Nationals MP Darren Chester says his decision to take time away from the party was made out of sadness, rather than anger, as tensions rise over its stance on climate change.
The Victorian MP announced on Sunday he was taking a break after several months of frustration following the return of Barnaby Joyce to the federal leadership.
Speaking on ABC radio, Mr Chester expressed concern some Nationals MPs were pushing a hard right-wing agenda.
“The party room and the way it’s working at the moment is quite dysfunctional,” he said on Monday.
“Comments from colleagues made in particular around the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the protests in Victoria and the pandemic have been very unhelpful.
“Regional Australia needs a strong voice but a sensible voice.”
Mr Chester said he was concerned about the direction some Nationals MPs were trying to take the party.
He had previously said he was worried about Mr Joyce’s reluctance to rein in the views of MPs such as Queenslanders George Christensen and Matt Canavan.
Mr Joyce has laughed off suggestions he could gag Mr Christensen – who last week suggested Victoria Police officers should be arrested for using “excessive force” against protesters in Melbourne.
“The Nationals have a great future for regional values and not extreme right-wing values,” Mr Chester said.
Resources Minister Keith Pitt said he was certain Mr Chester would return to the party room soon and stand at the next election.
However, he played down concerns about some of the comments made by MPs in party room meetings.
“How do you stop people from walking up to a microphone and making a statement,” he told ABC radio.
“There is a range of views in the room, depending on where you come from and who you represent.”