the Nationals and I have been elected three times leader.
“I am concentrating my efforts on regional Australia.”
Some Nationals have told the ABC they are disappointed with the direction of the party under Mr McCormack, with one saying he lacked “cut through”.
But one strong supporter of Mr Joyce said he believed the former leader may only have seven to eight firm votes should there be a leadership spill.
Another potential contender for the leadership, if there were a spill, would be David Littleproud.
There are 21 people in the National Party room, with 16 members in the House of Representatives, and five senators.
A potential challenger would need 11 votes to succeed.
The ABC has attempted to contact Mr Joyce.