UPDATE: O'Dowd keeps cards close to chest on Nats leadership
SATURDAY, 6.37AM: FLYNN MP Ken O'Dowd has once again ruled out running for the National Party leadership after Barnaby Joyce announced yesterday he would resign the position on Monday.
As Mr Joyce's press conference played out on TV screens across the nation, Mr O'Dowd was meeting with Department of Transport and Main Roads officials in Rockhampton.
But that doesn't mean he won't be taking a keen interested in the leadership contest that play out over the next few days.
Speaking to The Observer from the Marmor Roadhouse, Mr O'Dowd said he was aware of two NSW MPs, Veterans' Affairs Minister Michael McCormack and Assistant Minister for Children and Families David Gillespie, who would be in the running for leader.
Adding to his comments from Thursday, Mr O'Dowd confirmed he would not be a contender himself.
"I've discussed it with my family and we've come to the conclusion I won't stand," he said.
"It's a big job. Not that I'm frightened of hard work, but I've got enough work to keep me going in Flynn."
Mr O'Dowd said Mr Joyce had made his own decision in stepping down from the leadership, and made it clear it wasn't likely to be the end of the New England MP's political career.
"I think it would have been a great weight lifted off Barnaby's shoulders," he said.
"That's doesn't mean to say it's over for him by any means.
"He can go to the backbench and sit there and come back at a later date.
"We've got to look for a new leader now, one that will look after the bush like Barnaby did in the past."
While he hadn't yet begun fielding phone calls from his colleagues, Mr O'Dowd said the calls were building up and he expected to have an idea of who he would support by midnight on Sunday.
He said an ability to work well with the Liberal Party but still stand up for rural interests would be key quality he would be looking for in the party's next leader.
"You've got to work well with (your Coalition partner) but also stand up for your own rights and get your own share," he said.
"There's a hell of a lot of exports coming out of Central Queensland... I'm determined to have a leader there that can make sure we get some of the money back.
After a week of tension between Mr Joyce and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull following a terse exchange of public statements, Mr O'Dowd said he was still confident the Coalition could get back on track.
"I'm confident we can still work together," he said.
"I thought this year we were off to a flyer until the little hiccup."
ODDS: Next National Party leader (as of 6.30am Saturday)*
- Michael McCormack: 1.80
- David Littleproud: 2.00
- David Gillespie: 5.50
- Andrew Broad: 9.00
- Darren Chester: 13.00
- George Christensen: 13.00
- Bridget McKenzie: 17.00
- Ken O'Dowd: 26.00
- John Williams 67.00
FRIDAY, 7.34AM: FLYNN MP Ken O'Dowd has refused to be drawn on how he plans to vote if National Party leader Barnaby Joyce is challenged on Monday.
Western Australian Nationals MP Andrew Broad yesterday indicated he will bring a challenge to Mr Joyce's leadership forward at the party's next meeting, following weeks of damaging publicity surrounding the Deputy Prime Minister's affair with a former staffer.
Mr Broad said he did not want to be the party's next leader, but Mr Joyce was not exercising sound judgment and someone else should be leading the party in the national interest.
While stopping short of explicitly calling for Mr Joyce to resign, Mr O'Dowd has been one of the party leader's more vocal critics since news of the affair broke, calling it "embarrassing" and damaging to the National Party.
Mr O'Dowd openly praised the leadership skills of Veterans' Affairs Minister and potential challenger Michael McCormack on the weekend, telling The Observer Mr McCormack was "very statesmanlike" and "would make a good leader in his own right".
When contacted for comment yesterday, Mr O'Dowd said the National Party "meets each and every Monday in the party room during sitting weeks".
"Next week will be no different," he said.
"We will meed again as one and discuss numerous matters on Monday in Canberra."
"What will be, will be."