As the Question Time pressure mounted on embattled Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, regional members of his party have refused to join in a political pile-on.
Party members are steering clear of any public comment as questions swirl around reports Mr Joyce is expecting a child with a former staff member and had left his wife Natalie.
Fairfax newspapers have reported that Vikki Campion left Mr Joyce's employ in April last year when their affair – which reportedly ended his 24-year marriage – began creating tensions in the office.
The 33-year-old was then given a new well-paid role with Resources Minister Matt Canavan, a close ally and fellow former staffer of Mr Joyce. Reports have suggested the job carried a salary of about $190,000 a year.
When Senator Canavan stood aside over dual citizenship doubts in 2017, Ms Campion moved to the office of then-chief Nationals whip Damian Drum.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has told reporters the Deputy PM did not breach the ministerial code of conduct governing the employment of family or partners “because Ms Campion was not his partner at the time of the staff appointments".
Michael McCormack, the Nationals’ Member for Riverina and the Minister for Veterans Affairs, was not commenting on the issue on Monday.
Mr McCormack was also not buying into reports that his is one of three names being bandied about as a possible replacement for Mr Joyce.
On Friday, though, Mr McCormack told The Daily Advertiser that “time will tell” how the scandal would affect Mr Joyce.
But the Riverina MP would not say how long the party room had been aware of the issue.
“Well look, there’s always rumours circulating in Canberra, and I don’t deal in rumour and innuendo,” Mr McCormack said.
Former long-serving Member for Riverina Kay Hull, who was replaced by Mr McCormack, told The Daily Advertiser she would not be weighing in on the issue.
“This is a critical time for the party and I don’t think I should be making a comment,” Mrs Hull said.
Barney Hyams, who is chairman of the Wagga branch of the party at a state level, said there had been no branch meetings of his group, and that he had not heard any comments on the Joyce issue.
Wes Fang, who was sworn into the NSW Legislative Council in August, is also finishing up his term as chairman of the Nationals’ Riverina Electorate Council
Like other regional National party members, Mr Fang declined to make a comment on the issue.