Barnaby Joyce in Parliament House. Picture: Gary Ramage
Barnaby Joyce in Parliament House. Picture: Gary Ramage

‘Extraordinary’ move against Barnaby Joyce

BARNABY Joyce is facing an ugly internal battle to run for the Nationals at the next election, with some party members refusing to endorse his candidacy.

The former deputy prime minister and National Party leader has applied to recontest his northern NSW seat of New England.

But an eight-member selection committee has reached a deadlock and is unable to unanimously support his candidacy, Sky News reported this morning.

At least two members are holding out, fearing Mr Joyce could have "more skeletons in the closet" and that his paperwork might not be correct.

Last time Mr Joyce stood for the seat, in 2016, he failed to disclose his affair with former staffer Vikki Campion or the fact she was pregnant with his child.

In February, the public revelation of that affair forced Mr Joyce to resign as leader of the Nationals. Ms Campion gave birth to the couple's son Sebastian in April.

"This is an extraordinary move against a sitting member and former deputy prime minister," Sky's Kieran Gilbert said.

If the deadlock cannot be broken, the National Party's national executive will have to make the final decision on Mr Joyce's candidacy.

"I'll judge myself by the largest turnaround in agricultural commodity prices in Australian history," Mr Joyce told The Australian today.

"I'll judge myself by in-land rail. I'll judge myself by my work on the drought. I'll judge myself on decentralisation. I'll judge myself on my tireless work for the community.

"And if any other people want to judge me on my personal life, that's a choice for them."

The man who replaced him as Nationals leader, Michael McCormack, issued a statement supporting the preselection process but not explicitly endorsing Mr Joyce.

"Pre-selection processes are the same for all federal Nationals candidates," Mr McCormack said.

"The grassroots members of the Nationals get to pick our candidates and that's what's happening here."

 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, a Victorian Liberal MP, said Coalition preselections were a matter for local branches.

"That being said, Barnaby Joyce has been a hardworking and effective member for New England, he had a thumping victory in the by-election last year," Mr Frydenberg told Sky.

"And he is doing some really good work as a special envoy for drought-stricken communities."

Mr Joyce's preselection might be in doubt now, but last month there was speculation he could even return to the leadership.

He said he wasn't campaigning to replace Mr McCormack as deputy prime minister, but was ready to accept any job his colleagues asked him to do.

"I have not made one call to one colleague asking for a vote," Mr Joyce said.

"There's been no secret meetings in my room, there's no WhatsApp group, there's no dinner conversations going away to a restaurant.

"It is faux modesty to say if you're offered a job, you'd turn it down. That is garbage," he said.

"If it was offered to me I'd take it, but I'm not touting for it, I'm not collecting the numbers."

Mr McCormack, meanwhile, tried to hose down the speculation.

"I don't intend to stand aside. I've got the support of the party room and that's that," he said.

"I've been given nothing but support, nothing but absolute solid support.

"National Party members aren't talking about the leadership. They're talking about the sorts of things that are really important to the people they represent."

Interviewer Laura Jayes interjected, saying suggestions National MPs were not thinking about the leadership were "just not true".

"Obviously we're not making it up," she said.

"No National Party member has come to me and said, 'I'm not satisfied with the job you're doing.' They've come to me and they've offered me solid support," Mr McCormack insisted.

"I appreciate that these insider Canberra games are played.

"People don't like us being focused on ourselves. They don't like this introspection. What they want us to do is represent them."

- with AAP



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