Barnaby Joyce denies making bid for Nationals leadership.
Barnaby Joyce denies making bid for Nationals leadership.

Scandal-plagued Joyce denies top Nats job bid

BARNABY Joyce has refused to rule out that colleagues are pushing to topple Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

 

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph last night, Mr Joyce also escalated his attack on Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Israel plan, warning it could damage Australia's relationship with key trading partners.

Barnaby Joyce, who has a bid for the leadership, did show signs of discontent of being on the backbench. Picture: Kym Smith
Barnaby Joyce, who has a bid for the leadership, did show signs of discontent of being on the backbench. Picture: Kym Smith

 

His comments come as Nationals MPs have criticised Mr McCormack for failing to stand up to the Liberals.

When asked if his colleagues had been making calls on his behalf, the former deputy prime minister said: "You would know more than me."

Asked if there would be a spill next week, Mr Joyce said, "No."

"I have not called one person to ask for their vote," he said.

The former Nationals leader said a "long meeting" with Israeli Ambassador Mark Sofer yesterday failed to ease his concerns about a possible move of Australia's embassy to Jerusalem.

"The movement to Jerusalem is not the issue but we need to take our partners with us," he said.

"Israel is in a very complicated part of the world. We also have to be aware our biggest neighbour is Indonesia - not because there's a military threat but they're an incredibly important trade partner."

Following Mr Morrison's announcement, the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Canberra released a joint statement that the countries were "deeply concerned and dismayed" and the decision threatened "economic, cultural and political relations".

Mr Joyce said the meeting, which Mr Sofer organised, was "basically about allaying my concerns".

"I stand by my initial position. It's not that you can't do it (move the embassy) but a decision like that you need to take everyone with you from the start," he said.

Mr Joyce signalled his discontent with his position on the backbench when he fired up in Question Time after Labor took the unusual step of asking a backbencher about a motions. "Ask me another question, God knows I've got a bit of spare time up here," he said.

Mr McCormack said yesterday he had "absolute" support from his party room despite growing pressure on his position.

Deputy PM Michael McCormack in Parliament on Thursday ... but for how long? Picture: Kym Smith
Deputy PM Michael McCormack in Parliament on Thursday ... but for how long? Picture: Kym Smith

"The fact is I have the majority support in the National Party - not one National Party member has come to me and said they're dissatisfied with anything," he said.

Queensland Nationals MP Michelle Landry, who holds her Queensland seat with a margin of 0.6 per cent, said there would not be a leadership challenge next week but believed Mr Joyce would one day be revived as leader.

"Barnaby is keen down the track to take over leadership. He certainly hasn't been going around doing the numbers," she told Sky News.

"I'm sure at some stage in his career Barnaby will be leader again. But ­Michael is our leader now."



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