TRUSS GIVES SUPPORT: Barnaby Joyce has a breathing space, thanks to Wide Bay electorate.
TRUSS GIVES SUPPORT: Barnaby Joyce has a breathing space, thanks to Wide Bay electorate. Contributed

Truss gives Joyce breathing space as parliament takes break

BARNABY Joyce took full advantage yesterday, after his Wide Bay mentor and predecessor Warren Truss created breathing space.

Mr Truss, the former councillor and farmer from the South Burnett, rose to be Deputy (and sometimes acting) Prime Minister before his retirement after 40 years in 2016.

And this week he was the Nationals and Mr Joyce's most effective advocate.

As the shipwreck developed over Mr Joyce's now-public relationship with a pregnant former staffer, Mr Truss praised the high political skills which he said might enable Mr Joyce to survive.

Mr Joyce's future was in the hands of elected National Party MPs, Mr Truss said.

But he added that Mr Joyce was a capable political operator who could deal with the pressure.

"He can resolve these issues, if he has a mind to,” Mr Truss told the 7.30 Report's Leigh Sales.

That one endorsement appeared to carry weight yesterday as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Mr Joyce would be acting Prime Minister next week.

And Mr Joyce's deputy, Bridgit McKenzie, guaranteed Mr Joyce would survive the working week.

And that, for Federal Parliament, is due to end tonight, at the end of the sittings.

From talk of "four or five National MPs” wanting his resignation, the tide of Joyce support within the National Party appeared to have turned.

Asked if Mr Joyce's explanation passed "the pub test,” Senator McKenzie was reported saying: "There's a lot of people in the pubs who actually understand.”

Cabinet Minister and Joyce ally David Littleproud said Mr Joyce had the support of most of the 21 National MPs.

"Those who want to keep this issue lingering on need to put up or shut up and leave him and his family alone.”

Labor leader Bill Shorten was brief but devastating when asked if he had a message for Mr Joyce.

"Happy Valentine's Day,” he said.

Mr Truss responded to close questioning by Ms Sales when asked about Mr Joyce's future.

Speaking from Brisbane, he told the interviewer Mr Joyce was a capable politician who was able to deal with the pressure.

But he also endorsed the comments of another former National Party leader, John Anderson who, according to the interviewer, had said Mr Joyce needed to take direct responsibility for resolving the damage, with the danger it could "spiral out of control and end even more messily.”

"I think John has described the issue very well,” Mr Truss said.

The issue certainly needs to be resolved and resolved quickly,” he said.

"Certainly the last few days have been damaging for Barnaby and therefore also damaging for the party but he has been an excellent leader.

"He's provided good results for the party over his time as leader and he clearly has the capacity to lead into the future if he's able to manage the issues that are currently being raised.

"There are many occasions when relationships fail, sadly in parliament more often than in perhaps other walks of life.

"People are on pedestals and, in a case like Barnaby, a very high pedestal.

"But he's a competent man. He's provided good leadership to the party and he can resolve these issues if he has a mind to.”

Mr Truss said it was time for the political debate to return to issues of policy.

"The government has a lot of important work to do and there have been many side issues,” he said.

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