Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt.
Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt. Mike Knott BUN201217PITT1

Demoted Pitt could defect from the Nationals

KEITH Pitt has refused to rule out quitting the Nationals and joining the crossbench after being dumped from his junior ministerial role.

It comes after Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce chose to promote rookie Queensland Nationals MP David Littleproud to Cabinet and dump Victorian MP Darren Chester and Mr Pitt in a Cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday.

Mr Pitt lost his assistant trade minister portfolio to Luke Hartsuyker.

The new government ministry was sworn in yesterday but the fallout from the new-look government could have serious ramifications for the Coalition if Mr Pitt leaves the party.

The government only regained its one-seat majority in the House of Reps after the re-election of John Alexander and Barnaby Joyce in recent by-elections.

The Australian is reporting that Mr Pitt may sit as a lone LNP MP in federal parliament and abandon the Liberal and National party rooms next year.

Mr Pitt's colleagues argued any swift decision to quit could look like a case of "sour grapes" given his dumping from the frontbench and undermine momentum for the establishment of a genuine Queensland-based breakaway movement in Canberra.

If Mr Pitt did break away it is understood he would support the government on supply and confidence but hold separate discussions with the government on the passage of legislation.

Today, when asked if he had any plans to leave the Nationals, Mr Pitt refused to rule it out.

"Well my job is to deliver for my constituents and that's what I'll be the focussed on," he said.

Mr Pitt admitted he was disappointed he had lost his junior ministry position.

"However, what you always have to keep in mind in this job is that it's an absolute privilege to serve the people in any capacity," he said.

Mr Pitt said he had a "professional working relationship" with Mr Joyce despite media reports suggesting otherwise.

"I'm sure the Prime Minister wouldn't be sending me on foreign diplomatic missions for the past 12 months if it was anything but the case," he said.

Mr Pitt would not comment on why he believed he was demoted but said it was a question for Mr Joyce.

Perhaps looking to salvage the National Party from the looming war brewing within, Mr Joyce was this morning talking up Mr Pitt on Sky News, confident the Hinkler MP would not quit.

"Yes, I'm confident that Keith has a great desire to do the very best for the people of Bundaberg," Mr Joyce said.

"I know Keith is a person of immense talent and he will continue to work extremely hard for his constituency."

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